Depression is one of the most well known and commonly seen psychiatric disorders. Although stress contributes to being afflicted by depression, the affects of stress is not depression. Neither is depression feeling blue or sad for few days. Depression is characterized by intense and relentless feelings of worthlessness or guilt, sadness, difficulties with attention and memory, inability to find pleasure or enjoy anything, aberrations in sleep and eating habits, fluctuation in energy levels and at its extreme recurrent suicidal tendencies. All of these or most of these signs persisting over more than two weeks would be sufficient for a diagnosis of depressive disorder. However depression is not a single entity, it is a group of disorders lumped together under the label of mood disorders. The primary and common symptom that characterizes these disorders is mood vacillations. There are three major types of depression: Major Depressive disorder, Dysthemia and Bipolar disorder.
Types of Depression:
Major depressive disorder also called clinical depression is characterized by all of the symptoms described above. The symptoms are present for at least two weeks with an intensity that debilitates the individuals normal day to day functioning. Individuals who suffer from this type of depression might have just one single episode or might have recurrent relapses through out their lives. Major depression is more common among females than males. The symptom patterns in males are set apart from typical female symptom pattern. Men are more likely to be violent and aggressive unlike the more passive, lethargic and subdued affect observed in females. Major depression can be treated with antidepressants and psychological therapy.
Dysthemia also called mild or chronic depression is characterized by a milder and longer lasting symptom pattern of the major depression. The symptoms could last for as long as two years and sometimes are interspersed with episodes of clinical depression. When Dysthemia occurs together with major depression a diagnosis of double depression is applied. Afflicted individuals or their near and dear ones might not recognize that the person is depressed as the symptoms are mild and last long enough to give the impression that it is a personality pattern rather than an illness. However Dysthemia can be formally diagnosed and treated with anti depression medication and therapy.
Bipolar Disorder as its name implies has a symptom pattern of dramatic mood oscillations from a depressed extreme to a manic extreme characterized by elation or euphoria. The moods swings can take place over a varied time frame moving from one mood to the other gradually over time or rapidly within a matter of minutes. The depression in bipolar disorder is characterized by the regular depression symptoms, however the manic cycle brings with it sleeplessness, restless hyper activity, euphoria, and some thought disorder symptoms like hallucinations, delusions and extreme rage leading to impaired day to day functioning and social life.
Other less common and milder forms of depression include atypical depression, post partum depression, seasonal affective disorder and substance induced depression. If you suspect you have depression and have the characteristic symptoms such as difficulty in sleeping or staying awake, increased or decreased appetite, inability to concentrate, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, extreme mood swings, substance abuse and suicidal tendencies seek medical help immediately.