Depressive disorders are a serious issue that afflicts many people around the world. The problem is not everyone understands what a depressive disorder is or how serious it can be. Some people even downplay the seriousness of depressive disorders, often to the very person who has them, and tend to cause a lot of psychological and emotional damage to the person suffering from the Depressive Disorder. Hopefully we can shed some light on the subject for you so you can learn to properly handle depressive disorders, whether the sufferer is you or someone you may know.
What Is A Depressive Disorder?
A depressive disorder is an illness of the mind that affects the body, mood, and thoughts. It often interferes with daily life, normal functioning, and can causes pain for both the person with the disorder and those around them who care about him or her. Depressive disorders are generally characterized by sadness as severe or persistent enough as to interfere with normal functions and often by decreased interest or pleasure in various activities. The exact cause of these disorders is generally unknown but is concluded to most likely involve factors such as changes in neurotransmitter levels, altered neuroendocrine function, heredity and/or psychosocial factors. Treatment for depressive disorders usually consists of drugs, psychotherapy, or both and sometimes even electroconvulsive therapy.
A depressive disorder should never be considered as a passing blue mood. It is not a condition that can be wished or willed away by the victim. People with a depressive disorder cannot simply “pull themselves together” and get better. Without proper treatment, depressive disorder symptoms can last for weeks, months, or even as long as years. Depression is a common but very serious illness, and most people who tend to experience depression need treatment in order to get better.
Types of Depression
Depressive disorders come in all kinds of forms, just like any other illnesses such as heart disease or cancer. Two of the most common forms of depression disorders are major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder. Major depressive disorder is manifested via a variety of combinations of symptoms that often interfere with the victim’s ability to work, eat, sleep, study, and even enjoy what were once pleasurable activities for them. An episode of major depression may occur only once but more commonly occurs several times throughout a lifetime. Dysthymic disorder, also known as dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder, involves long-term (two or more years) less severe symptoms that may not necessarily disable, but keep one from functioning normally or from feeling any sense of joy or good. Many people with dysthymia also experience major depressive episodes at various times in their lives.
There are a variety of depressive personality disorders that can afflict a person. Some of these include psychotic depression, postpartum depression and bipolar disorder. Psychotic depression is a depression disorder that occurs when a severe depressive illness is accompanied by a form of mental psychosis, usually involving a break with reality, delusions and hallucinations. Postpartum depression is an adjustment disorder with depressed mood and is diagnosed if a new mother develops a major depressive episode within one month after delivery. It is roughly estimated that 10 to 15 percent of total women experience postpartum depression after giving birth. Bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive illness, is an adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood. It is also categorized as a depressive personality disorder. Unlike major depression or dysthymia, bipolar disorder is characterized by cycling mood changes featuring severe highs (known as mania) and severe lows (depression).
Signs and Symptoms
Depressive disorders can cause cognitive psychomotor, and various other types of dysfunction in a person as well as a depressed mood. These can include poor concentration, loss of sexual desire, fatigue, and loss of interest or pleasure in nearly or all activities that were once previously enjoyable and even sleep disturbance. People with a depressive disorder often have thoughts of suicide and may even attempt to commit suicide. People with all forms of depression are more than likely to abuse alcohol or recreational drugs in an attempt to self-treat their symptoms. They are also more likely to become heavy smokers and also neglect their health, increasing the risk of developing other disorders. Depression can reduce protective immune responses in the body and increase risk of bodily disorders. These can include cardiovascular disorders, stroke or even heart attacks due to an elevated heart rate.
Major Depressive Disorder (In Depth)
Those afflicted may appear miserable, show tearful eyes, have furrowed brows, slumped posture, poor eye contact, little body movement, lack of facial expression, and speech changes such as having a soft voice or use of monosyllabic words. In some people, their depressed mood is so deep that tears dry up and they report that they are unable to experience usual emotions that others do and feel that their world has become colorless and lifeless. Their nutrition may become severely impaired and some neglect personal hygiene or even their children or other loved ones.
If they following have been present nearly every day for roughly a two week period, odds are they are suffering from major depressive disorder and should consult a professional immediately:
- Depressed mood most of the day
- Loss of interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities
- Significant weight gain or loss
- Decreased or increased appetite
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Excessive or inappropriate guilt
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Decreased ability to think or concentrate
- Thoughts of death or suicide, attempted suicide, or a specific plan for committing suicide
Dysthymia or Persistent Depressive Disorder (In Depth)
Symptoms or dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder typically begin during adolescence and may persist for many years or even decades. The number of symptoms often tends to fluctuate above and below the standard for major depressive disorder. They may be habitually gloomy, humorless, pessimistic, passive, introverted, lethargic, and hypercritical of self and others, and complaining. Sufferers are also more likely to have underlying anxiety, substance use, or personality disorders.
If the person in question holds the following symptoms for more than two years, they should consult a professional immediately:
- Poor appetite or overeating
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Low self-esteem
- Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions
- Low energy or fatigue
- Feelings of hopelessness
Strong Warning Signs of Additional Manifestations
Major depression and persistent depressive disorder or dysthymia may include one or more warning signs that describe additional manifestations during a depressive episode:
- Anxious distress: Often feel tense or restless, have difficulty concentrating, worry or fear that something awful may happen, or feel that they may lose control of themselves.
- Mixed features: Have manic or hypomanic symptoms. These can include elevated mood, greater talkativeness than usual, grandiosity, flight of ideas, or decreased sleep.
- Melancholic: Have lost pleasure in nearly all activities, is despondent and despairing, feel excessive or inappropriate guilt, psychomotor retardation or agitation, and significant anorexia or weight loss.
- Atypical: Mood temporarily brightens in response to positive events, may overreact to perceived criticism or rejection, have feelings of heaviness or a weighted-down feeling, weight gain or increased appetite, and hypersomnia.
- Psychotic: Have delusions and/or hallucinations. Delusions often involve having committed unforgivable acts or deeds, harboring incurable or shameful disorders, or being persecuted. Hallucinations may be auditory or visual.
- Catatonic: Have severe psychomotor retardation, engage in excessive purposeless activity, and/or withdraw. Some tend to grimace and mimic speech or movement.
What Should You Do?
If you feel that your or someone who know is suffering from a depressive disorder, you should consult a professional immediately or discuss with them seeing a professional. If you are someone you know are feeling suicidal or having thoughts of suicide, you should call 911 or call your local crisis hotline immediately. Depression is a serious mental illness that affects a large portion of the global population and reports of those afflicted increase steadily every year. The World Health Organization estimates that by the year 2030, depression will become the number one cause of death, overtaking war, hunger, disease, accidental death and old age. Depression affects roughly affects one out of every three individuals and almost everyone will experience some form of depression at a point in their lives. You should never downplay the seriousness of a depressive disorder or tell someone to simply “snap out of it”. Doing so can exacerbate the issue and can cause serious and possibly irreparable damage to the individual. If you would like to assist in the awareness of depression, please share this article.