Depression is a common mental disorder that affects millions of people around the world. It is characterized by depressed mood, feelings of guilt or low self-esteem, low energy, poor concentration, and inability to feel pleasure. In some cases these symptoms can beocome particularly intense and/or persist over a long period of time, significantly affecting a person’s ability to lead a normal life. At its worst, depression can exacerbate other illnesses, trigger sleep disturbances, ruin relationships and eventually lead to death by suicide.
The following is an overview of the major forms of depression, their symptoms, warning signs and treatments.
Depression symptoms and warning signs include:
- Feeling hopeless
- Lacking energy; frequently feeling tired
- Thinking about death or suicide
- Feeling anxiety, agitation, restlessness or irritability
- Withdrawing from friends, family and coworkers
- Experiencing changes in appetite, which may result in gaining or losing weight
- Having problems concentrating
- Feeling worthless, hating oneself or feeling guilty
- Losing interest in things you used to like, including sex, hobbies or work
- Having difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much
Main forms of depression:
Major depressive disorder
Sometimes also referred to as major depression. This type of depression is the most serious. People with major depression have a combination of symptoms that make it difficult if not impossible to lead a normal life. Major depression may interfere with a depressed person’s ability to sleep, work, eat and derive pleasure from things the depressed person once enjoyed. Episodes of major depression may happen only once in a depressed person’s lifetime, but for most people who suffer from major depression, they repeat frequently throughout their lives.
This less severe but longer-lasting type of depression is also sometimes called dysthymia. The symptoms of dysthymia may not be as crippling, but they can last up to two years or longer, causing serious disruptions to a depressed person’s life. Those who suffer from this form of depression may also experience major depression from time to time.
There are other forms of depression, too, which have slightly different characteristics and causes, or may develop under distinct circumstances such as in combination with other mental health disorders. These forms of depression include psychotic depression, which occurs when depression occurs alongside some form of psychosis; and postpartum depression, which is depression some mothers experience shortly after giving birth. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that occurs in winter, as a result of reduced exposure to natural sunlight. Bipolar disorder, sometimes also called manic-depressive illness, may also result in severe depression, but alternating with periods of extreme happiness and joy.
Depressed people of different genders and age groups may experience or express depression in distinct ways, and the causes of their depression may also be unique. Depressed women, for example, often experience depression as a result of hormonal changes, either as a result of monthly menstrual cycles or. over the longer term, the changes they experience as they move through the stages of life, such as ovulation, childbirth and menopause. Childbirth itself can cause depression in women, both as a result of hormonal changes and the overwhelming feelings of new responsibilities a new mother may experience. The strain of combined work and home responsibilities can also cause depression in women.
Depressed men may also experience depression differently than women or children with childhood depression or teen depression. Research shows depressed men are more likely to admit feeling fatigued or irritable, and to experience sleep disturbances. Men with depression also more readily admit losing interest in things they once found pleasurable., while depressed women, on the other hand, are more likely to express depression as feelings of sadness, worthlessness or guilt.
Childhood depression and teen depression similarly have unique and distinct effects on children and adolescents with depression. Teen depression frequently co-occurs with anxiety, disruptive behavior, eating disorders or substance abuse. Teen suicide is also a high risk for depressed teens.
Research is finding that younger children are more frequently affected by depression than previously believed. Depression warning signs for young children with childhood depression may include pretending to be sick, refusing to go to school, clinging to a parent, or excessive worrying that a parent may die.
Older pre-adolescent children with childhood depression may experience more trouble at school, negative attitudes, irritability and they may express complaints about being misunderstood. Because some of these symptoms of depression are, to some extent, a natural part of growing up and common in many young people, it can be difficult to diagnose childhood depression in children. But research shows that depressive episodes during childhood and adolescence, if left untreated, can lead to more serious and persistent major depression later in life.
Depression treatment has come a long way in recent decades. Treatment usually consists of psychotherapy in combination with antidepressant medications. Antidepressants treat depression by normalizing brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.
The most recently developed and frequently used type of antidepressant medications today are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These include fluoxetine (Prozac), citalopram (Celexa), sertraline (Zoloft) and others. Another, even newer type of antidepressant medication is called serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These are similar to SSRIs, and include venlafaxine (Effexor) and duloxetine (Cymbalta). These newer depression medications tend to have fewer side effects than older depression medications such as tricyclics and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). But since all medications affect everyone differently, for some depressed people tricyclics or MAOIs can still be a better option.
Side effects, along with effectiveness, are important factors in determining which antidepressant a person with depression is prescribed. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions closely, and report any and all side effects. SSRI and SNRI antidepressant medications can cause short-lived headaches and nausea, insomnia, nervousness, agitation, or certain sexual problems, such as reduced sex drive, erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation or an inability to have an orgasm. Tricyclic antidepressants may cause dry mouth, constipation, bladder problems, blurred vision, temporary drowsiness and also sexual problems similar to SSRI and SNRI medications for depression.
Your doctor may need to try a few different antidepressants over time until the one that offers the least troubling side effects and provides the maximum depression relief is identified. Most antidepressants require a few weeks to begin working, and up to a few months to reach their maximum antidepressant effect, so don’t be disappointed if you don’t feel relief from your depression immediately, but let your doctor know if you’re not feeling any change within a month. If a doctor decides to change your depression medication or stop antidepressant treatment, he or she will usually slower lower the antidepressant dosage over time. Stopping antidepressants suddenly is not advisable with many antidepressant drugs.
Medications work best to treat depression when used in combination with psychotherapy, also sometimes called talk therapy or counseling. Trained professional counselors often use a technique known as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to treat depression. This therapy involves educating a depressed person about depression so they can more readily recognize where their thinking is being affected by the depression. Patients can then actively work on changing the negative ways of thinking or behaving that may be contributing to their depression. Another frequently used form of therapy in depression treatment is interpersonal therapy (IPT). IPT helps depressed people work through troubled personal relationships that may be causing or worsening their depression.
With the safe and effective treatments available today, there’s no need for anyone to live with the damaging and life-ruining consequences of depression. If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, ask your doctor or a trained treatment professional for help. To find a treatment professional in your area, please call us now at and a caring professional will help yo find the right treatment course for your depression needs. We are here to help.