Depression is not a single disorder. Different types of depression have been identified, and within each type, a wide range of symptoms of varying degrees of severity exists. The following is a brief overview of the different types of depression.Symptoms of Depression
Although the various types of depression are quite distinct, they all share a common group of symptoms. Often a diagnosis hinges on how many of the symptoms are present, and how severely they affect the individual. Symptoms of depression include:
feelings of “emptiness”
pessimism about future events
low energy levels and low sex drive
mental impairment (difficulty concentrating, loss of memory)
Major Depression. If several of the above symptoms are present for a period of at least two weeks and are present at a particularly intense level, a psychologist or psychiatrist might diagnose major depression. Major depression may occur only once in a lifetime, or it may recur throughout life. Combinations of therapy and medication are usually used to treat major depression.
Dysthymia presents with much the same symptoms as a major depression, but the symptoms are less severe. Dysthymia generally lasts longer than major depression: a diagnosis of dysthymia requires that symptoms of depression have been present for two or more years. Like a major depression, dysthymia is treated with medication, therapy, or a combination of the two. Dysthymia tends to be more resistant to treatment than major depressions, and lasts longer if left untreated.
Also known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is characterized by periods of depression interspersed with periods of mania. Over two million Americans suffer from bipolar disorder. While depressive periods have similar symptoms to other types of depression, mania symptoms are quite different, and include euphoria, a false sense of well-being, poor judgment, inappropriate social behavior and an unrealistic view of personal abilities.
Post Partum Depression
Eighty percent of women experience the “baby blues” after the birth of a child: hormonal changes, the physical stresses of birth, and the emotional strain of new responsibilities can make the first few weeks after a birth emotionally trying. The “blues” usually last two to three weeks, and then resolve without any need for treatment.
For ten percent of new mothers, however, the blues don’t go away. Instead, they develop into post partum depression. Without treatment, post partum depression can develop into a major depression or dysthymia.
Postpartum psychosis is a rare complication of post partum depression. Only one or two out of every thousand women are affected by it. The woman begins to display psychotic behavior, often directed at the new baby. Hallucinations and delusions are common. Postpartum psychosis is a serious condition that puts the lives of both mother and child at risk.
Risk Factors for Depression
Depression may develop when one or more of these factors are present:
a family history of depression
a personal history of depression
death of a loved one
chronic pain or illness
drug or alcohol abuse.
Popular culture creates many misconceptions about depression. Depression is not:
a sign of weakness
a personal failing
just feeling sad.