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Most people feel sad or irritable from time to time and they may say they're in a bad mood. A mood disorder however is different: it affects a person's everyday emotional state.
Depression is classified under “Mood Disorders" and it is a whole-body illness. It involves the body, mood and thoughts. It also affects the way you eat and sleep, the way you feel about yourself and look at things and it is not the same as being unhappy or in a “blue” mood.
Depression is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. When you have depression, you can’t “pull yourself together” and get better. Treatment is often needed and many times crucial to recovery.
The following are the most common symptoms of depression. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- Lasting sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Weight and/or appetite changes due to eating too much or eating too little
- Changes in sleeping patterns, such as fitful sleep, inability to sleep, early morning awakening, or sleeping too much
- Loss of interest and pleasure in activities formerly enjoyed, including sex
- Increased restlessness and/or irritability
- Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"
- Feeling of worthless and/or helpless
- Lasting feelings of hopelessness
- Feelings of inappropriate guilt
- Not being able to concentrate, think, and/or make decisions
- Frequent thoughts of death or suicide, wishing to die, or attempting suicide (Note: People with this symptom should get treatment right away!)
- Physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive problems, and/or chronic pain that don’t get better with treatment
In order to establish a diagnosis of depression, five or more of above symptoms should be present for at least two weeks, and should interfere with all areas of a person's life, including work and personal relationships.
Do you think you are depressed?
Take the self-test.
Types of depression
Someone with bipolar disorder, which used to be called "manic depression," has mood episodes that range from extremes of high energy with an "up" mood to low "depressive" periods.
When people are in the low phase, they will have the symptoms of major depression.
Medication can help bring your mood swings under control. Whether you're in a high or a low period, your doctor may suggest a mood stabilizer.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Seasonal affective disorder is a period of major depression that most often happens during the winter months, when the days grow short and people get less and less sunlight.
People with psychotic depression have the symptoms of major depression along with "psychotic" symptoms, such as:
- Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren't there)
- Delusions (false beliefs)
- Paranoia (wrongly believing that others are trying to harm you)
Women who have symptoms of a major depression in the weeks and months afterchildbirth may be diagnosed with postpartum depression.