Different Types of Depression

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

According to credible surveys made around the world, it is estimated that 1 out of 6 persons will suffer from clinical depression during his or her lifetime. In fact, this emotional and mental malady has become so popular that it is common to read about it in ordinary magazines and newspapers. But how will we know when to take the depressed person to a psychologist or psychiatrist for him to have the proper treatment? And what are the different types of depression?

It isn’t that easy to distinguish an ordinary and harmless episode of anxiety and depression to a more serious episode that requires medical attention. Of course each of us undergo the “blues” and lose our energy and will to live from time to time. However, the more severe type of depression deeply overwhelms a person. It may have started out as a dark feeling but has progressed to an illness that affects every aspect of the person’s life. Clinical depression is different from having “the blues” in that it is all consuming and requires treatment. Depressive illness or clinical depression impacts on everything: sleeping, eating, and energy level, ability to work effectively, mood, cognitions (thoughts), judgment, and more. It can be viewed as both a psychological and physical condition.

The kinds of depression discussed in this article are defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), an American Psychiatric Association publication which describes the standard criteria for different types of psychiatric disorders. Here are the more common types of depressive disorders:

Major Depressive Disorder (also known as Major Depression, Clinical Depression) – This episode occurs with symptoms that last for most of the day, nearly every day for at least two weeks. A symptom must either be 1) depressed mood or 2) a noticeable decrease in interest or pleasure in all or most activities.

At least four (or more) additional symptoms are present:

- significant weight loss / weight gain or decrease / increase in appetite
- difficulty sleeping or increase in sleeping
- excessive movement or slowing down associated with mental tension (observed by others)
- fatigue or loss of energy
- feeling worthless or excessive guilt
- difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
- repeatedly thinking about death or suicide, trying to attempt suicide or having a specific plan to commit suicide

Dysthymic Disorder (or also referred to as Dysthymia) – Nearly continuous depressed mood for at least 2 years along with at least two (or more) of these other symptoms:

- decrease or increase in eating
- difficulty sleeping or increase in sleeping
- low energy or fatigue
- low self-esteem
- difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- feeling hopeless

Manic Depression (now known as Bipolar Disorder) – This kind of depression incorporates phases of mania and depression. Cycling between these two conditions can be fast or only mania can be present without any depressive episodes. A manic episode consists of a unrelenting prominent or ill-tempered mood which is mostly extreme, which lasts for one week. These are the other signs of manic depression:

- inflated self-esteem or self-importance
- decreased need for sleep
- more talkative than usual or compelled to keep talking
- experiencing racing thoughts or ideas
- easily distracted
- increase in goal-oriented activity (social, work, school, sexual) or excessive movement
- excessive involvement in potentially risky pleasurable behavior (e.g. over spending, careless sexual activity, unwise business investments)

These different types of depression all need psychological help from psychiatrists. The treatment to be given varies from one depressive disorder to another. In the case of major depression and dysthymic disorder, psychotherapy and medication are both needed by the patient. Psychotherapy should focus on learning how to cope with the disorder, problem solving, challenging negative mindsets and replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. This is usually very effective especially when the family members and friends are cooperative. Antidepressant medication can often assist to alleviate painful impacts of symptoms like inability to concentrate or sleep, work, control emotions or make decisions that directly affect everyday living conditions.

Manic depression treatment will include medication. As this has a tendency to be a disabling mental illness, proper diagnosis on the part of the doctor is vital. The chronic and manic episodes followed by depressive episodes mostly are recurrent without long term therapy. Lithium and anti-convulsive medications are often used in combination in achieving the desired effect. Getting the patient on the best combination of medication is both science and art and can be challenging for the patient and his loved ones. People with manic depression at times feel overwhelmed by the difficult task of keeping their moods in check over long periods of time. The patient sometimes whines that the “high” feeling has been replaced by a different mood, a more stabilized one which may be interpreted as uninteresting. When this occurs he may stop taking the medication and go back to juggling through his racing emotions and thoughts again. That is why long-term counselling is often crucial in maintaining control over bipolar disorder.

However, the medical community cannot assure that psychotherapy and medication will effectively prevent the person from suffering clinical depression throughout his life. That’s why it is vital to learn self-help and natural remedies to counter depression. If you are a person with spiritual belief, have a closer connection to your religious community. Your faith in the Supreme Being is one of the best keys to overcome depression. Family support is also essential. Unload all negative emotions to your family members, since they are the ones who know you better and take their advice constructively.

Don’t neglect to have a regular bonding time with your peers since their presence allows you to relax and enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Having regular exercise releases the “happy hormones” in your body. Never overindulge or relatively lessen your caffeine, sugar and fat intake. A healthy diet promotes better sleep and causes serotonins to balance brain chemicals.

Many relaxing herbs can help relieve your stress and anxiety. Lavender, chamomile, jasmine, and rosemary teas are very much recommended. You can also use the essential oils of these herbs and use it as aromatherapy in your homes. These are certified tension busters that promote better sleep, lessen irritability, and help your digestion as well too. It is also of utmost importance to check your vitamin intake, vitamin c and e are vital in assisting neurotransmitters in the brain.

Finally, self-empowerment is much needed to overcome this existing battle. Thinking positive thoughts creates wonders and miracles for the depressive person and for his loved ones as well. Remember that we are the masters of our souls and the captain of our lives. Going to a health professional to have a consultation or diagnosis on depression isn’t to be ashamed of. Rather, we must be proud to take that bold step into self admittance of our shortcomings and not recklessly throwing our lives away with self diagnosis which can be potentially fatal.

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