Depression has been termed by many in the medical field as the common cold of mental disorders. This view from the medical world is due to the fact that most people in the course of their lives will be affected by depression at some point either directly or indirectly through a family member or a friend. There has, however, been some confusion when it comes to an exact definition of depression more specifically on what exactly depression is and its distinction from simply feeling down. Furthermore, there has also been confusion on the various types of depression that people experience, that is dysthymia, seasonal affective disorder, manic depression, biological depression, unipolar depression among others. The presence of so many terms that define depression makes it challenging for most people to determine whether they are simply feeling down or they are clinically depressed.
Depression typically starts at an early age, usually in early adulthood, which is followed by likely recurrences over the duration of ones life. Early occurrences of depression are typically characterized by sadness, irritability, and indifference or apathy, symptoms that are associated with alterations in several neuro-vegetative functions such as impaired concentration and decision making, irregular sleep patterns, loss of appetite and weight loss, motor retardation or agitation and fatigue (Cesar & Chavoushi, 2013). Depression is further linked with feelings of guilt and shame as well as thoughts of dying or death. There is also a small percentage of depressed individuals that experience psychotic symptoms.
Depression is so common that eighty percent of people who have experienced an initial depressive episode will go on to have at least another depressive episode later on in their lives. Out of the eighty percent that will have a subsequent depressive episode, ten to fifteen percent of them will have a manic episode at which point they are recategorized as bipolar disorder patients (Cesar & Chavoushi, 2013). Due to the various forms of depression, most of the people affected by this mental disorder are not likely to seek medical attention as most of them are not aware they are depressed. For this reason, most of the people experiencing depressive episodes even after seeking professional help are not capable of correctly taking treatment as advised by the medical professionals (Chisholm & Saxena, 2015).
There are various characteristics that are common with all depression cases and as such these characteristics are some of the common symptoms associated with a depressed individual. These symptoms include pessimism or feelings of hopelessness, empty mood or anxiety, and persistent sadness. The difference between feeling down and depression is that the above-mentioned symptoms often last for more than two weeks and are experienced on a daily basis. A more comprehensive definition of depression is offered by the International Classification of Diseases in which a patient with a depressive episode is characterized by a lowering of mood, reduction of energy and a decrease in activity (National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, 2010).
Furthermore, the capacity for concentration and enjoyment for such an individual is reduced with the depressed person showing signs of tiredness even after a minimum effort activity. A depressed person also experiences a decrease in appetite and sleep as well as a reduction of self-esteem and an increased presence of feelings of guilt and worthlessness. A depressed person thus loses interest in previously pleasurable activities and things, experiences loss of weight and libido, and is easily agitated (World Health Organization, 2012). From the above symptoms, a person can be termed as mild, moderately or severely depressed depending on the severity and number of the symptoms presented.
The severity of a depressive episode dictates how a depressed individual interacts with people on a daily basis. For instance, a mild depressive episode means that the individual will present some of the symptoms associated with depression, however, although such a person may have some difficulty in performing daily tasks and social activities, the depressive episode will not significantly affect activities of daily living. On the other hand, in a severe depressive episode, the depressed individual will present a majority of the depression symptoms and will additionally not be able to perform domestic, social and work activities except for a very short time. Such individuals are also more likely to be plagued with continuous thoughts of suicide (World Health Organization, 2012).
Although there are a variety of depressive disorders, with all depressive disorders sharing some similar characteristics, each variety is unique in its symptoms. The most commonly diagnosed type of depressive disorder is the Major Depressive Disorder. Its primary symptom is an overwhelming depressed mood that lasts for more than two weeks and affects all aspects of ones life such as friendships, relationships, home life and work. A person with Major Depressive Disorder does not have the will to do much of anything and is not motivated by anything which further presents the challenge that such a person will also not be motivated to seek treatment for this condition (Cesar & Chavoushi, 2013).
