“I’m depressed.” People often say these two words when they’re feeling a little down; however, most of the time they aren’t talking about the clinical definition of depression. They’re referring, instead, to a temporary state of sadness or a case of the blues that may last only a day or two. Depressive disorders go beyond simple melancholy; its grip is so pervasive that it interferes with an individual’s daily functioning.
Depressive disorders are treatable; unfortunately, most people will never seek treatment because they wrongly believe it is a sign of weakness. Because the symptoms of depressive disorder are serious, long-lasting and recurrent, it is important to seek treatment if you or a loved one is depressed. While the causes and symptoms may differ depending on the individual’s circumstance, untreated depression can lead to long-term physical, emotional and interpersonal problems.
Depressive disorders are categorized by types:
Major Depressive Disorder
A disabling condition that interferes with the individual’s ability to function. During periods of depression, the individual may be unable to cope with ordinary life activities like school, work, or even family and friends. While some people may have a single occurrence of major depression during their lives, most people who are diagnosed with major depression have recurrent bouts with it during their lives.
Less severe than major depression but is characterized by depression that has lasted two or more years. The symptoms may not disable the individual (as in major depressive disorder), but they can interfere with the individual’s coping skills. When dysthymic disorder develops into major depression, it tends to be more difficult to treat.
Depression with Psychosis
Occurs during a break with reality, in which an individual may experience delusions and/or hallucinations. People with depression with psychosis may imagine that something is terribly wrong with their bodies. They may think that they are being unfairly punished by God, others or their circumstances.
Occurs within the first six months of childbirth. Often referred to as the “baby blues,” postpartum depression can cause mothers to be irritable, tearful and feel resentment toward their infants. It may also be a sign of bipolar tendency.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Occurs during the winter months when there is less exposure to sunlight. This is also sometimes referred to as “winter depression.”
Mood Disorder Due to Medical Conditions
When depression co-occurs with medical conditions such as cancer, thyroid abnormalities or other debilitating illnesses that can induce similar changes in the brain. Recent research shows that depression, inflammation and immunological abnormalities are interrelated. Therefore, the depressed or grieving individual is vulnerable to heart or other illnesses influenced by inflammation or a weak immune system. It’s important to treat both the medical condition and psychological grief or loss when this occurs.
A side effect of certain prescription medications. Antibiotics, antifungal drugs, blood pressure medications, acne medications, interferon, oral contraceptives and steroids are just a few of the drugs that can induce depression. Before taking any medication, it is always wise to inquire about the possible mood altering side effects.
Substance-induced Mood Disorder
Happens when the depression occurs while using substances, while intoxicated or after withdrawal.
Here is a list of some of the commons symptoms of depressive disorder:
Signs and Symptoms of Depressive Disorder
- Feeling worthless
- Inappropriate guilt
- Feeling empty
- Loss of confidence
- Daily fatigue
- Appetite change
- Increased sleep
- Physical pain or aches
- Thoughts of death/suicide
- Suicide attempts
- Memory problems
- Persistent sadness
- Inappropriate crying
- Diminished pleasure
- Waking too early
- Weight loss
- Difficulty making decisions
- Weight gain
- Difficulty with relationships
- Sexual problems
- Substance abuse
- Jaw Pain
- Painful joints
- Muscle aches
- Stomach aches
- Reckless behavior
(Because these symptoms in and of themselves do not always indicate the presence of a depressive disorder, please contact your physician or mental health treatment provider to obtain an accurate diagnosis.)
The possibility of relapse is high, and multiple interventions and long-term therapy/support are needed to ensure long-term success. Chemical addiction can be successfully treated but must be individualized according to the causes and symptoms. Chemical addiction is usually treated with a combination of the following interventions:
- Behavioral Therapy to develop coping strategies to combat the drug/alcohol cravings and to avoid relapse.
- Cognitive Therapy to change unproductive thinking patterns that lead to chemical abuse.
- Medication to eliminate the symptoms caused by chemical imbalances in the body, to “wean” the individual off the drug, or to treat co-occurring disorders (often referred to as dual diagnosis).
If you suspect that you or a loved one may have a chemical dependency problem, please contact a professional mental health provider for diagnosis and treatment.