There are several types of depression that have varying and distinct symptoms, but all of them fall under the overall diagnosis of clinical depression according to the University of California at Berkeley.
It is difficult to say that each one represents a different level of illness, however, because each one is vitally important in the lives of the person who is suffering. Rather, it is important to understand the differences between each type of depression so a proper diagnosis can be made and the appropriate treatment can begin.
Each healthy person experiences sadness in one degree or another at some point in their lives. Individuals who are suffering from clinical depression feel the symptoms even when they have no event or circumstance in their lives to explain it. For instance, when a person loses their job, they may experience a sense of loss, worries over their future ability to support their family or brief sleeping difficulties due to stress. Generally speaking, this individual may experience these feelings for a few days and eventually come to terms with their new circumstances and work to fix them. Someone suffering from depression may have these feeling for several weeks or longer. They may sleep an exorbitant amount of the time because they are tired or making a decision on some level not to interact with others in their daily life.
Dysthymia Is a Less Intense Form of Depression Than Others
Experts have yet to determine what causes this chronic form of depression; however, there are some common risk factors that make depression more likely to occur or be present, according to an article published by the National Library of Medicine. Some of these risk factors include:
- Gender (women are more likely to suffer from this form of depression than men)
- Drug and alcohol use
- Other chronic illnesses, such as anxiety
- History of major depression
- Family history of dysthymia
An individual who is diagnosed with dysthymia will have suffered unexplained sadness and other symptoms such as fatigue, inability to concentrate, or feeling as though they have little or no hope for the future on most days of their lives for at least two years.
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SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, is a condition that causes an individual to feel depressed during certain seasons, most commonly in the winter months. The cause is not fully understood, but some researchers believe that it is linked to the amount of natural sunlight an individual receives at any given time. This particular disorder can manifest with depressive symptoms, such as sadness or irritability, or mania, which can include periods of extremely and often inappropriate jubilation.
Another form of depression that involves switching between super-highs – mania – and depressive lows is bipolar disorder. This condition, known also as manic depression, can cause an individual to experience mood swings that are sudden or very gradual. Many times, one may believe that mania is only manifested in happiness. The individual may feel as though they could not possibly be happier; they spend money, engage in risky behaviors such as drinking excessively or recreational drug use, or even seek out sexual experiences that are outside of their normal moral code. The manic state can, however, also include angry outbursts.
When someone suffers from various degrees of any type of depression, they may begin to feel so hopeless that they believe they can only stop the pain and other symptoms by taking their own life. This risk of suicide is a dangerous manifestation of a treatable condition. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide was the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States in 2007. For every successful suicide death, there are 11 times as many individuals who feel so hopeless that they attempt to take their own lives. These numbers indicate that nearly 400,000 Americans attempt suicide each year.
Unfortunately, unlike other chronic illnesses like high blood pressure or diabetes, individuals with depression often feel stigmatized or less than worthy of medical attention. They may be so embarrassed by their perceived lack of strength or fortitude that they refuse to seek help. They may have even turned to drugs or alcohol as a means to cope with their own condition. It is important to let anyone in your family who may be struggling with depression know that it is nothing of which to be ashamed. Treatments are available and, with the right help, they can control the effects of this chronic condition and go on to lead happy, productive lives filled with the one thing they’ve been missing all along: hope.
If you have any questions about depression or treatment that can effectively address the issue, call us here at Axis today.