These are all good descriptions of depression. Someone else compared depression to walking around wearing a heavy, wet, woolen sweater.
How do you tell the difference between depression and just being in a bad mood? Depression is not just a case of the blues that lasts a few days, or transient feelings of sadness or loss about a difficult situation. These are predictable responses to ordinary life events. Depression is more. Depression is a serious illness that makes it difficult to deal with daily life; it interferes with normal functioning. It is painful for the person experiencing it – and also for those who care about that person.
Many people with depression never seek treatment: they accept their situation as normal or inevitable. Worse, they become so disabled by depression that they cannot gather the resources to talk to a doctor or look for a therapist; it takes more energy than they have to make the first call and get to an appointment. And yet, most people – even those with the most severe forms of this illness – can feel better with treatment.
What are the different forms of depression?
The two most common forms are major depressive disorder (also called major depression) and dysthymic disorder.
Major depressive disorder is characterized by a combination of symptoms, present nearly every day for at least two weeks, which interferes with the ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities. It is disabling, and prevents a person from functioning normally. An episode of major depression may occur only once in a lifetime, but, more often, it recurs throughout a person's life.
Dysthymic disorder is characterized by somewhat less severe symptoms over two or more years. The symptoms may not be disabling (one sufferer refers to her condition as "just a hum of unhappiness"), but certainly affect quality of life. People with dysthymia may also experience one or more episodes of major depression during their lifetimes.
Other manifestations of depressive disorder may look different from those described above, or may develop under particular circumstances. For example, postpartum depression is diagnosed if a new mother has a major depressive episode within a month after delivery. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a depressive illness with onset during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight.
What are the symptoms of depression?
The list includes:
- Persistent sad, anxious or ”empty“ feelings
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable
- Loss of interest in sex
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Overeating, or appetite loss
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
- Persistent aches or pains, headache, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease with treatment
Depression often co-exists with other illnesses. These illnesses may come before the depression, cause it, or be a consequence of it. Examples include anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social phobia and generalized anxiety disorder. Alcohol and other substance abuse or dependence may also co-occur with depression. Depression also co-exists with other serious medical illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and Parkinson's disease.
What causes depression?
There is no single known cause of depression. Some types of depression tend to run in families, suggesting a genetic link. However, depression can occur in people without family histories of depression as well. Genetics research indicates that risk for depression results from the influence of multiple genes acting together with environmental, psychological or other factors.
In addition, trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation may trigger a depressive episode. Subsequent depressive episodes may occur with or without an obvious trigger.
Depression can also be a gift…
When depression is severe or incapacitating, when there are thoughts of suicide, medication evaluation and a referral to a psychiatrist are always indicated – and CWPA has relationships with several psychiatrists in the area. But, when depression is not as severe, we can look at depression as a gift – an invitation from our unconscious to examine the things in our lives that need changing, healing, forgiving or are seriously out of balance. Jung stated:
But one thing you must know: the one thing I have learned is that we must live this life.
– [emphasis added], C.G. Jung, The Red Book, p. 232
Seen from this perspective, depression can carry the message that change MUST be made. By addressing the issues associated with depressed feelings, we can "live our life", walk into a new place in our lives, a place where we embrace the true self and leave behind worn-out ways of being.
Contact Us For Skilled and Caring Depression Treatment
Please don't hesitate to Contact Us. Our therapists are trained to help you relieve your depression. We are located throughout the Washington DC metropolitan area and we want to help.
Someone will call you back, sometimes within minutes, always as soon as possible.