Depression is a difficult thing to pin down, at one time or another we’ve all said to ourselves “I feel depressed”, but are we depressed or just feeling sad? Generally feelings of depression are both psychological and physical but the symptoms are complex and vary between people.
While the symptoms of depression do vary a general symptom of depression is a strong feeling of sadness and hopelessness. The difference between depression and just feeling sad is that these feelings can last for weeks or months and although depression can be linked to certain events (like the death of a loved one) sometimes these feeling of sadness and hopelessness can come from nowhere.
Depression is an umbrella term for the wide variety of different forms that depression can take. Identifying the type of depression a person suffers from is imperative when trying to find the best way to treat it. Let’s take a look at some of the various types of depression.
Major depression is a serious clinical mood disorder in which a person experiences extended periods of sadness, emptiness, frustration, anger, and despair. The symptoms are so severe that they can interfere with the person's ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy activities that they once found pleasurable. Some people with major depression may feel that life is not worth living and some will attempt to end their lives.
An episode can occur only once in a person’s lifetime, but more often than not, a person has several episodes. They may also take place spontaneously, during or after the death of a loved one, a breakup, a medical illness, or other major life event.
Bipolar Disorder used to be known as 'manic depression' because the person experiences periods of depression and periods of mania, with periods of normal mood in between. The disorder is characterised by cycling mood changes. Sometimes the mood switches are dramatic and rapid, but usually they are gradual. When in the depressed cycle, an individual can have any or all of the symptoms of depression. When in the manic cycle, the individual may be overactive, over-talkative, and have a great deal of energy.
Bipolar Disorder is characterised by more than one Bipolar episode and seems to be most closely linked to family history. Stress and conflict can trigger episodes for people with this condition and it's not uncommon for Bipolar Disorder to be misdiagnosed as depression, alcohol or drug abuse, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or schizophrenia.
Persistent Depressive Disorder
Persistent Depressive Disorder is a form of depression that usually lasts for at least two years. A person diagnosed with Persistent Depressive Disorder can experience symptoms of Major Depression (low energy, poor appetite or overeating, insomnia or oversleeping) along with periods of less severe symptoms.
PDD can manifest as stress, irritability, and mild anhedonia, which is the inability to derive pleasure from most activities.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Sometimes known as winter depression or SAD, this version of depression follows a seasonal pattern and commonly occurs in winter. Like most versions of depression it includes symptoms like feeling sad or antisocial.
The majority of sufferers start to feel better around spring. Although it isn’t uncommon for people to suffer from this form of depression on a yearly basis, this isn’t always the case. The exact cause of this type of depression isn’t fully known although it’s believed that reduced exposure to sunlight due to shorter days could be linked to it.
Postnatal depression is a type of depression that some women experience after having a baby. Although this depression can develop within weeks after the birth of your child, symptoms don’t often become apparent until months later.
Symptoms of postnatal depression are wide ranging: mood changes, irritability, trouble sleeping, thoughts of harming the baby, and episodes of tearfulness are just some of the many symptoms. An added danger of postnatal depression is that mothers who fear they may be suffering from it are usually hesitant to ask for help.
Situational depression is a type of depression that can develop after dramatic changes in a person’s life. This can be anything from the death of a loved one to the loss of a job. There can be many reasons for situational depression and how badly it can affect you varies widely from person to person.
The effects of situational depression usually alleviate over time until eventually disappearing all together. However in some cases the depression can continue and get more severe over time In cases like this doctors may advise counselling or self-help groups in an effort to help people overcome their depression.
There’s no singular way to fight depression, although there are many options to try. Antidepressant drugs can be used in severe cases but doctors will usually try to avoid those if possible, preferring alternatives like talking therapy or self-help groups.
Depression caused by the loss of a loved one or another situational change can also be combatted with the help of counselling. There’s also some evidence that exercise and changing your diet could help combat depression in milder cases so your GP may also advise you to make changes there.
Although it may be a difficult journey depression can be overcome you just have to make the first step and seek help, if you think you or a family member or friend may be suffering from some form of depression you should ask your GP for support and guidance on what you can do.