Defining Depression

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Depression is insidious. It sneaks up on you, wearing you down, until you suddenly realize that you are not functioning properly. With such vague symptoms as fatigue, sadness, aches and pains, trouble sleeping and loss of appetite it can be hard to see the big picture.

Types of Depression

Major Depressive Disorder is the most common form of depression, with about 7% of the US population suffering from this disorder at any time, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). It is characterized by deep, unremitting sadness and hopelessness, loss of interest, poor concentration and loss of energy.

While patients may only ever experience one episode, it is more common to experience multiple recurrences throughout one's life. A second form of this order is called Persistent Depressive Disorder It shares many symptoms with major depressive disorder, but lasts two years or more.

Dysthymia is less severe than major depression. It occurs in about 2% of the population and can often last more than a year. Symptoms result in a low, "blue" mood over an extended period, but are not as disruptive to daily functioning as are those experienced in major depression.

Bipolar Disorder causes alternating periods of deep depression and either manic episodes or extreme irritability. Bipolar depression swings between the two aspects as frequently as several times a year to several times a day. Bipolar disorder affects the lives of between 2 and 3 percent of the population.

Post-Partum Depression occurs anywhere from a month to a year after the birth of a child. As many as 16% of new mothers can experience feelings of deep sadness, despair, feelings of disconnection from the child, fear of hurting the child and suicidal thoughts.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is suffered by as many as 4 to 6 percent of Americans. They describe feeling anxious, irritable and fatigued and report weight gain at certain recurring times of the year. Most commonly occurring in northern, winter climes, this disorder is likely the result of reduced sunlight at that time of the year. Full remission of symptoms commonly occurs during the remainder of the year.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) Is a disorder that affects up to 5 percent of women during the second half of their menstrual period with debilitating depression, anxiety and mood swings. Not the same as premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Situational Depression is triggered by a life event, resulting in sadness, worry and anxiety. Generally resolves without treatment. If depression does not spontaneously resolve, may lead to major depression.

Atypical Depression is a form of depression that presents with substantial physical symptoms, including heaviness in the arms and legs. There is a belief that this might be one of the most frequently experienced types of depression, and also the most underdiagnosed. Atypical depression is sometimes referred to as melancholia.

Psychotic Depression is the co-presence of major depression and some form of psychosis, including hallucinations or delusions.


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