Are You Depressed. Learn how to Spot a Depressive Disorder
”Can’t you just snap out of it?” If you suffer from a depressive illness, those words are not only ignorant, they’re hurtful. One simply can’t “snap out of” a depressive illness, no matter how easy a tastk it may seem like to those close to him or her.
About 9.5 percent of the population — or about 20.9 million American adults — suffer from a depressive illness throughout any given 12-month period, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). What defines a depressive disorder? An illness that incorporates the body and the mind, which affects appetite, sleep patterns, and mental functioning. This isn’t a fleeting “blue” mood, and it is most certainly not a sign of personal weakness.
Without the proper treatment, symptoms can last for weeks- even years. Unfortunately, many individuals with a depressive illness do not seek treatment, even though various medications and therapies are available to help them.
Similar to illnesses’ such as heart disease or cancer, depressive disorders come in many different forms. The following are the three most common types, according to the NIMH. (Keep in mind that within these types, there are variations in the number of symptoms, severity and persistence.)
* Major depression is manifested by a combination of symptoms that interfere with the capability to work, focus, sleep, eat and enjoy activities that were once pleasurable. A disabling episode of depression may take place only once, although it more commonly occurs several times in a lifetime.
* Dysthymia is a less severe type of depression and involves long-term, chronic symptoms that don’t disable, but keep you from functioning well and feeling generally content. Many people with dysthymia also experience major depressive episodes at some time in their lives.
* Bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive illness, is another type of depression. Not as prevalent as other forms of depressive disorders, bipolar disorder is characterized by cycling mood changes: severe highs (mania) and lows (depression). When in the depressed cycle, you can have any or all of the symptoms of a depressive disorder. When in the manic cycle, thinking, judgement and social behavior can be affected negatively. Mania, if left untreated, may result in a psychotic state.
Not everyone who’s depressed or manic experiences every symptom on the list below, and severity of symptoms varies with individuals and also over time:
SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION
* Continual sad, anxious or “empty” mood
* Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
* Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
* Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
* Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
* Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
* Difficulty staying focused, remembering, making decisions
* Insomnia, early-morning awakening or oversleeping
* Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
* Restlessness, irritability
* Persistent physical symptoms that don’t respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain
Are you depressed? SYMPTOMS OF MANIA
* Abnormal or excessive elation
* Unusual irritability
* Decreased need for sleep
* Grandiose notions
* Increased talking
* Racing thoughts
* Increased sexual desire
* Markedly increased energy
* Poor judgment
* Inappropriate social behavior
Are you depressed? What causes a depressive disorder? Very often, psychological, genetic and environmental factors are involved in the onset of a depressive disorder. Later episodes of illness typically are precipitated by only mild stresses or none at all.
The following are some of the causes of a depressive disorder:
* Genetic predisposition — Certain types of depressive disorder run in families, which suggests an inherited biological predisposition. This seems to be the case with bipolar disorder. Studies done of families with cases of bipolar disorder in each generation found that those family members with the disease have a somewhat different genetic makeup than those who don’t develop it. However, not everybody with the genetic predisposition will develop bipolar disorder, and it appears that additional factors and triggers such as stress or trauma are involved in its onset.
In some families, major depression also occurs in multiple generations. However, some people who have no family history of depression can also suffer from it. Whether inherited or not, major depressive disorder is often associated with changes in brain function.
* Character attributes — People who suffer from low self-esteem, are pessimistic, tend to become overwhelmed by stress are more prone to depression. Whether this represents a psychological predisposition, or is an early form of the illness isn’t clear.
* Medical illness — Physical changes in the body tend to be accompanied by mental changes. Medical illnesses such as stroke, a heart attack, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, hormonal disorders, menopause and pregnancy can cause depressive illness.
* Life trauma — A serious loss, difficult relationship, financial problem or any stressful (unwelcome or even desired) change in life patterns can trigger a depressive episode.
* Side effect of medication, especially in the elderly — Some symptoms of depressive disorder may be side effects of medication a person is taking for a physical problem or may be caused by a co-occurring illness. It’s also important to recognize that some people have the incorrect view that it’s normal for elderly individuals to feel depressed. Or, when depression develops, it may be dismissed as a normal part of aging. This isn’t the case.
If you think you’re suffering from a depressive disorder:
* Confide in someone you trust if you can, such as a spouse, friend, someone in your family, or a counselor.
* Get a physical exam and diagnostic evaluation by a medical doctor who can refer you to a mental health professional. You can also visit a naturopathic doctor if you prefer a natural approach to your treatment.
* Settle on what type of treatment you’d like to pursue. There are a variety of options, such as antidepressant medications, herbal and amino acid therapies, psychotherapies such as cognitive/behavioral therapy or interpersonal therapy, and others. Expect a gradual, not immediate, improvement in your mood. Feeling better takes time.
* It’s advisable to postpone important decisions until the depression has lifted. If you’re suffering from a depressive disorder, your judgment and view of reality may be clouded. Before deciding to make a significant transition — such as changing jobs, getting married or divorced, etc. — discuss it with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
Remember, if you’re feeling worthless, exhausted, hopeless and helpless, it’s the depression. The cycle of negative thinking and the desire to “give up” will fade as your treatment takes effect, which it will, one day at a time.
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