Most of us will periodically feel sad, low and down, which is a normal part of human life. However, for others these feelings can persist for longer periods, sometimes years, which leads to the experience of depression.
Clinical depression is classed as a mood disorder, which occurs when someone’s mood is persistently low, sad or empty. The consequences of feeling this way impact on how you think, behave and interact in the world. People with depression can have great difficulty doing normal day-to-day activities, and at its extreme make one feel as though life is not worth living. For people who haven’t experienced depression it can be difficult to understand when someone who is close or dear to them retreats, shuts down and hides away from the world. Unfortunately depression is viewed by some as a weakness of character and believe that ‘they’ should just get on with their lives. However, it just isn’t as simple as that and these attitudes only contribute to the shame and stigma of mental illness.
How people experience depression can vary from person to person, but there are general key indicators, such as, loss of interest and motivation; feelings of hopelessness/worthlessness; loss of energy and pleasure in activities; bouts of crying; changes in appetite and weight; impact on sexual interest; physical aches and pains; anxiety; cognitive difficulties in concentrating and thought processes.
There are a number of types of depression that have there own particular characteristics. These are:
- Major depression or clinical depression that produces symptoms outlined above. Major depression has the following sub categories:
- Melancholia which is a severe form of depression where an individual gains almost no pleasure from any activity. It is also indicated by a person appearing to move more slowly.
- Psychotic depression has the depressed characteristics described previously, but there is also a distorted view of reality that is delusional, such as seeing and hearing things others can’t. There may be paranoid thoughts and beliefs associated with this type of depression.
- Antenatal and Postnatal Depression is experienced by women either during pregnancy or after the birth. There are a number of mitigating factors that contribute to this form of depression. It is a common experience for women to have the “baby blues” (80%) due to hormonal changes but this usually ends relatively quickly, whereas for others (16%) this continues into depression.
- Bipolar Disorder or manic depression has the depressed component but also the mania aspect, which is characterised by increased energy, reduced need for sleep, talking fast, feeling good and behaviour that can be out character.
- Cyclothymic Disorder is a milder form of bipolar disorder with chronic oscillating moods between hypomania and depressive moods that continue for two years or more. The episodes of depression and mania are of shorter period than bipolar disorder, but there are also durations of normality.
- Dysthymic Disorder is experienced similarly to major depression but the symptoms are less harsh. Dysthymia endures much longer than major depression, over two years.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) describes the condition caused by changes in seasonal patterns, relating to levels of day light. Someone who has this mental health difficulty may experience both depression and mania at the end of a season, but it is usually characterised by depression at the onset of winter. In Australia this is an uncommon diagnosis due to day lengths not being short compared to Northern Hemisphere countries that have colder climates.
If depression is part of your daily experience and you would like support for this then please call one of our therapists.
May this day find you well
Counselling and Psychotherapy Team