Depression is characterized not only by negative thoughts, moods, and behaviours but also by specific changes in bodily functions.
“Feeling blue” is quite common to everyone, owing to stressful lifestyles that we all lead these days. But if the normal ups and downs turn into emptiness and despair, clutching your life, you may be suffering from depression.
We conveniently use the word depression for the feeling of sadness or disappointments that we are going through. But, depression is much more than just sadness. It is a medical illness that causes a constant feeling of sadness and lack of interest. It is also known as major depression, clinical depression or major depressive disorder.
The occasional sadness that we all feel at times usually passes after a while but, people suffering from depression find it hard to go about their day-to-day activities which can lead to various emotional and physical problems.
The estimate as to how many people suffer from depression is not available. Numbers differ from country to country and even within the same nation.
- The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 6.7% of American adults have had a depressive illness during the last 12 months, and 30.4% of these cases (2% of the whole adult population) have severe symptoms.
- While the National Institute of Mental Health says women are 70% more likely to develop depressive symptoms during their lifetime, an article published in JAMA Psychiatry (August 2013 issue) showed that depression affects 30.6% of men and 33.3% of women, not a statistically significant difference.
- The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) estimates that in the United Kingdom 21 in every 1,000 16-to-65-year-olds live with major depression (17/1000 males and 25/1000 females). If "mixed depression and anxiety", a less specific and broader category is included, the prevalence rises to 98 per 1,000.
- In Australia, only 1 in every five people with clinical depression is accurately diagnosed, according to the State Government of Victoria, "because depression can mask itself as a physical illness like chronic pain, sleeplessness or fatigue."
Different Forms of Depression
Out of various forms of depression, major depressive disorder and dysthymic disorder are the most common.
Major Depressive Disorder (major depression)
Patients suffering from major depression suffer a combination of symptoms which countermine their ability to sleep, study, eat and enjoy activities they once found joyful. This condition disables and prevents the patient from normal functioning. Some people experience only one episode, while others have recurrences.
Patients suffering from dysthymia or mild chronic depression bear the symptoms for a long time- as long as a couple of years or longer. The indicators are not as severe as in major depression. However, patients with this condition too can find it difficult to feel and function normally. Some people experience only one episode during their lifetime, while others may have recurrences.
This form of depression is marked by hallucinations, delusions, and/or withdrawing from reality. It is a severe form of depression and is also known as delusional depression.
Postpartum depression (postnatal depression)
As the name suggests, this kind of disorder which is suffered by mothers within a few weeks of giving birth. Experts believe that about 10% to 15% of all women experience this type of depression after giving birth. Sadly, many of them go undiagnosed and suffer for long periods without treatment and support. The National Library of Medicine states that postpartum depression can start anytime within a year of giving birth.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
People who develop the depressive illness during the winter months have higher chances of having SAD. This means that people living in the regions farther from the equator, where there is less sunlight, are more prone to this effect. The symptoms of SAD go away during spring and/or summer.
In Scandinavia, where winter can be very dark for many months, patients commonly undergo light therapy - they sit in front of a special light. The National Health Service9, UK, suggests that sunlight may stimulate the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that controls sleep, appetite and mood.
A patient with bipolar disorder experiences moments of extreme highs and extreme lows. These extremes are known as manias and the condition is alternatively known as manic-depressive illness.
While depression is a commonly used term for sadness, the condition actually is very serious. If you have depression, its symptoms can interfere with your day-to-day lives. Treatments include psychological (talking) treatments and antidepressant medicines.
Read more articles on Mental Health.
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