Am I depressed, or just sad?
Most people might feel “blue” or sad from time to time due to life circumstances and situations. They may feel less energetic, but they continue to function at or close to normal. When these feelings don’t dissipate after a short amount of time, the help of a professional can help you feel like yourself again.
Symptoms of depression
- Changes in sleep habits (too much sleep or not enough)
- Eating habits
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of energy
- Persistent symptoms that don’t respond to treatment (i.e., headaches, digestive problems)
- Inability to perform daily tasks at home and at work
- Thoughts of suicide
Types of depression
Major depressive disorder, or major depression
This is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities. Major depression is disabling and prevents a person from functioning normally. Some people may experience only a single episode within their lifetime, but more often a person may have multiple episodes.
Dysthymic disorder, or dysthymia
This is characterized by long-term (2 years or longer) symptoms that may not be severe enough to disable a person but can prevent normal functioning or feeling well. People with dysthymia may also experience one or more episodes of major depression during their lifetimes.
Symptoms of minor depression exist for two weeks or longer and do not meet full criteria for major depression. Without treatment, people with minor depression are at high risk for developing major depressive disorder.
Other forms of depression
Some forms of depression are slightly different, or they may develop under unique circumstances. However, not everyone agrees on how to characterize and define these forms of depression. They include:
occurs when a person has severe depression plus some form of psychosis, such as having disturbing false beliefs or a break with reality (delusions), or hearing or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations).
This is much more serious than the “baby blues” that many women experience after giving birth, when hormonal and physical changes and the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming. It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of women experience postpartum depression after giving birth.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
Seasonal affective disorder is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight.
Also called manic-depressive illness, bipolar disorder is not as common as major depression or dysthymia. Bipolar disorder is characterized by cycling mood changes—from extreme highs (e.g., mania) to extreme lows (e.g., depression).
Causes of depression
Depression can run in families, suggesting a biological predisposition to the illness; however, many people experience depression in the absence of any family history. Research indicates that depression involves changes in brain structure and functioning. Illness and stress also appear to contribute to the onset of depression. Substance abuse or dependence can also precipitate a depressive episode.
Treatment for depression
Men, women, children, teens and older adults all experience depression in unique ways. The therapists and psychiatrists at Continuum will take the time to understand your personal situation and talk with you about ways to alleviate the symptoms of depression.