If you’ve recently been diagnosed with clinical depression, you are not alone. One in ten Americans experience an episode of depression at least once in their lives and approximately 121 million people worldwide are currently suffering from the symptoms of this terrible disorder. The fiend robs individuals of their ability to function normally and optimally, often decreasing motivation to the point that affected parties feel the constant need to simply crawl under the covers and hide from the world. In the sections to follow, we will discuss what depression is, the symptoms, types of depression, and, finally, treatment methods.
For more information about the ways in which you can kick depression to the curb, check out this course on winning strategies to help defeat depression.
What is Depression?
Depression is a medical disorder that affects the brain and causes its victims to experience repeated episodes of remarkably low mood, loss of appetite, fatigue, and, in more severe cases, thoughts of death and suicide. Though some individuals are genetically predisposed to developing this condition, depression generally is liable to attack anyone who crosses its path. Often times it is brought on by traumatic events, such as the death of a loved one, while other times it has no clear cause. It’s important to note that sadness is expected to result from the death of a loved one, but the sadness can only be diagnosed as depression if it persists for an extended amount of time and does not ease up in the slightest after the grieving period has passed.
Though not all cases of depression result in fatal consequences if not treated immediately, any encounter with several of the symptoms listed in the section below should warrant a visit to the doctor’s office. There, medical professionals will be able to assess the severity of your particular type of depression and the appropriate method of treatment. Depression is also unique in that it can be treated without the aid of a trained professional, though this course of action is not recommended.
To learn more about the impact depression has on the lives of millions of individuals worldwide, take a look at this course on a guide to depression.
Symptoms of Depression
No two instances of depression are experienced in the exact same way, but there are several overarching symptoms that seem to be universal among patients, such as:
- Feelings of Guilt, Worthlessness, Helplessness, or Hopelessness
Individuals with depression often experience high levels of low self-esteem that causes them to question their value and importance to the people closest to them.
- Loss of Interest or Pleasure in Usual Activities
Decreased motivation is also highly prevalent in depressed individuals, who report experiencing little joy or satisfaction in activities that once brought them happiness.
- Difficulty Concentrating and Complaints of Poor Memory
The degrading and distracting thoughts that often appear when an individual experiences depression tend to consume the mind of these individuals completely, leaving little to no energy left for focusing on complex tasks.
- Insomnia or Oversleeping
Distracting thoughts and feelings of inadequacy can also cause depressed individuals to experience difficulty in falling or staying asleep. The counter of this, is spending a large amount of time in bed, disregarding responsibilities and replacing interaction with sleep.
- Appetite Changes and Weight Gain/Loss
Some individuals with depression experience a loss of appetite or motivation to eat when the negative thoughts hit the hardest, while others find it nearly impossible to put their fork down at these times.
- Fatigue and Lack of Energy
The exhausting thoughts that are associated with depression often wear down affected individuals to the point that they feel the constant urge to sleep and avoid participating in productive or athletic pursuits.
- Thoughts of Suicide or Death
By far the most severe of all symptoms, many depressed individuals also experience thoughts of putting an end to their existence.
If you have experienced any or all of these symptoms over the past few weeks, particularly thoughts of suicide or death, please contact your doctor immediately.
Types of Depression
Depression is a broad category that encompasses a great deal of disorders, such as:
- Major Depression
Major depression is the most common form of depression, affecting approximately 7% of the adult U.S. population. This particular type typically requires immediate and advanced treatment measures.
Dysthymia is a less severe form of depression that persists over a long period of time. This type of depression can disappear on its own without treatment, but typically affects individuals for a year or more.
- Postpartum Depression
Postpartum Depression refers to the low mood and sadness that mothers feel after they’ve given birth to their child. Mothers report feeling a disconnect from their child that often causes feelings of fatigue, loneliness, and thoughts of hurting themselves or the baby.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that comes on with the onset of the winter season, often caused the combination of cold weather and lack of sunlight.
- Bipolar Disorder
Previously referred to as Manic-Depressive Disorder, this type of depression is chronic and characterized by individuals experiencing emotional highs, and then emotional lows for weeks or months at a time. Individuals may experience high levels of energy and excitement one month, then plummet into depression the next.
Treatment for Depression
There are two particular treatments for depression that are most prevalently used by therapists to lessen symptoms and potentially cure the disorder:
- Talk Therapy
Talk therapy is client-centered therapy that focuses around an individual and their counselor discussing the feelings associated with depression and the ways in which those negative emotions can be reduced through the strengthening of positive mental pathways. The most common form of talk-centered treatment for depression is cognitive behavioral therapy.
For more information about this specific type of therapy, check out this course on cognitive behavioral group therapy.
- Drug Therapy
Drug therapy involves the use of antidepressants and other mood-boosting medications to lessen the symptoms of depression and bring relief to individuals who are coping with its effects.
If Drug and Talk therapy are not necessarily your ideal treatment and you feel your depression is mild enough to be treated on its own, take a look at this course on meditation for depression and anxiety or this blog post on how to find happiness.