Depression is one of the world’s greatest problems today. It causes suffering to more than 264 million people of all ages globally.
It is not just like feeling tearful or sad about something that’s upsetting. In fact, feeling like this is a part of the human condition that helps us to process something and move on from it.
Depression affects how someone thinks, feels and consequently it impacts on their behavior. It often starts as a vague feeling of hopelessness.
But frequently there does not even seem to be any particular reason for it. As with all mental health conditions, unless it is treated it will most often get progressively worse over time.
It can swiftly reach the point where someone cannot live a normal life. This means they might not be able to go to work, study, socialize, have any sort of relationship or even leave their home.
Mental and physical problems
Someone with depression might also struggle with other mental health conditions, including stress and anxiety. In a bid to cope, they are more likely to get addicted to alcohol, drugs or suffer from a behavioral addiction.
It will also most likely over time have a negative impact on physical health. This can be anything from headaches, palpitations and insomnia to skin problems and fatigue.
Around 800,000 people die by suicide each year. For every suicide death, there are more than 20 attempts.
Types of depression
Depression can develop for different reasons. As a result, there are several types of depression.
These major types of depression are:
Characterized by episodes of mood known as mania: delusions, overactivity, extreme excitement or euphoria. There can be elation, excess energy and the person might have relentless ideas, talk rapidly, not want to sleep or eat, do irrational things and make risky or harmful decisions.
Most bipolar disorder sufferers also have episodes of deep depression. They may feel unbearably sad, empty, pessimistic and irritable most of the time, lack energy, have trouble focussing, experience memory issues, not be able to sleep and also have suicidal thoughts. Tragically, the risk of suicide in someone suffering from bipolar disorder is 15 times more than in the overall population.
Major depressive disorder (MDD)
Also known as classic depression, unipolar depression, clinical depression and major depression, this is one of the most common types of depression.
A person will be diagnosed with MDD if they are experiencing five or more of the following symptoms during a two-week period. These cannot be because of substance abuse or another condition – and “depressed mood” or “loss of interest or pleasure” has to be at least one of their symptoms.
- Depressed mood nearly every day for most of the day.
- Significantly diminished interest or pleasure in all or most activities nearly every day for the majority of the day.
- Significant weight loss when not dieting. Or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite most days.
- A slowing of thoughts, and a reduction of physical movement that’s observable by others.
- Loss of energy or fatigue most days.
- Feeling worthless or with inappropriate excessive guilt virtually every day.
- Less ability to concentrate and think or indecisiveness most days.
- Recurring thoughts of death and/or suicide (with or without a specific plan), or a suicide attempt.
Sometimes known as MDD with atypical features, atypical depression is a depression that goes away in response to positive events. This means someone may not always appear depressed.
Common symptoms include: excessive sleep or insomnia, fatigue, poor body image, feeling overwhelmed, excessive appetite, weight gain, and intense sensitivity to criticism.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
SAD has similar symptoms to MDD, but develops in someone during a particular season – mostly during the dark and cold winter months. For this reason it is sometimes called MDD with seasonal pattern. It is seen much more in far southern and far northern nations where there is much less light for long periods of each year.
Persistent depressive disorder (PDD)
While PDD is generally not as intense as MDD, it persists in someone for at least two years. It can make day-to-day living extremely difficult. Relief of symptoms can come – but for a maximum of eight weeks.
Previously called dysthymia, it’s also sometimes referred to as chronic depression. Symptoms include a lack of energy, irritability, anger, changes to appetite, social withdrawal, difficulties in daily tasks, poor self-esteem, insomnia or oversleeping, overwhelming sadness, memory and concentration issues, loss of interest in hobbies and things previously enjoyed, and extreme feelings of guilt.
There are some people diagnosed with MDD who also have periods when they lose touch with reality. This is called psychosis and it causes hallucinations, paranoia and delusion. Experiencing at least two of these at the same time is MDD with psychotic features.
Postpartum depression (PPD)
PPD is depression after giving birth, and there’s also perinatal depression while a woman is pregnant. Both are believed to be linked to hormonal changes as well as sleeplessness and physical difficulties that are common during pregnancy and around the birth of a baby.
Another factor is that when a woman is expecting or has a baby it can seem to intensify any problems, such as worries about their partner, financial issues or work and home problems.
Symptoms include self-harm (or thoughts), appetite changes, social withdrawal, feeling hopeless and worthless, anxiety, panic attacks, severe mood swings, difficulty bonding with the baby, thoughts of hurting the baby, guilt, deep sadness, thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
PMDD has symptoms that are similar to PMS (premenstrual syndrome) such as anxiety, bloating, breast tenderness, irritability, moodiness, fatigue and increased appetite – but they are much more intense. A woman with PMDD can have depression that adversely affects their normal daily life.
Symptoms include feelings of stress, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, frequently tearful or crying, anxiety, panic attacks, lethargy, extreme anger, sleep problems, general irritability and binge eating.
If you think you or someone you know could have any type of depression, it is essential to speak with a therapist. Depression is always treatable – but it needs to be looked at as soon as possible.
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