Depression

Written by: Sanguinarius
Link to original: http://www.sanguinarius.org/articles/depression.shtml

Disclaimer: I am not a health-care professional. The information contained here is neither intended nor implied to to be a substitute for professional medical advice. This guide is for informational purposes only, and is in no way meant to take the place of a visit to and advice from a health-care professional. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment, or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in this service is intended to be for medical diagnosis or treatment.

I suffer from depression, and I have noticed that quite a few of those whom I've talked to also suffer from this illness. I've put up this page so that you who may suffer from it, or know someone that does, can be better able to identify it and seek treatment. You don't have to feel like you do, -- and you don't have to bear it alone. If you feel that the criteria below fits you, then I urge you to seek help. I realize that with depression being classified as a "mental illness", it carries a stigma attached to it by the ignorant people in our society. But you should not let ignorant people stand in your way of getting better! It takes guts to say, "I need help", but YOU have to be the one to take that first step; I can only provide some resources to direct you along your path to recovery.

Being "depressed" does not mean being "insane" or "crazy". Being depressed does not mean that someone who suffers from it is lazy or weak or at fault for their illness. Being depressed is different from being "down in the dumps" or "blue".

In many areas, there are local or community resources that you can get hooked up with that will help you out if you have a limited income, so do not let financial concerns stand in your way. You will need to inquire about what resources are available when you go in to talk with a doctor. Help is there; all you gotta do is ask for it.

I also have some useful resources at the bottom of the page for some various other things that people may be dealing with.

The Core Symptoms of Depression

  • Altered appetite and sleep
  • Feeling of physical illness or of being rundown
  • Loss of energy and interest
  • Lowered mood
  • Poor concentration
  • Slowing down of physical and mental functions

Depression is an illness, just like diabetes or heart disease are illnesses. It affects the entire body, not just the mind. One out of every 5 people will suffer from depression at some point in their life. Depression affects anyone, whether one is young or old, rich or poor, regardless of race or sex; however, it affects women twice as much as men. Depression is the leading cause of alcoholism, drug abuse and other addictions. The leading cause of suicide is depression.

Though depression is an illness that can be successfully treated in more than 8 out of 10 people, over half those suffering from depression do not get proper treatment. Depression is nothing to be ashamed of. It is not a character flaw or a sign of weakness; neither is it the same as feeling glum or blue. People, not understanding that depression is an illness, often say to a depressed person, "Snap out of it" or "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps", when it is not something that they can "snap out of." The depressed person is not to blame for his or her illness!

The Main Types of Depression

Major depression

This disorder is characterized by a mood disturbance lasting more than 2 weeks. Symptoms include overwhelming feelings of sadness and grief and loss of interest or pleasure in activities you usually enjoy. In general, its the severity and duration of symptoms that distinguish major depression:

  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Changes in sleeping pattern
  • Constant fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or worthlessness
  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness and/or irritability
  • Inability to think, concentrate, remember things, or make decisions
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities normally enjoyed
  • Observable restlessness or decreased activity
  • Recurrent thoughts of suicide or death

The symptoms are not better accounted for by bereavement, i.e., after the loss of a loved one, the symptoms persist for longer than 2 months or are characterized by marked functional impairment, morbid preoccupation with worthlessness, suicidal ideation, psychotic symptoms, or psychomotor retardation.

Dysthymia

Dysthymia (dis-THI-me-uh) is a less severe but more continuous form of depression. It lasts for at least 2 years and often more than 5 years. Symptoms usually aren't disabling, and periods of dysthymia can alternate with short periods of feeling normal. People with dysthymia have increased risk for major depression.

This disorder is characterized by an overwhelming yet chronic state of depression, exhibited by a depressed mood for most of the days, for more days than not, for at least 2 years. (In children and adolescents, mood can be irritable and duration must be at least 1 year.) The person who suffers from this disorder must not have gone for more than 2 months without experiencing two or more of the following symptoms:

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Low energy or fatigue
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions

Bipolar disorder

Some people with depression have recurrent cycles of depression and elation (mania). Because the condition involves emotions at both extremes, or poles, its called bipolar disorder or manic-depressive disorder. Mania affects your judgement and can cause problems, such as spending money recklessly or making unwise decisions. Some people have bursts of increased creativity and productivity during the manic phase.

For many, the manic symptoms include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Easily distracted
  • Extreme or inappropriate excitement or irritability
  • Feelings of euphoria, extreme optimism, and inflated self-esteem
  • Impulsive or thoughtless behavior and poor judgement
  • Increased energy and decreased need for sleep
  • Increased talking and/or moving
  • Inflated ego, envisioning of grand schemes
  • Poor judgment and reckless activity
  • Rapid speech, disconnected and racing thoughts, agitation, and increased activity
  • Rapid, unpredictable emotional change
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Unwarranted or exaggerated belief in one's own ability

For many, the manic signs and symptoms include:

  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Disturbances in sleep and appetite
  • Fatigue and loss of interest in daily activities
  • Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, guilt, or hopelessness
  • Recurring thoughts of suicide

Bipolar support groups are available. For more information, contact the National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association (DMDA) at # 1-800-826-3632.

Seasonal affective disorder

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a pattern of major depression related to changes in seasons. "Affective" means "emotional," and some of the primary effects of SAD relate to feelings. Yet SAD affects behavior as well. The common signs and symptoms of SAD include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating and processing information
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Increased appetite, especially foods high in carbohydrates
  • Increased sleep or need for sleep
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Weight gain

Anxiety

Many people with depression have symptoms of anxiety as well. Anxiety that develops after age 40 is often related to depression rather than being an independent problem. Exaggerated worry, called an anxiety disorder, often goes hand-in-hand with depression. With an anxiety disorder, you may feel apprehension, nervousness and a nagging uneasiness about your future. In some people, anxiety disorders mimic a heart attack, with symptoms such as rapid heartbeat and palpitations, sweating and dizziness. Other symptoms include headaches, insomnia and relentless fatigue.

Hotlines & Support Websites

~Sanguinarius, Feb 2006 (Hotlines list updated by Sphynx, May 2010)