What is Depression?
Depression is a mood disorder characterized by persistent sadness and loss of interest. It can affect how you think, feel, and behave and can lead to other physical and emotional problems. Many people with depression have difficulty doing routine daily activities and sometimes can feel suicidal.
Depression is much more than “being down in the dumps” or “feeling blue.” It is a persistent and ongoing deep sadness that does not seem to go away. People can’t simply “snap out of it”. It is not a weakness of character. It’s not just a matter of “pulling yourself up by our bootstraps.” Depression is a serious and often debilitating condition for which there is good and effective treatment.
Symptoms of Depression
Clinicians talk about depression in terms of episodes. Some people have just one episode of depression in their lives but others have multiple episodes. If you have more than 2 episodes it is called “recurrent” depression and it is likely that you will have periodic episodes of depression throughout your life. During these episodes, symptoms occur most of the day, nearly every day and may include:
- Feeling sad, tearful, empty or hopeless
- Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, like sex, hobbies or sports
- Anger outbursts, frustration or irritability, even over small matters
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
- Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
- Fatigue and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
- Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
- Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
For many people with significant depression, symptoms usually are severe enough to cause noticeable problems in day-to-day activities, such as school, work, social activities or relationships with others. Some people may feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.
Types of Depression
People who experience major depression have depressive symptoms for most of the day, nearly every day, for at least 2 weeks. These symptoms interfere with their ability to sleep and eat regularly, work, and enjoy life. Some people have just one episode of depression while others have more than one.
Persistent Depressive Disorder
Formerly known as dysthymia, a person with persistent depressive disorder has depressive symptoms that last for 2 years or more. Unlike major depression, these symptoms range from severe to less-severe.
Subtypes of Depression
Women with perinatal depression experience all of the major depressive symptoms either during pregnancy or after delivery. When they become depressed after delivery it is also known as postpartum depression.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
People who have SAD experience depressive symptoms during the late fall and early winter that go away in the spring and summer.
People who have psychotic depression have severe depression plus some form of psychosis such as hearing or seeing things that others cannot see or hear.