What is depression? How do I know I have depression? What’s the difference between depression and just having a bout of the blues?Read on for answers!
A depressive disorder is not a passing blue mood but rather persistent feelings of sadness and worthlessness and a lack of desire to engage in formerly pleasurable activities. A complex mind/body illness, depression can be treated with drugs and/or therapy.
depressive disorder is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It interferes with daily life, normal functioning, and causes pain for both the person with the disorder and those who care about him or her.
Depression is one of the most treatable illnesses, but only about 25% seek help!
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 willed or wished away. People with a depressive illness cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Depression is a common but serious illness, and most people who experience it need treatment to get better. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people who suffer from depression.
Depressive disorders come in different forms, just as is the case with other illnesses such as heart disease. Three of the most common types of depressive disorders are described here. However, within these types there are variations in the number of symptoms as well as their severity and persistence.
Major depression is manifested by a combination of symptoms (see symptom list) 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.
Dysthymic disorder, also called dysthymia, involves long-term (two years or longer) less severe symptoms that do not disable, but keep one from functioning normally or from feeling good. Many people with dysthymia also experience major depressive episodes at some time in their lives.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is characterized by the onset of a depressive illness during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. The depression generally lifts during spring and summer. SAD may be effectively treated with light therapy, but nearly half of those with SAD do not respond to light therapy alone. Antidepressant medication and psychotherapy can reduce SAD symptoms, either alone or in combination with light therapy.
Bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive illness is not as prevalent as major depression or dysthymia, and characterized by cycling mood changes: severe highs (mania) and lows (depression).
- Persistent sad, anxious, or empty mood
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
- Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Insomnia, early morning awakening or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight loss, or overeating and weight gain
- Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
- Restlessness, irritability
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain
Treatment for depression can consist of talk therapy, behavior therapy, and medication. Several research studies suggest that a combination of talk therapy and medication is most effective.
Without treatment, the likelihood increases that subsequent episodes of depression will be more severe and longer in duration.
Medication treatment can be very effective, especially for more severe depression. Most commonly, a class of medications called SSRIs is prescribed. SSRIs are medications like Prozac*, Zoloft*, Celexa*, Lexapro*, Paxil*. These medications increase the availability of serotonin (a neurotransmitter). Other medications include a class that increases serotonin and norepinephrine (other neurotransmitters), like Effexor* and Cymbalta*. Wellbutrin* is another treatment option, enhancing dopamine. Older medications include tricyclics and MAOIs.
The important thing to remember for those needing this kind of treatment is that there is no way to predict which medication will work for any one person and in what dosage. Most medications need several weeks to achieve their full therapeutic effect, although some will begin to “kick in” after a few days (a week or so).
* registered trade marks.