Depression: Its Types, Symptoms and Effects
Depression is a term that has always been loosely used when people feel unhappy, but there is more to it than the mere emotion of feeling low. It is a medical illness that causes a person to feel sad and have lack of interest, affecting not only a person’s emotional and mental state, but the physical state as well. It can cause major problems that may affect a person’s entire state of being, which is why understanding what it is, how it happens, and what to do about it are very important.
A Brief History
The term clinical depression is actually a modern term. Before being coined as such, Hippocrates described a disease that is characterized by both physical and mental symptoms which he called “melancholia.” He described people who suffered from it as having a range of despondencies and fears that last for a long time. The term “clinical depression” was not really published until its first appearance around the 19th century, referring to the same condition that Hippocrates described, but with a more precise set of symptoms and characteristics. Melancholia’s symptoms were very broad, but clinical depression shows a more precise set of symptoms, some of which include not just despondency and fear, but dejection, anger, extreme sadness, obsessions, and delusions as well.
The Different Types of Depression
There are a number of ways to help a person get through their depression. One of the keys is in finding out what kind of depression they have to help you attack the issue accordingly.
- Major Depressive Disorder – Major depressive disorder keeps a person from working, eating, sleeping, studying and doing things that they used to enjoy. The feeling is not just characterized by the usual sadness, helplessness or loneliness that people go through on a normal basis. This usually lasts for a long period of time, completely disabling a person from functioning effectively.
- Chronic Depression (Dysthymia) – Chronic depression, otherwise known as dysthymia, shows the same symptoms as major depression but is not as severe or disabling. This kind of depression usually lasts for a period of over two years. One who suffers from it is also most likely to experience major depression a few times in their lifetime.
- Atypical Depression – If regular depression makes a person lose their appetite or lack sleep, atypical depression shows the opposite. People who have atypical depression tend to overeat and oversleep but still feel extreme fatigue despite this fact. They also become extremely sensitive to rejection, and they experience sudden mood swings to respond to different events in their life.
- Bipolar or Manic Depression – Bipolar disorder is characterized by alternating moods, shifting from clinical depression for a moment and moving to extreme elation the next. A person is said to have Bipolar I disorder if they have had an episode of mania at least once in their life, while a person who has Bipolar II disorder has had at least one episode of major depression and at least one episode of hypomania or mild elation.
- Psychotic Depression – A subtype of major depressive disorder, a person who suffers from psychotic depression experiences episodes of hallucinations and delusions. Estimates of one out of four people who are being treated for depression in hospitals suffer from psychotic depression. In most cases, people who suffer from this kind of depression hear voices in their head telling them that they are worthless. They also feel very guilty all the time, often thinking that they have done things that are unforgivable.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – Seasonal depression is triggered by changes in season. Winter depression is the most common type, and summer depression is the rarest. Winter depression is seen to be caused by hormonal changes brought about by the reduced amount of sunlight that a person gets. It starts around fall and ends in early summer. The sun greatly helps in the production of serotonin in your brain, a neurotransmitter that creates a soothing and calming effect in a person’s system. This is why winter depression is very rare in countries that experience a lot of sunshine. As for its counterpart, summer depression, very little is known about it except that it starts around the end of spring and ends in fall.
- Postpartum Depression – Postpartum depression affects women who have given birth, creating extreme physical, behavioral and emotional changes. It is a form of major depression that usually starts around a month after giving birth. This is actually more common than you think, with a number of factors that could heighten the risks. Women who experienced depression during or before their pregnancy are among those who are at higher risk, especially if they have limited support or are suffering from marital conflict. The younger the woman is during the time of pregnancy, the more likely they are going to suffer from the symptoms.
The Symptoms of Depression
People say they are depressed when they feel sad or dejected. However, clinical depression goes deeper than that. A number of symptoms have to be present to be able to say that one is definitely going through this state. Here are some signs to look out for:
- Having a difficult time to concentrate, remember details, or make decisions
- Feeling guilty, helpless, worthless or pessimistic
- Insomnia, waking up too early, or excessive sleeping
- Extreme fatigue and lack of energy
- Irritability and restlessness
- Overeating or extreme appetite loss
- Loss of interest in things that used to be extremely enjoyable and pleasurable
- Persistent cramps, problems with digestion, headaches and other kinds of body pain that does not go away despite medication
- Thought of committing suicide or actual attempts to hurt oneself
- Persistent feelings of emptiness
These warning signs are things you should look out for if you feel like you are suffering from depression or know someone who might be suffering from it. It is essential that depression is treated right away because it can go on for a really long time, causing a lot of pain and suffering for people concerned. A lot of times, it also leads to suicide, often because the symptoms were missed or were dismissed as nothing. With statistics stating that one out of ten people who are going through clinical depression commit suicide, it is always best to be on the safe side and avoid losing a loved one by watching out for these signs and seeking professional help right away.
The Signs of Suicide
Because suicide plays a big part in clinical depression, it is just as important to watch out for signs that might lead to it. The following signs could help you see if a depressed person is on the verge of giving up and is already considering ending their life:
- Always talking and thinking about death or suicide
- Suddenly changing from being extremely sad or dejected to being extremely calm and happy
- Taking unnecessary risks as if one has a death wish
- Suddenly deciding to put affairs into order, such as changing or fixing their will
- Suddenly calling or visiting people that they care about
- Saying things that can translate to things being better if they weren’t around
You may not be able to detect right away if somebody is going through depression, but it isn’t too late to stop them from giving up. If you know someone who displays the signs above, reach out to that person and help them consider seeking professional help.