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Mental Health: All About Depression

People of all ages feel sad on occasion. It is a feeling that’s as normal as other emotions such as happiness and anger. Simply feeling sad or unhappy is not, however, the same as feeling depressed. While general sadness subsides, depression is a mood disorder in which a person experiences intense feelings of long-lasting sadness that negatively impacts their lives. For a person to receive a depression diagnosis, they must experience related symptoms for two or more weeks.

When a person is diagnosed with clinical depression, they should receive treatment. Unfortunately, only one-third of people who suffer from depression actually do so. Some may avoid treatment out of fear, embarrassment, or a concern that they will be seen as weak and emotionally unstable. At other times, when a person has not yet received a diagnosis, they may not be aware of the symptoms of depression or the need for treatment. Regardless of the reason, failure to receive treatment can cause the symptoms to extend for months or even years. A better understanding of depression can enable everyone, from family members to professionals and students who are obtaining a healthcare MBA, to help assist individuals in getting the care they need.

Types of Depression

People unfamiliar with depression may be surprised to discover that there are various forms of the disorder. These different types of depression vary from mild to severe. Depending on the type, it can be caused by factors such as genetics, hormones, environment, or chemical imbalances. Common types of depression include:

  • Major depressive disorder: Also known as major depression, this is a disorder that can affect a person just once or several times in their life. With major depressive disorder, a person is disinterested in or unable to enjoy the things they would under normal circumstances. It hinders their ability to sleep and eat and it imparts a negative outlook that affects their ability to work and function in general.
  • Dysthymic disorder: Currently known as persistent depressive disorder (PDD), this is mood disorder is a milder version of major depression. Symptoms of this disorder, which has also been called dysthymia, last for up to two years, however, one may have episodes in between where their mood appears to be normal for as long as two months. It is characterized by a dark, sad mood that occurs on most days. Some may also experience low self-esteem, overeating or poor appetite, feeling hopeless, and fatigue. Both adults and children can have the condition.  In children, the symptoms can last for one year and is often a long-lasting irritation as opposed to depression.
  • Bipolar disorder: A person who has bipolar disorder has a condition in which they alternate between depression and feelings of mania, which are periods of excessive and extreme highs.  Highs can manifest as feelings of grandeur and potentially dangerous delusions.  Also known as manic-depressive disorder, bipolar disorder can greatly affect a person’s life as their behavior can negatively impact their ability to function and interact with others if treatment is not received. It is a disorder that affects both men and women, however, women who are bipolar often experience depression more frequently than the mania.
  • Cyclothymic disorder: Cyclothymic disorder is similar to bipolar disorder in that the individual experiences emotional shifts that alternate between highs and lows. It differs, however, in that the highs and lows that the individual experiences are not as extreme. In addition, there are often periods in-between where one does not experience either extreme.
  • Mood disorder due to a general medical condition: This is a reoccurring period of depression that is directly related to a medical condition that a person may or may not be aware of. These medical conditions may be neurological, such as Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis. This is also commonly associated with medical issues, such as liver disease or hypothyroidism. A medical diagnosis must be made in order for a diagnosis of a mood disorder due to a general medical condition can be made. This type of depression may have features that are mixed, manic, depressive, or major depressive.
  • Substance-induced mood disorder: This is a disorder whose onset of symptoms is related to the use of or withdrawal from drugs, alcohol, or other medications. People with a family history of mood disorders are at an increased risk of substance-induced mood disorder. A person can only be diagnosed with this type of disorder if they did not have symptoms of a mood disorder before the substance use started.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): People who suffer from seasonal affective disorder experience episodes of depression that are directly associated with a specific season. Commonly, this occurs during the fall or winter months, however, there are some people who are affected during the spring and early summer seasons.
  • Postpartum depression: Following childbirth, some women may experience an intense form of exhaustion, anxiety, and sadness known as postpartum depression. It is caused by a number of factors such as sudden hormone changes that occur after the child is born. Other symptoms associated with this type of depression include severe mood swings, difficulty bonding with one’s baby, excessive crying, feelings of shame or worthlessness, or anger.
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder: This is a highly disruptive disorder that affects women who are menstruating. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD, is an extreme form of PMS that causes episodes of depression in the two weeks prior to menstruation and disrupts one’s life. There are a number of other symptoms that one may experience in addition to depression such as changes in sleep, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, and even suicidal thoughts.

Symptoms of Depression

There are many symptoms that are associated with depression. It can cause a person to experience anxiety or lose interest in both personal and professional activities, even those that they normally enjoy. It can cause individuals to either eat less or more than they would under normal circumstances. People who are depressed may find that it is difficult to sleep or they may sleep more frequently. They often experience feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or helplessness. Some may experience chronic pain that doesn’t improve with treatment, bouts of excessive crying, and they may even contemplate suicide.

Symptoms of Mania

People who experience symptoms of mania often undergo extreme elation and periods of excessive energy. A person may talk excessively, have racing thoughts, and grandiose notions. Poor judgment, inappropriate behavior, and a marked increase in sexual desire may all be signs of mania, as is irritability.

Additional Statistics and Information About Depression

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, which is commonly known as the ADAA, statistics show that major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability for individuals who are between 15 and 44 years old. In addition, in the U.S. it affects approximately 6.7 percent of people 18 and over. It is also a condition that is more common in women than men. Dysthymic disorder, or PDD, affects 1.5 percent of adults 18 years old or older in the U.S. and it occurs in up to 8 to 12-percent of women who are of childbearing age. Bipolar statistics show that roughly 2.6 percent of people who are 18 years old or older are affected by it. It occurs equally in men and women, however, women often have more depressive episodes. Other statistics worth noting is that up to 25 percent of women and 12 percent of men will become depressed in their lifetime. In general, women suffer from depression twice as much as men.

How Depression Affects a Person’s Life

Depression drastically alters how a person interacts with others, whether it is friends, loved ones, or co-workers. When a person suffers from depression, their outlook on life often deteriorates. It can drain them of energy, self-esteem, and confidence, making it difficult to impossible for them to complete tasks both big and small. People who suffer from depression may find that they are unable to sleep, eat, or otherwise care for themselves which may put their health at risk.

Depression Among Women: Depression is a serious condition that strongly affects women. On this CDC page, readers can read about symptoms, including symptoms of postpartum depression, risk factors, treatment, and how it affects fathers.

Men and Depression (PDF): Depression is a condition that frequently discussed in terms of how it impacts women; however, men are also impacted by this mood disorder. This document reviews the symptoms of depression and how people can seek help.

Mental Health – Depression: On this mental health page of the Office of Women’s Health website, both women and men may read about the different types of depression, their symptoms, and treatments. The page also includes links to other sites on depression.

Depression PDQ – Patient Version: People with cancer may experience depression. On this page of the National Cancer Institute page, readers are given basic facts about depression such as risk factors.

Older Adults and Depression: Older adults are at an increased risk of depression and can be a great concern. This page on the NC Health and Human Services outlines depression clues, self-help, and how depression is different for older adults.

Depression (PDF): When it comes to depression, there is a great deal of stigma and misunderstanding. This booklet on depression, which is released by New York State of Opportunity Office of Mental Health, provides basic information about the disorder such as factors that play a role in depression and how it impacts women, men, children, teens, and older adults.

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