Depression is a mental health disorder that afflicts over 10 percent of the world’s population, yet society is arguably less than sympathetic. Stereotypes tell us that depressed people are weak – unable to control the difficulties of everyday life. It can be difficult to understand depression because its symptoms are subtle. It’s a disorder defined by thoughts, behaviors and feelings, rather than overt symptoms such as vomiting, rashes or fever.
Those who have experienced depression are all too familiar with comments from misguided friends such as, “Snap out of it,” or, “Just get up and do something.” People don’t say the same to others who have a chronic disease, but depression is just as much of an affliction. Even those suffering from depression might have a hard time understanding what they are personally experiencing, and they often blame themselves for not being able to control it.
Understanding the Signs of Depression
Consider the three following overarching results of depression:
Depression has symptoms related to how someone feels. These symptoms include near-constant feelings of:
There are symptoms related to behavior. They include:
- Social withdrawal
- Lack of energy
- Low motivation
- Poor concentration
- Sleep problems
- Significant changes in appetite
Depression symptoms related to thoughts include:
- Poor self-esteem
- Thoughts of suicide
- Loss of interest in regular activities
For an accurate diagnosis of depression, symptoms must last at least two weeks, and they are often cyclical. This means the symptoms can come or go over a period of months or years. A person who experiences a prolonged period of depression once is likely to suffer future episodes.
Different Types of Depression
Depression is not one-size-fits-all. Body chemistry, heredity, life events and trauma all play a major role. Some forms of depression are temporary, while others last for years.
It can be difficult to think of these thoughts, feelings and behaviors as symptoms. It can seem as if someone who is depressed has decided to be lazy and sleep all day, or that they have decided to stop spending time with friends because they have a bad attitude.
But remember, what’s in our head isn’t imaginary. Our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are influenced by a complex series of chemicals in our brains. Without further ado, here are the many disorders that fall under the umbrella term depression:
Major Depressive Disorder
Sometimes referred to simply as depression, major depressive disorder is characterized by prolonged feelings of helplessness and discouragement about the future. Individuals with this disorder have low self-esteem and intense feelings of worthlessness. They tend to feel, or make themselves, socially isolated.
Persistent Depressive Disorder
To be diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder (PDD), sufferers must have at least two of the symptoms of major depressive disorder for at least two years, with the symptoms manifesting nearly each day. Most often, sufferers would describe these symptoms as mild or stable, but they can actually be severe. PDD is also known as dysthymia, which is Greek for “a bad state of mind.”
Pregnancy is a time of incredible physical and emotional changes. It’s a lot for anyone to take on. Sometimes, women feel no joy in their pregnancy, are especially anxious or fearful, or have problems sleeping. A lack of excitement and irrational fear may be signs of perinatal depression, a lesser-known relative of postpartum depression.
Postpartum Depression (PPD)
The CDC puts the number of American women who suffer from postpartum depression (PPD) at around 600,000 each year. PPD can be difficult to diagnose because what new mother isn’t experiencing sleep disturbances and a decreased libido? What stands out are feelings of hopelessness and a decreased lack of interest in caring for the baby or oneself.
Perimenopause-Related Mood Disorders
There’s a reason it’s known as “the change of life,” but what if you’re not quite ready? In the years before menopause sets in, women may experience mood swings, depression, fatigue and brain fog. Sometimes, a thyroid issue can be the culprit, but often these difficulties are caused by shifting hormones. Depression during this time period can be intense.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
Most women – 75 to 80 percent – experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) monthly. Irritability, social withdrawal, fatigue, sleep disturbances and strong food cravings are common symptoms. However, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is characterized by more severe symptoms that impair a woman’s ability to lead a normal life.
Psychotic depression is a severe mental illness. While occurring less frequently than major depressive disorder, its symptoms can be more severe, triggering suicidal tendencies. Around 25 percent of people hospitalized for a depression-related illness also have thoughts of self-harm.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a variation of depression, and many of the symptoms are the same as traditional depression: feeling blue, having low energy and changes in appetite. SAD only affects people during certain seasons when sunlight levels are low, and it generally recurs year to year. Most people with SAD begin to feel its effects in the late fall and winter, but in rare cases, people experience it during the spring and summer instead.
Formerly known as manic depression, bipolar disorder can be either type 1 or 2, with the former being the most severe case. Bipolar disorder has many of the same hallmarks as general depression does, but with distinct differences, such as periods of hyperactivity, violent mood swings and a greater tendency toward addictive behavior.
Treatments and Therapies for Depression
The exact causes of depressive disorders are poorly understood, but medical experts have identified many factors that influence the illness. We know that changes to hormones in the brain called neurotransmitters can have a major effect on depression. Many medications used in the treatment of depression function by increasing the levels of these neurotransmitters.
We also know that genetics play an important role in depression. People who have a family history of depression are more likely to experience the disorder. Often, the cause is a combination of environment and genetics. However, just because your parents have a depressive disorder doesn’t mean you necessarily will.
Help for Long-Term Depression
Environmental factors wield great influence. Living in poverty, experiencing a traumatic event, or other stressful situations may trigger the disorder. Depression does not always have a clear trigger, which leads to many people to not understand why they feel so down.
Treatment for depression usually includes long-term psychotherapy and medication to identify the cause(s) and ensure the sufferer has the wherewithal to return to a more satisfying life. Either type of treatment can work on its own, but a combination of medication and therapy has shown to be the most effective approach.
Depression and Substance Abuse Treatment in Maryland
Depression and drug or alcohol addiction often go hand in hand. In fact, about 20 percent of Americans with a mood disorder such as depression also struggle with substance abuse. If depression and addiction apply to you or a loved one, Maryland Recovery Center is your destination to get both conditions treated in order to start a stable path to recovery.
Our staff is qualified to diagnose and then treat depressive disorders when a new patient comes to us for drug or alcohol rehabilitation. We’re based in the quiet, yet scenic town of Bel Air, Maryland, and we accept new patients from all over the state and the East Coast. Partial Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient programs are available.
To learn about our methods of treating and accommodating dual diagnosis (addiction plus mental illness) patients, click on the button immediately below.