Depression (Signs and Types)

What are the common signs of depression? Do you know the different types of depression?

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​What is Depression? 

Depression is an illness that affects a person’s daily functioning. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away.


Signs of Depression 

These are the signs of depression:
Persistent sadness or low mood lasting more than two weeks
Loss of interest and enjoyment in usual activities
Lack of drive and motivation that makes even simple tasks and decisions difficult or impossible 
Fatigue
Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
Agitation and restlessness
Irritability
Change in appetite and weight (either gain or loss)
Sleep disturbances (too little or too much)
Loss of outward affection, loss of interest in sex
Loss of self-confidence, avoidance of people
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, inadequacy, helplessness and hopelessness
Feeling worse at a particular time of day, usually mornings
Recurrent thoughts of dying and suicide

Types of Depression

There are different types of depression:

Major Depression (Clinical Depression)

A major depressive episode is characterised by a combination of the above symptoms that affect one’s work, interests and feelings towards family and friends. The diagnosis of depression is made when a person has a persistently low mood and/or loss of interest that lasts for at least two weeks, with four or more other associated symptoms that cause significant distress to interfere with daily functioning.

These disabling depressive episodes can occur once, twice or several times in a lifetime.

Dysthymia

This is a milder form of depression characterised by long-term, chronic depressive symptoms. The depressed mood persists for a period of two years and is accompanied by changes in energy, appetite or sleep as well as loss of self-esteem and feelings of hopelessness. These symptoms cause distress and difficulty in functioning, but are not severe as in major depression. People who suffer from dysthymia are at increased risk of episodes of clinical depression. “Double depression” occurs when mild depression is present most of the time with occasional periods of more severe depressive symptoms.


Mixed Anxiety-Depression

It is quite common to have both anxiety and depressive symptoms occurring together. In addition to the symptoms described earlier, the person may also feel worried, anxious and tense.

Psychotic Depression

When depression becomes severe, it may include psychotic symptoms such as the sufferer imagining hearing voices criticising or scolding him and believing that other people are going to harm him. These symptoms come after the onset of depressive symptoms and are transient. They usually disappear when depression is adequately treated.

Bipolar Disorder

This disorder is also known as manic-depressive psychosis, in which the sufferer experiences episodes of depression and mania. A person with manic symptoms may be overtalkative, overactive, have increased energy, and a decreased need for sleep. The person’s judgement may also become impaired and he/she may make grandiose decisions about businesses/projects or get involved in romantic sprees. When the person has a depressive episode, he or she will experience the depressive symptoms as described above.


Depression in Specific Groups 

Depression in the Elderly

The elderly have a much higher risk of depression and suicide than the young because major losses tend to take place in the later stages of life, such as illness, changes in physical status, loss of income on retirement, death of parents and friends, loss of a life partner and changes in accommodation arrangements.

Depression in Children and Teenagers

Depression in the younger age group differs from that of adults. Some of the symptoms that parents can watch out for are:
Persistent sadness or boredom
Agitation, irritability or increased activity
Frequent physical complaints such as headaches and stomachaches
Refusal to attend school, or poor performance in school
Inability to enjoy favourite activities
Low energy, poor concentration
Major changes in eating and/or sleeping habits

In addition, more than in adult depression, the youngster may have more negative thinking and entertain thoughts of dying. They have more interpersonal conflicts and teenagers in particular may resort to alcohol and drugs as a way to feel better. 

In teenagers, having a low mood may be due to the maturation process, the stress associated with it, the influence of sex hormones and independence conflicts with parents. It may also be a reaction to a disturbing event such as death of someone close, relationship break-up, peer problems or failure at school. Adolescents who have low self-esteem, are highly-critical and who feel little sense of control over negative events are particularly at risk of being depressed when faced with stressful events. Depressed young people also have an increased risk of suicide.

While it may be harder to pick up depression in children or teenagers, a high index of suspicion should be present when a child or teenager displays troublesome behaviour. Many depressive episodes are missed by the family as they are thought of as normal. Listening to the child/teenager and getting early help is crucial to prevent unnecessary suffering.


Depression in Women

Postnatal depression is a result of a combination of factors including hormonal and physical changes, as well as the added responsibility of a child. The depression may even start during pregnancy, but typically sets in a couple of weeks following delivery. 

It is important to detect and treat postnatal depression, as both the mother and baby are at risk of harm if the depression becomes severe and the mother is not able to carry out her usual responsibilities.

What Causes Depression? 

The causes of depression are multifactorial. Some types of depression run in the family, suggesting a genetic predisposition. Fortunately, most people with a family history of depression do not go on to develop the illness. 

Personality may also play a part in depression. Although anyone can become depressed under certain circumstances, some are more vulnerable than others because of individual make-up or previous experiences. Stressful social circumstances and lack of social support can also precipitate a depressive episode, especially when one’s usual coping methods are overwhelmed by having to face multiple problems simultaneously.

Depression also commonly accompanies physical illnesses, especially life-threatening diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke and other chronic illnesses.


Treatment for Depression 

Antidepressant medications and psychological treatment can be used to treat depressive disorders. A combination of both has been found to give better results than either method alone. Medications target the symptoms more quickly, while psychological treatment helps the person deal with life’s problems more effectively and sustains the recovery, possibly preventing a recurrence.

How to Help Yourself 

Talk to Someone

If you have recently had some bad news or a major crisis in your life, try and talk to people close to you about how you feel. Cry if you need to. This is part of the mind’s natural healing mechanism. 

Set Realistic Goals

Break large tasks into small ones, set some priorities and do what you can. Do not set difficult goals during this period, or make major life-changing decisions during this time.

Maintain a Balanced Diet

While your appetite may be affected, make sure that you eat good, balanced meals regularly as this will help towards your recovery.

If the depressed person is getting worse and is starting to have suicidal thoughts, take these statements seriously and report them to their doctor/therapist.

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Depression (Signs and Types)

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