Depression is an extremely common mood disorder, and a leading cause of disability worldwide. Depression is a state that involves a significant and persistent lowering of mood associated with great sadness. Depression, however, does not simply involve feeling a little low, having a bad day or feeling blue. In depression, the low mood does not go away after a day or two, but persists, often causing major difficulties in coping with everyday life. This low mood is also very difficult to lift. Depression can occur with some typical features that are summarised below:
The key feature of major depression is at least one extended period (at least two weeks) of very low mood, called a major depressive episode. An individual with this type of depression feels a profound and constant sense of hopelessness and despair. Major depression is manifested by a combination of symptoms that interfere with the ability to work, study, sleep, eat and enjoy once pleasurable activities.
Such a disabling episode of depression may occur only once but more commonly occurs several times in a lifetime. In addition to low mood, there are many other symptoms, such as insomnia, fatigue, weight loss, poor concentration and feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
Dysthymia (also called chronic depression).
Dysthymia, sometimes referred to as chronic depression, is a less severe form of depression but the depression symptoms linger for a long period of time, perhaps years. Those who suffer from dysthymia are usually able to function adequately, but seem consistently sad and pessimistic.
It is common for a person with dysthymia to also experience major depression at the same time – swinging into a major depressive episode and then back to a more mild state of dysthymia. This is called double depression.
Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, is a mental illness that causes people to have severe high and low moods. People with this illness switch from feeling overly happy or manic, to feeling very sad and depressed. Because of the highs and the lows (the two poles of mood), the condition is referred to as ‘bipolar’ disorder. These symptoms can occur alternately, or may overlap in confusing ways. In between episodes of mood swings, a person may experience normal moods. Most individuals with bipolar disorder spend more time in depressed phases than in manic phases.
The word ‘manic’ describes the periods when the person feels overly excited and confident. These feelings can quickly turn to confusion, irritability, anger and even rage. The word ‘depressive’ describes the periods when the person feels very sad or depressed. Because the symptoms are similar, sometimes people with bipolar depression are incorrectly diagnosed as having major depression.
Just as dysthymia is a less severe version of major depression, cyclothymia, or cyclothymic disorder, is a less severe but often longer lasting version of bipolar disorder. A person with cyclothymia has periods of both high and low mood, although never as severe as either major depression or mania, over a period of at least two years.
Postnatal (after childbirth) depression
Postnatal depression is a complex mix of physical, emotional, and behavioural changes that occur after giving birth. They are attributed to the chemical, social, and psychological changes associated with having a baby. About 16 per cent of new Australian mothers experience PND.
Postnatal psychosis is another form of postnatal depression that affects one in 500 women. It is characterised by hallucinations, paranoia and trouble thinking clearly and requires immediate medical attention.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal depression, often called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a depression that occurs each year at the same time, usually starting in autumn or winter (as days get shorter) and an improvement in mood in the spring or early summer. It is more than just the ‘winter blues’ or ‘cabin fever’. A rare form of SAD known as ‘summer depression’, begins in late spring or early summer and ends in autumn.
** If you believe that you or someone you know is suffering from depression of any form, seek professional advice immediately.
Resource : Australian Corporate Wellness online portal : HealthIQ