What is Depression?

What is Depression?

Clinical depression is a serious medical illness. It involves disturbances in mood, concentration, activity level, interests, appetite, social behavior and physical health. People who are depressed have trouble with daily life for weeks at a time.

Depression is a mental illness that needs to be treated. Although depression is treatable, oftentimes it is a lifelong condition with periods of wellness alternating with depressive recurrences.

Depression is common. It affects nearly one in 10 adults each year – and nearly twice as many women as men. It is not unusual for individuals to have depression along with another physical ailment or illness. In fact, this occurs in 80% of all depressed people: one out of four cancer patients experience depression; one in three heart attack survivors are depressed as are one-third of those with HIV.

Depression’s annual toll on businesses in the United States amounts to about $210.5 billion in medical expenditures, lost productivity and other costs. Of those costs, $98.9 billion were direct medical costs and $78.7 billion were due to “presenteeism” where employees have poorer on-the-job performance due to symptoms that sap energy, affect work habits, cause problems with concentration, memory and decision making. (Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2015)

A doctor can diagnose depression with a physical examination, a complete medical history, a thorough review of symptoms and a mental status exam.

Types of Depression

Major Depression

People who have major depression have had at least one major depressive episode (five or more symptoms for at least a two-week period). For some people, this disorder is recurrent, which means they may experience additional episodes. One of these symptoms has to be a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure.

Dysthymia

Is a low-level state of depression that lasts a long time. It is not as severe as major depression, but can be just as disabling. Symptoms of dysthymia include many, sometimes all of the symptoms for depression. Fewer symptoms are necessary to make the diagnosis. With dysthymia, individuals are often able to function better. They might be able to go to work and manage their lives to some degree. They may not even be aware that they have an illness even though they are irritable, stressed or tired most of the time. Many people with dysthymia believe that this is just their personality.

Postpartum DepressionNewborn baby yawning in her mother´s arms

A mother’s depression occurring during pregnancy and/or up to two years after the birth of her baby.

 

Learn more about postpartum depression and anxiety.

Paternal Depression

A father’s depression occurring after the birth of his child and up to two years after. Recent studies have shown that up to 10 percent of fathers experience paternal depression or anxiety.

Learn more about paternal depression.

Seasonal DepressionSad Face in snow on car

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is major depression occurring related to changes in the seasons. SAD has a tendency to begin and end at about the same times yearly. For most people the symptoms arrive in the fall and end around the beginning of spring. However, some people have an opposite pattern with symptoms that begin in the spring or summer.

Learn more about seasonal affective disorder.

Young man in jeans and a hoddie sitting on a dock, the sky is overcastDepression with Bipolar Diagnosis

Depression may be part of a bipolar diagnosis. The symptoms may be the same but the person with a bipolar diagnosis also has at least one episode of manic symptoms. These include:

  • An elevated, expansive or irritable mood
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Racing thoughts
  • Distractibility
  • Agitation
  • Excessive involvement with pleasurable activities that causes problems for him/her (unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions and foolish business investments)

This diagnosis requires a different medication treatment, so the distinction between depression and bipolar disorder is an important one. In fact, antidepressants alone usually make bipolar disorder worse.

Learn more about Bipolar Disorder.

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