Depression has notoriously been downplayed as a weakness on the part of those who just can’t “get over it”. It is thought to be a condition that must have a trigger, like a death or loss of a job. These views are incorrect. Depression can happen to a person with no obvious cause, as chemical imbalances in the brain are the real culprit. Those suffering from depression would love to “get over it” but are unable to shake the persistent negative feelings and accompanying symptoms.
Clinical depression affects more than 19 million Americans per year. This condition is characterized by a loss of interest and pleasure in daily life, disruptions in sleep and appetite, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and can lead to suicide. Feelings of guilt, sadness, worthlessness, anxiety, and hopelessness are common. Depression can be caused by genetics, medications, difficult life events, chemical imbalances in the body, or illness. Women are found to report depression twice as much as men.
Types of Depression
Major Depression is diagnosed when 5 or more symptoms of depression are present on most days for longer than 2 weeks. Treatments include medications and talk therapy. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) work by increasing activity in the brain to improve mood stabilization.
Persistent Depressive Disorder is also known as dysthymia. This type of depression is diagnosed if depressive symptoms last longer than 2 years. Treatment includes psychotherapy and medication.
Bipolar Disorder (formerly known as “manic depression”) is characterized by mood changes from high energy “ups” to depressive “downs”. The down phase is characterized by the symptoms of depression. Mood stabilizers are prescribes as treatment. Antidepressants are avoided as they can trigger “up” phases.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is characterized by the presentation of depressive symptoms during months of reduced sunlight. Light therapy and antidepressants are prescribed for this condition.
Psychotic Depression is diagnosed when the symptoms of major depression are present and accompanied by the psychotic symptoms of hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia. A combination of antidepressants, antipsychotics, and electroconvulsant therapy may be prescribed.
Postpartum Depression can occur in women during the months after giving birth as a result of hormonal and major life changes.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) (also known as “PMS”) is diagnosed when symptoms of depression are present at the beginning of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Medications to treat PMDD include antidepressants and oral contraceptives that stabilize hormone levels.
‘Situational’ Depression (also known as “stress response syndrome”) is characterized by the presence of depressive symptoms in the instance of a particular situation. Talk therapy alone or in groups is most helpful with this type of depression.
Atypical Depression is demonstrated when a positive event temporarily results in a good mood, as opposed to the persistent (regardless of events) depressive feelings found with Major Depression. Antidepressant medications are the preferred treatment for atypical depression.
No matter the circumstances, any period of depressive symptoms lasting longer than 2 weeks should be addressed with a medical professional. If left untreated depression can worsen. Physicians, psychologists, and psychiatrists can treat this condition with a variety of medications, counseling, and other therapies.