Basics of Depression
by Ron Kurtus (updated 21 November 2022)
Depression is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It can affect appetite, sleeping, self-image, and attitude towards other things. This is an unhappy feeling of being down and listless. There are several categories of depression. Many people occasionally suffer from the disorder, but there are others who are chronically depressed and who especially need treatment.
Questions you may have include:
- What are the symptoms of depression?
- What are the different types of depression?
- What can be done about depression?
This lesson will answer those questions. Mental Health Disclaimer
Symptoms of depression
There are many symptoms of depression. Usually a person suffering a bout of depression has several, but not all of the symptoms. Some people experience only a few symptoms, while others may have many symptoms.
Feelings or moods
Some of the possible feelings or moods a depressed person may have include:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Restlessness, irritability
Some of the attitude and thoughts a depressed person may have include:
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide, including actual suicide attempts
Some of the physical reactions to depression that a person may have include:
- Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
Severity of symptoms
Another factor is the severity of the symptoms. Some symptoms may be more severe than others. They may also vary with time. Of course, the more severe the symptoms, the greater the depression is felt.
(See Causes of Depression for more information.)
Types of depression
There are many variations of depressive disorders. Three of the most common types are:
- Major depression
- Bipolar disorder
Within these types there are variations in the number of symptoms, their severity, and persistence.
Major depression consists of a combination of symptoms that can interfere with the ability to work, sleep, eat, and enjoy pleasurable activities. This type of depression can be quite disabling, but it also may occur only several times within a person’s lifetime.
Dysthymia is a less severe type of depression. Although the symptoms do not disable the person, they are typically long-term and chronic. They can keep the person from functioning well or feeling good.
Many people with dysthymia also experience major depressive episodes at some time in their lives.
Bipolar disorder or manic-depressive
Another type of depression is bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive illness. It is not nearly as prevalent as other forms of depressive disorders.
Cycling mood changes
Bipolar disorder is characterized by cycling mood changes, going from intense highs (mania) to severe lows (depression). Sometimes the mood switches are dramatic and rapid, but most often they are gradual.
When in the depressed cycle, an individual can have any or all of the symptoms of a depressive disorder. When in the manic cycle, the individual may be overactive, over-talkative, and have a great deal of energy.
Can affect judgment
Although a number of creative and successful people have been known to have the bipolar disorder, mania can also affect thinking, judgment, and social behavior in ways that cause serious problems and embarrassment. For example, the individual in a manic phase may feel elated, full of grand schemes that might range from unwise business decisions to romantic sprees.
Treatment can help
A depressive disorder is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with a depressive illness cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better.
Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people who suffer from depression.
Mania, left untreated, may worsen to a psychotic state.
Depression can affect a person’s appetite, ability to sleep, self-image, and personal attitude. A depressed person usually feels unhappy and listless. Categories include major depression, dysthymia and bipolar disorder. Treatment is often advised for people with chronic depression.
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Resources and references
Biological Causes of Depression - from All About Depression
Causes of Depression - from Healthy Place Community
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Basics of Depression