However, it is important to note that Major Depressive Disorder is in the category of clinical depression. It is also referred to as Clinical Depression, Major Depression, Chronic Major Depression or Unipolar Depression. The majority of clinical depression depressive episode typically stem from situational depression. Thus, it is important to distinguish between situational depression and clinical depression. Unlike clinical depression that can be brought on by a variety of reason, situational depression is as a result of a change in ones life. A comprehensive definition of situational depression terms the condition as a short-term type of depression that is experienced after a traumatic change in ones normal life. Such traumatic changes include the death of a child, a spouse, a relative, a close friend, or a lover, divorce, loss of a job, retirement, child birth, and surviving a serious accident or a major disaster (Elements Behavioral Health, 2012).
Health care professionals also refer to situational depression as an adjustment disorder. The symptoms of situational depression are more or less similar to those of clinical depression, however, there are key differences that help to distinguish between situational and clinical depression. One of the main defining characteristics of situational depression is that it is a result of a person not adapting to the changes that have resulted from the situations in ones life and not incorporating these changes into the overall life experiences. Subsequently, individuals with situational depression develop symptoms of depression within the first ninety days following the event that causes the depressive episodes (Cirino, 2017).
Situational depression symptoms include feelings of hopelessness, listlessness, sadness, difficulty sleeping, unfocused anxiety, recurring bouts of crying, inability to concentrate, unfocused worry, withdrawal from leisure and work activities as well as from family and friends. More severe cases of situational depression may also be associated with thoughts of suicide. However, symptoms vary from one person to another (Elements Behavioral Health, 2012). Situational depression is always as a result of a traumatic event in ones life, thus once the stressful situations related to the traumatic event are handled, depression symptoms should subside.
However, situational depression can be debilitating and one should seek professional help as soon as one notices that a traumatic event is affecting daily functioning and everyday tasks and relationships. In a situation where situational depression persists for a long period and the symptoms do not subside with time, they may be triggers that may lead to clinical depression later on. Thus, the longer one goes without treating situational depression, the higher the chances of that individual suffering from clinical depression later in the future (Wu, 2016).
As stated earlier, clinical depression can also be referred to as major depression or major depressive disorder, and its symptoms are similar to those of situational depression. However, a distinguishing characteristic between clinical depression and situational depression is that an individual suffering from clinical depression has to have five or more or the depression symptoms at the same time. Additionally, these symptoms have to be severe enough to cause a significant disruption of ones normal routines. Furthermore, people suffering from clinical depression may present symptoms that are never associated with people with situational depression, symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and other psychotic disturbances. Although people with clinical depression are often diagnosed if symptoms persist for more than two weeks, most individuals with major depressive disorder have symptoms that persist for long durations of time, usually spanning their whole lifetimes (Chisholm & Saxena, 2015).
Subsequently, people with major depression have clear chemical imbalances in their brains and in some cases, depression may be hereditary, that is, a person may come from a family that has a history of depression. However, it is crucial to note that other factors, such as environmental factors and external situations play a significant role, even with individuals with a genetic predisposition to depression. A majority of these external factors are similar to those associated with situational depression, however, in the case of major depression, they lead to continued cases of depressive episodes even after the events have long past (Elements Behavioral Health, 2012).
Another type of depression is Dysthymia or Persistent Depressive Disorder. Dysthymia is identical to major depressive disorder however, it is less severe and the symptoms present over an extended duration of time, typically for more than two years. It is thus characterized by an over whelming and chronic state of depression that presents itself as a depressed mood that is present for most days, for more days than not and this state has to last for more than two years. For an individual to be diagnosed with the persistent depressive disorder, such an individual must not have gone for more than two months without experiencing two or more of the symptoms of depression (National Institute of Mental Health, 2016). Unlike major depressive disorder where patients reach a breaking point thus seek professional assistance, dysthymia patients often go through their whole lives without being diagnosed as the symptoms are less severe thus making it hard to identify. However, if untreated, a majority of the persistent depressive disorder patients end up having bouts of major depression in the future (Grohol, 2016).
Bipolar disorder is another common type of depression. It is the opposite of Unipolar or Major Depressive Disorder and was previously referred to as Manic Depression. Bipolar disorder is not typically a form of depression as depression is a symptom of the disorder, however, it is included in the list of forms of depression as a person with this disorder experiences episodes of depression which meet the criteria of Major Depressive Disorder that alternate with manic episodes. As such, bipolar disorder is characterized by cycling changes in mood that alternate between periods of depression and periods of mania with periods of normal moods in between (Phillips & Kupfer, 20...
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