States of mind are not the predictions of the future. In developing inner safety with self compassion and acceptance one embraces the fears with courage which opens the heart to change.
– Michael G. Mruz
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders. It is important to recognize that depression is not simply an emotional state; it is a medical / clinical diagnosis. Individuals suffering from depression may have one of several types of depressive disorders, or a combination of disorders that may include anxiety, phobias, PTSD, or OCD.
Depression is a mood disorder that causes severe symptoms that impact the way a person thinks and feels, and these symptoms affect the performance of daily activities, including eating or sleeping. A well-trained and experienced therapist can evaluate an individual to determine if they are suffering from a form of depression, and how it can be helped by therapy and/or medication.
This is the disorder most people are referring to when they use the term “depression”. Major depression is characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness or hopelessness, a loss of interest or pleasure in favorite activities, feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
Persistent Depressive Disorder, or Dysthymia, is characterized by chronic feelings of little energy, malaise, generally depressed mood, low self-esteem, poor motivation, hopelessness and irritability. Symptoms generally cause less impairment than major depressive episodes.
The term “Bipolar Depression” is often used when referring to Bipolar Disorder, but it only represents one side of this disorder. Individuals with Bipolar Disorder experience both episodes of mania – extreme highs or euphoria – and episodes of Major Depression; thus, the name Manic Depressive Disorder.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, manifests as depression during the winter months when daytime is shorter and there is less natural sunlight. Specific symptoms include social withdrawal, weight gain, and increased sleep.
Most women with postpartum depression experience major depression after giving birth, but some women experience symptoms during pregnancy. Postpartum depression can render a new mother incapable of caring for herself or her child.
While depression is most often diagnosed in adults, it is now recognized as occurring in children, adolescents, and teens. Studies have shown that many anxiety and mood disorders in adults are rooted in high levels of anxiety in children and teens. Rather than manifesting in “low mood”, depression in children and teens often present as prominent irritability.
We all feel sad or “down” occasionally, however, if someone feels sad all or most of the time, has a loss of interest in their favorite activities of life, feels worthless or guilty for no reason, feels life is empty and meaningless, he or she may be suffering from depression.
To be diagnosed with depression, symptoms must be present most of the day, almost daily, for at least two weeks. A list of symptoms can be found below, but it is important to recognize that not every individual will experience every symptom; some will experience just a few symptoms persistently, while others may have many.
Persistent sadness and/or anxiety
Low, “empty”, or “hollow” mood
Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
Decreased energy or fatigue
Restlessness and/or irritability
Difficulty concentrating and/or making decisions
Sleeping issues; e.g. difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, oversleeping
Appetite and/or weight changes
In severe cases, thoughts of death or suicide
Risk Factors for Depression
Research suggests a combination of factors may cause depression; there are psychological, environmental, biological and genetic considerations. More specifically, risk factors for depression include:
A history of depression in close relatives
Trauma, stress, or major life changes
Complex physical illnesses and medications
Treatment for Depression
Depression can be treated with psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. Although even the most severe cases of depression can be treated, treatment is most effective when it is started earlier.
It is important to recognize that every individual is affected by depression in their own way, and treatment must be customized to the individual. In other words, there is no single pre-defined depression treatment that works for everyone.
Psychotherapy, sometimes referred to as “talk therapy” or counseling, is a vital component of treating depression. There are a variety of specific psychotherapeutic approaches that can be explored in the treatment of depression, including: