Depression: An illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts, that affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things.
A depressive disorder is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be wished away. People with a depressive disease cannot merely “pull themselves together” and get better.
Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people with depression.
The signs and symptoms of depression include loss of interest in activities that were once interesting or enjoyable, including sex; loss of appetite (anorexia) with weight loss or overeating with weight gain; loss of emotional expression (flat affect); a persistently sad, anxious or empty mood; feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness; social withdrawal; unusual fatigue, low energy level, a feeling of being slowed down; sleep disturbance with insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping; trouble concentrating, remembering, or making decisions; unusual restlessness or irritability; persistent physical problems such as headaches, digestive disorders, or chronic pain that do not respond to treatment; thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts. Alcohol or drug abuse may be signs of depression.”
Major Depression causes a combination of symptoms that interfere with the ability to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy once pleasurable activities. Such a disabling episode of depression may occur only once but more commonly occurs several times in a lifetime. In Major depression, positive changes will not bring on a change in mood.
Dysthymia is a less severe type of depression with long-term chronic symptoms that do not disable, but keep one from functioning well or from feeling good. Many people with dysthymia also experience major depressive episodes at some time in their lives. Dysthymia is sometimes referred to as Chronic depression. The person seems consistently unhappy with depression symptoms that linger for a long period of time, perhaps two years or longer.
Atypical depression will see an improvement in mood if something positive happens (moods that worsen or improve in direct response to events). This depression includes some of the following symptoms to accompany mood reactivity such as sleeping too much (hypersomnia/oversleeping), having a more intense reaction or increased sensitivity to rejection resulting in problems with social and work relationships (extreme sensitivity to rejection), having a feeling of being weighed down, paralyzed, or “leaden” (fatigue), and/or eating too much (hyperphagia), resulting in weight gain.
Bipolar Disorder (Manic-Depressive) is characterized by cycling mood changes: severe highs (mania) and lows (depression). Sometimes the mood switches are dramatic and rapid, but more often they are gradual. When in the depressed phase of the cycle, one can have any or all of the symptoms of a depressive disorder. When in the manic cycle, one may be overactive, overtalkative, and have excess energy. Mania often affects thinking, judgment, and social behavior in ways that cause serious problems and embarrassment.
For example, the individual in a manic phase may feel elated, full of grand schemes that might range from unwise business decisions to romantic sprees. Mania, left untreated, may worsen to a psychotic state. The signs and symptoms of mania include abnormal or excessive elation; markedly increased level of energy; less need for sleep; grandiose notions; racing thoughts and increased talking; increased sexual desire; poor judgment; and inappropriate social behavior.
Hypomania is a less severe form of mania. Hypomania is a mood that many don’t perceive as a problem. It actually may feel pretty good. You have a greater sense of well-being and productivity. However, for someone with bipolar disorder, hypomania can evolve into mania or can switch into serious depression.
Cyclothymia, or cyclothymic disorder, is a relatively mild mood disorder. In cyclothymic disorder, moods swing between short periods of mild depression and hypomania, an elevated mood. The low and high mood swings never reach the severity of major depression or mania. Cyclothymia is a “bipolar-like” illness. People with cyclothymic disorder have milder symptoms than in full-blown bipolar disorder.
Bipolar I: Experience at least one fully manic episode with periods of major depression. Also known as manic-depressive disorder.
Bipolar II: Seldom experience full-fledged mania; instead they experience periods of hypomania (elevated levels of energy and impulsiveness that are not as extreme as the symptoms of mania). These hypomanic periods alternate with episodes of major depression.
Cyclothymia: is a mild form of bipolar disorder. It involves periods of hypomania and mild depression, with less severe mood swings.
Bipolar II or Cyclothymia may be misdiagnosed as having depression alone.
Psychotic Depression occurs when a severe depressive illness has a co-existing form of psychosis. The psychosis could be hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there), delusions (irrational thoughts and fears), or some other break with reality. People with psychotic depression are usually aware that the thoughts they have aren’t true. They may be humiliated or ashamed of the thoughts and try to hide them. Doing so makes this type of depression very difficult to diagnose
Postpartum Depression (PPD) is a complex mix of physical, emotional, and behavioral changes that happen in a woman after giving birth. A form of major depression that has its onset within four weeks after delivery.
Postpartum depression is linked to chemical, social, and psychological changes associated with having a baby. The term describes a range of physical and emotional changes that many new mothers experience. The chemical changes involve a rapid drop in hormones after delivery. The actual link between this drop and depression is still not clear. But what is known is that the levels of estrogen and progesterone, the female reproductive hormones, increase tenfold during pregnancy. Then, they drop sharply after delivery. By three days after a woman gives birth, the levels of these hormones drop back to what they were before she got pregnant. In addition to these chemical changes, social and psychological changes associated with having a baby create an increased risk of depression.
Seasonal Depression, often called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a depression that occurs each year at the same time. It usually starts in the fall or winter and ends in spring or early summer. It is more than just “the winter blues” or “cabin fever.” A rare form of SAD, known as “summer depression,” begins in late spring or early summer and ends in fall. One theory is that reduced sunlight during fall and winter leads to reduced production of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that has a soothing, calming effect. The result of there not being enough serotonin is feelings of depression along with symptoms of fatigue, carbohydrate craving, and weight gain.
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Many sources use the DSM-IV, a manual used to diagnose mental disorders. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is published by the American Psychiatric Association and provides a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders.