Sadness is a normal, and many times healthy, part of the human experience. It is completely normal to feel sadness when difficult situations touch your life. However, there are times when sadness cannot explain all of the symptoms.
Depression can interfere with your family, work, school, and relationships. Not only does it effect the person suffering with depression, but all of those who come in contact with them. Depression is very real. Depression is not: a weakness, character flaw, or something that is always easy to overcome.
If your depression symptoms are interfering with your life, treatment may be a great big step in the right direction to regaining peace and happiness.
So, What are the Symptoms?
Depression may show up in many different ways and might not be identifiable by those around you.
According to the diagnostic manual, to be diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder you must experience symptoms that significantly interfere with normal functioning almost every day for two weeks. To qualify for the diagnosis, you must experience at least 5 of the following symptoms.
- Depressed mood most of the day, almost every day
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities most of the day nearly every day
- Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain.
- Inability to sleep or oversleeping nearly every day.
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day.
- Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
- Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
Not all Depression Diagnoses are the Same
Even if two people are diagnosed with a depressive disorder, they may not be the same. In addition to Major Depressive Disorder, the following describes some, but not all of the depressive disorders that may be diagnosed.
Dysthymia refers to an overwhelming chronic state of depression. The depressed mood occurs most days for at least 2 years. The person diagnosed with Dysthymia has not gone for more than 2 months without experiencing 2 or more of the following symptoms:
- appetite or weight changes
- sleeping difficulties
- low self-esteem
- poor concentration
- feelings of hopelessness.
Bipolar Disorder is a type of depression where the person has cycling mood changes: highs (mania) and lows (depression). Many people who have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder can have periods between the highs and lows where their mood is considered normal. There are several types of Bipolar Disorder.
1. Bipolar I Disorder
Bipolar I Disorder includes manic symptoms, or rapid cycling episodes of mania and depression that last at least 7 days. Hospitalization may be required during manic phases.
2. Bipolar II Disorder
Bipolar II Disorder includes hypomanic episodes (milder manic symptoms). Hypomanic symptoms may be observable to others, but generally do not cause severe impairment of functioning or require hospitalization.
3. Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified
Symptoms of the disorder exist, but do not meet diagnostic criteria for either Bipolar I or II. However symptoms are well out of normal range for the individual.
4. Cyclothymic Disorder
Cyclothymic Disorder is evidenced by a cycling between hypomanic and depressive symptoms that do not reach the standard for bipolar disorder and have been present for two years.
Symptoms of Mania
- Abnormal or excessive elation
- Unusual irritability
- Decreased need for sleep (e.g., feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep)
- Grandiose notions or increased self-esteem
- Increased talking or pressure to keep talking
- Flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing
- Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., engaging in unrestrained purchasing sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments).
- Markedly increased energy
- Poor judgment
- Inappropriate social behavior
- Distractibility (i.e., attention easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli)
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
A depression starting in the winter months, usually stemming from low natural sunlight and often lifting in the summer months. Sad may be effectively treated with light therapy (Full Spectrum Lighting), but about half do not respond to treatment and benefit from a combination of therapy and medication.
This depression occurs right after giving birth. It is much more than the “baby blues” that many women experience after giving birth, when hormonal and physical changes and the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming. It seriously interferes with the woman’s daily activities. It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of women experience postpartum depression after giving birth.
Is it Time to Seek Help?
Depressive disorders can impair your functioning and rob you of your joy. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, do not hesitate to seek help – it may be time.