When a teen or loved one starts making statements to the effect of “I’m so lonely,” “I have been feeling depressed lately” or “the world doesn’t give a damn about me” it’s hard not to think that they are being melodramatic. However, in serious cases of depression, they can often be major gasps for help in an otherwise smothering status of just wanting to shut everything out.
Being depressed isn’t just about a bad spit of experiences that all people normally go through at one time or another. Life is far from perfect, and there will be down times or challenges, even outright hard days where it was probably better to stay in bed. But these incidents are mostly short-lived. Not so with depression. The condition can be triggered by an event, but it can also come with no particular warning. It can stay for weeks and months with no sign of improvement. As a result, depression for our loved ones can be extremely frustrating, even illogical; it doesn’t seem to follow the normal formula of a bad dip or a challenge which sooner or later goes away.
How does a Depressed Person Feel?
Technically, any answer to the question of what depression is gets into the world of psychology because it is a mood disorder. Depression causes ongoing feelings of being sad, and feeling an entire loss of interest in doing anything, even activities that normally would have been the favorite of a patient during normal times. Even daily activities can seem like mountains to someone with depression. It’s also very common for a patient to feel deep thoughts of worthlessness and not being of any value to anyone or anything, despite what those around may say or explain otherwise. The brain goes into a mental block that shuts out the world and spins in a negative circle without any break or release. No surprise, those who suffer from depression often lock themselves up in their rooms to get away from everything. Even those trying to help or improve the situation can seem irritating to someone who is depressed.
Again, patients don’t “snap out” of depression. It’s often the case that depression can be recurring and can get worse over time, so long-term treatment is often necessary. In some cases depression only happens during a singular phase of a person’s life. In other cases depression comes and goes at every stage of life without patterns or with patterns.
Those who feel depressed often share similar symptoms that make the condition distinct from other mental disorders. The symptoms can be daily or sporadic, and they are often recurring. These can include:
- Intense feelings of being sad, unhappy or having no meaning for being.
- Unpredictable emotional anger, irritation, and easily getting frustrated over minor issues.
- A significant or total loss in any fun or pleasurable activity.
- An inability to get normal sleep or sleeping far too much.
- An ongoing lack of energy and noticeable listlessness.
- A significant difference in appetite going both ways in terms of eating too much or too little.
- Prone to anxiety attacks, unpredictable agitation and being restless.
- Noticeably slow in cognitive function, moving and even speaking.
- Regularly making statements of feeling worthless or feeling extremely bad or guilty about a current condition.
- An inability to focus and stay concentrated on mental activities or remembering.
- A recurring issue with body pains that can’t be explained.
- In the worst case, a fixation on suicide, having suicidal thoughts, or thinking that death would make things better.
Depression Types and Levels
Depression comes in different types and intensities, so it’s quite possible to have a patient who is only mildly depressed as well as another case with a very intense condition that borders on self-harm. As a result, the psychology world has categorized the different types of the disorder to better identify them for diagnosis and treatment. These are called specifiers, because the depression observed in a patient is consistent with a depression type that has certain features. These include:
- Anxiety or very anxious distress – This type of depression is notable for being fixated on worry about potentially bad events in the future or a general loss of control.
- Mixed – A depression with a combination of symptoms that include very high and very low emotional states of depression and mania. This can often be confused with bipolar conditions. Such patients happen to have big bursts of energy with more thoughts and ideas than can be handled at one time, and then they sink into a deep pit or trough of depression.
- Melancholy – A deep, severe type of depression that makes the patient restless or have little response to much of anything. It’s hard to find anything that gives pleasure or happiness to such a patient. This type of patient often wakes up early and just gets worse as the day goes on. The patient often has big swings in appetite, and goes through waves of agitation and then no energy as well as dips of guilt.
- Atypical – A patient type that does not follow typical assumptions for depression. This patient seems to be normal in the sense of being in a good nature with happy things and has a good appetite. However, the person hardly sleeps and crashes hard. The patient also reacts quickly to rejection in a severe way and feels physical weighed down.
- Psychotic – A patient whose depression comes with other psychological conditions such as hallucination. These delusions make includes familiar themes and story lines built from the patient’s memories and often having to do with failure, inadequacy or negative experiences.
- Catatonia – This is a severe depressive state where the person is unresponsive physically or has uncontrolled motor spirit.
- Peripartum Onset – A type of depression that new mothers may suffer days or weeks after a pregnancy birth has occurred (i.e. postpartum).
- Seasonal – A mood disorder of depression that comes and goes with specific seasons of the year. Winter is often the worst for many cases but it can be other seasons. The condition is primarily related to a lack of sunlight exposure.
- Pediatric Depression – A depression condition that occurs in children or teens.
When Depression is Serious Enough for Attention
A depression mood disorder is always serious enough to seek medical attention because it has such potential to become far more serious. However, people often don’t recognize what depression is early on. Subsequently, an early form of depression can manifest and become stronger before attention and diagnosis identifies it. If untreated altogether, a serious depression disorder can cause mental and physical health problems as well an inability to function socially. Suicide is a major risk as well.
In any situation where someone is even talking about suicide or playing with the concept, medical help needs to be brought in quickly and immediately. That can be through help from a loved one, a friend, a suicide hotline or more. In the U.S. for example, both depression patients as well as family and friends can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to get trained help. There is even specifically trained counselors for war veterans who are often repeatedly vulnerable to depression based on their conflict experience.
At Risk Groups
Depression can affect anyone at any time. There are patients in their teens as well as their senior years. The condition does not discriminate based on color, background, religion, age or gender. However, while there may be arguments that women are more likely to get depressed, that may very well be because women are culturally able to seek help more often. Men are expected to keep their weaknesses hidden, and they often bury their depression in alcoholism, addictive behavior or drugs. Again, there is no distinct case pattern for prediction, but there are some common triggers that appear frequently. These include:
- A depression disorder that first manifested in childhood or teen years.
- A chronic past of disorders including personality issues or post-traumatic reactions to severe trauma.
- Drug abuse.
- Having low-esteem, being pessimistic about life, or being severely co-dependent on others.
- A chronic disease that has a high risk for fatality or sickness like diabetes, heart conditions or cancer.
- A reaction in patients sensitive to some types of medications, including sedatives or sleep inducers.
- A genetic history of family members who have suffered depression in the past.
When someone says “I am depressed,” it should not be ignored. This mood disorder is extremely serious and should not be ignored. There are plenty of stories or quotes by depressed people who have romanticized the condition, but there is nothing romantic about it, really. Help, support, medical attention and ongoing treatment can help break the cycle and downward spiral that depression is famous for.