Depression is a common illness that affects more than 264 million people worldwide.
It is a serious condition that causes unusual mood alterations. When these mood alterations are prolonged, depression can become a serious health problem.
Depression ruins lives in many ways. It causes a person to function poorly at work, school, or any daily life activities.
Depression is a silent killer because there is a lot of stigmatization worldwide in all demographics of society.
According to WHO depression leads to several cases of suicide and close to 8000 000 people lose their life due to suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.
In this article, I am going to talk about:
- What depression is
- Signs and symptoms
- Types of depression
- Why it’s hard to diagnose
What Is Depression?
Many describe and say that depression is just a feeling of being sad, a state of extreme sadness. But If that were the case, then every single person in this world has dealt with depression.
Everyone has gone through phases of experiencing sadness in our lives. The ending of a relationship, the loss of a loved one, or losing a job are all difficult experiences for a person to endure but it is very normal. The intensity or longevity of sadness is what can lead to depression.
Depression is a different form of sadness/grief or bereavement. For example in grief, one can experience waves of sadness intertwined with positive memories of the deceased.
The mood or interests of the person experiencing grief are decreased for more than two weeks, but for a person experiencing depression it continues for more than those two weeks
The self-esteem of the person experiencing grief is usually maintained while in depression, feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing are experienced.
It is hard to trace the roots of depression because different circumstances/experiences can cause it. For some people it can be the death of a loved one, having a traumatic childhood/experience, or even losing a job can lead to depression.
Distinguishing the source of your feelings is an important deciding factor in establishing whether you have depression or not. That is why it’s important to visit a specialist so that you can be able to get the support or treatment you need.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Depression?
Symptoms of depression can vary from mild to severe. These include:
- Disturbed sleep
- Feeling guilty and unworthiness
- Reduced self-esteem and self-confidence
- Increased fatigue and loss of energy
- Reduced concentration and attention
- Pessimistic views of the future
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
- Decreased appetite
- Loss of interest in enjoyed activities
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
Symptoms must last at least two weeks for a diagnosis of depression. But below is a more detailed description of the symptoms and their stages.
What Are the Different Types of Depression?
There are different types of depression disorders. Certain events in our life can cause some while chemical changes in our brain can cause others.
Symptoms can range from minor to chronic, so it’s very important to know these types of disorders and their symptoms for you to seek professional help.
Some of these disorders have similar symptoms so it is never a wise choice to self diagnose yourself.
1. Psychotic Depression
Sometimes people with depression can lose a sense of reality and experience what we call psychosis.
Psychosis is a subtype of major depression that involves one experiencing hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that aren’t there) and delusions(having false beliefs that aren’t true).
The hallucinations can present itself in many ways but hearing voices is a commonality. Delusions happen when one believes that they are some kind of savior meant to save the world, etc.
One can also be in a state of paranoia feeling as though everyone is against them/wants to harm them or fearing that something bad is going to happen to them at any moment. Psychotic depression affects approximately one out of every four people admitted to the hospital for depression.
Common symptoms that are present in patients who have psychotic depression are:
- Intellectual Impairment
- Physical immobility
- Delusions or hallucinations
2. Major Depression
Major depression also is known as clinical depression/major depressive disorder or simply ‘depression’, usually involves one experiencing low moods or loss of interest/pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed. More symptoms are also present.
The symptoms are experienced most days and can last for at least two weeks or more.
In some cases, major depression has very little to do with your environment, You can have financial success, a loving family, amazing friends, and still struggle with depression.
Symptoms of this severe form of depression are:
lack of concentration, memory problems, and inability to make decisions
- Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
- Constant worry and anxiety
- Thoughts of death, self-harm, or suicide
- Despondency, gloom, or grief
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Lack of energy and fatigue
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities
Major depression can ruin your life and relationships in general. These symptoms can last weeks or even go on for months. Some may experience a single episode of major depression while others can experience it throughout their lives.
3. Bipolar disorder or manic depression
Bipolar disorder also known as manic depression is a mood disorder.
It is called manic depression because the person experiences periods of depression and periods of mania where one feels very happy with periods of normal mood in between. Manic depression is an outdated name for bipolar disorder.
Mania/ hypomania is the polar opposite of depression. Symptoms of mania include a state having lots of energy, feeling great, talking quickly, having racing thoughts, insomnia, lack of concentration on basic tasks, feelings of frustration, and irritability.
