Depression has become a general expression commonly used by many of us. It is usually used as a pragmatic way of saying that you feel really sad. For other people such as psychiatrist, psychotherapists, and psychologists, depression has a very different meaning, or more precisely, different meanings.
In fact, there are 9 of them under the big umbrella term of depression. Since this psychological disorder comes in so many forms, one has to get familiar with all of its nuances to be on the safe side. Knowing this can help you identify the symptoms, both in you and your loved ones, and seek professional help before they become even more severe.
Situational depression, also known as adjustment disorder, is very common. It is usually triggered by a stressful event which has life-changing potential. These events may vary from a bad breakup to the loss of a loved one. If untreated, situational depression may turn into major depression. Look out for the following symptoms:
- Excessive sadness
- Avoiding social situations and interactions
- Regular crying
- Disinterest in food
- Trouble focusing
- Feeling overwhelmed
This may easily be the type of depression that we understand the least. The clinical picture is very characteristic, as the patients experience a sense of heaviness in their arms and legs. In some instances, this heaviness can be perceived as some kind of paralysis.
According to a 1996 study, the two most important symptoms to look for are overeating and oversleeping. These two symptoms can be accompanied with any of the following:
- Relationship problems
- Weight gain
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, or simply PMDD, is a type of depression commonly striking women during the second half of the menstrual cycle. The symptoms of PMDD are much more severe than the ones of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and they can affect a woman’s ability to function normally. These symptoms include:
- Mood swings
Peripartum (Postpartum) Depression
Postpartum depression is often described as sadness after having a baby. It’s quite normal to feel a little bit of sadness after the baby is born, as this feeling is experienced by 85% of new moms. To be diagnosed with a type of depression the following symptoms have to be present for more than 2 weeks:
- Extreme sadness
- Suicidal thoughts
- Feelings of disconnect from the child
- Fears about hurting the baby
These symptoms can develop anytime during the year following childbirth. It’s important to distinguish this type of depression from Baby Blues. While the baby blues symptoms develop during first few days after childbirth, and they can resemble the ones of peripartum depression, they spontaneously disappear during the next two weeks.
Psychotic disorders come with very severe symptoms. Some of these symptoms are so severe that we don’t expect to see them in the clinic picture of depression. Psychosis is a mental state that affects both thinking and behavior. Patients can experience delusions and hallucinations. According to National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 persons with depression develops psychotic symptoms.
People suffering from psychotic depression may stay silent, not leaving their beds for days or weeks to come. In some instances, people with it may become catatonic.
According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, 7% of the adult population in the U.S. suffers from this mental condition. This makes major depression the most common type of depression in this part of the world and the global situation is no better. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, 350 million people suffer from depression worldwide.
There are a number of symptoms that can help you identify this debilitating mental health condition:
- Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
- Extreme sadness
- Problems with concentration
- Lack of energy
- Feelings of guilt
- Thoughts of suicide
- And in some instances, physical pain
To be officially diagnosed with major depression a person has to experience the symptoms for at least 2 weeks. Although it may occur only once in a lifetime, major depression is more regularly seen as a recurring mental health condition.
Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, is another common type of Depression in the US. In fact, 4 to 6% of people experience extreme winter weariness and would prefer to hibernate through this part of the year. The symptoms are usually mild, although they can be severe in some rare instances:
- Daytime fatigue
- Weight gain
SAD is prevalent in regions with winter climates. It usually starts as soon as winter arrives and is blossomed away by the arrival of spring.
Persistent Depressive Disorder, known as low-grade depression or dysthymia is chronic but far less severe than major depression in its nature. It is characterized by:
- Persistent depressed mood for at least two years (in adolescents and children the irritable mood is found more often than a depressed one)
- Insomnia or excessive sleep
- Low self-esteem
- No interest in food or overeating
- Poor concentration
People suffering from bipolar depression experience periods of time when they feel extremely low, followed by the periods when they feel extremely high, or vice versa. These two extremely different set of symptoms reflect mania and depression. This is why, in the past, this disorder was called manic-depressive disorder.
Symptoms during the manic episode are:
- High levels of energy
- Poor judgment
- Racing thoughts
While the symptoms during the depressive episode include:
- Low levels of energy
- Decreased activity
- Suicidal thoughts
There are several subtypes of bipolar depression:
Bipolar I – characterized by manic episodes that last at least 7 days, followed by depressive episodes lasting at least 2 weeks.
Bipolar II – characterized by depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes (less severe manic periods).
Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia) – characterized by numerous periods of depressive and hypomanic symptoms, which are not severe and don’t last long enough to be diagnosed as episodes.
As you might already know, feeling down once in a while is part of being human. But if you recognize any of the symptoms mentioned above affecting your daily life, you should consult a professional.
Recognizing symptoms and getting diagnosed with clinical depression early on is really important, as it will help you to get back to your regular lifestyle faster.