Sometimes the person even loses touch with reality and can experience an episode of psychosis.
Depressive episodes have the same symptoms as major depression. These include:
- Feelings of sadness or emptiness
- Lack of energy
- Sleep problems
- Trouble concentrating
- Decreased activity
- Loss of interest in formerly enjoyable activities
- Suicidal thoughts
The signs of a manic episode include:
- High energy
- Reduced sleep
- Racing thoughts and speech
- Grandiose thinking
- Increased self-esteem and confidence
- Unusual, risky, and self-destructive behavior
- Feeling elated, “high,” or euphoric
Bipolar disorder can be triggered by stressful events and even conflict. It’s very common for bipolar disorder to be misdiagnosed as depression, schizophrenia, or (ADHD).
People can even go for years before receiving an accurate diagnosis of bipolar disorder. This is why it is important to tell your doctor if you are ever experiencing highs and lows.
4. Seasonal affective disorder
SAD(seasonal affective disorder) is a mood disorder that has a seasonal pattern. It is a kind of major depressive disorder that’s related to certain seasons.
The cause of this disorder has not been established but it is characterized by having mood disturbances ( experiencing periods of depression or mania) that start and end in a particular season.
With SAD, depression starts in winter and begins to subside when the season ends. A diagnosis is established after the person has had the same symptoms during winter for a couple of years.
People who suffer from SAD depression are more probable to experience weight gain, oversleeping, lack of energy, and even develop a craving for carbohydrates.
As the season progresses, seasonal depression can get worse and may even lead to suicidal thoughts but once spring begins to set in, symptoms tend to improve.
5. Situational depression
Situational depression has a lot of similarities to major depression but happens when certain events or situations occur in one’s life. The events can be:
- The loss of a loved one
- Facing unemployment or financial struggles
- Being in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship
- Having been diagnosed with a terminal/serious illness
It’s completely normal to feel sad, angry, and even worthless when events like these happen but situational depression happens when these feelings are prolonged and begin to affect your daily life.
Situational depression symptoms normally start within three months of the initial event and can include:
- Changes in appetite
- Sadness and hopelessness
- Frequent crying
- Trouble sleeping fatigue
- Social withdrawal
- Muscle aches and pains
- Lack of focus
6. Persistent depression
A persistent depressive disorder is a kind of depression that lasts for two years or more. It is also known as chronic depression or dysthymia. Persistent depression may not be as dangerous as major depression but it can still affect one’s life and relationships.
Even though it’s not a long-term form of depression, the intensity of the symptoms can decline for months at a time before arising again.
Some people can have episodes of major depression before or while they have a persistent depressive disorder. This state is known as double depression.
Symptoms of persistent depression include:
- Concentration and memory problems
- Difficulty functioning at school or work
- Inability to feel joy, even at happy occasions
- Social withdrawal
- Deep sadness or hopelessness
- Low self-esteem or feelings of inadequacy
- Lack of interest in things you once enjoyed
- Appetite changes
- Changes to sleep patterns or low energy
Persistent depression can last for years at a time, so people with this condition can start to feel like their symptoms are just a part of their normalcy
7. Atypical depression
Atypical depression is depression that temporarily goes away upon response 0f implementing positive changes. Despite its complex name, atypical depression isn’t rare or uncommon.
Having atypical depression is very challenging because one may not always look depressed with them and other people. But it can present itself during an episode of major depression. It can occur with persistent depression too.
Why Is Depression hard to diagnose?
According to certain studies, 50-70%of patients with depression in primary care remain undetected, with somatization being one of the most important factors in misdiagnosis.
Somatization is derived from the word somatic symptom disorder.
A somatic symptom disorder involves a person having a significant focus on physical symptoms such as pain, weakness, or shortness of breath that results in major distress or problems functioning. The person has excessive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors relating to physical symptoms.
This is why it’s important for your doctor shouldn’t focus on somatic symptoms but rather your emotional health by asking you questions concerning possible events that may have occurred preceding the symptoms
If you think you are experiencing depression of any form seek a psychiatrist or a mental health professional immediately. Depression is treatable given the right treatment and gives your doctor as much information as possible.
Click here to know how depression affects women
Timonen, Markku & Liukkonen, Timo. (2008). Management of depression in adults. BMJ (Clinical research ed.). 336. 435-9. 10.1136/bmj.39478.609097.BE.
Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP. (2018) https://www.healthline.com/health/types-of-depression