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Depression is no laughing matter. Depression is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a mental health disorder characterized by a persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life. Major depressive disorder (or clinical depression) affects how you feel, think and behave, and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. Those suffering from depression may have trouble with normal day-to-day activities, and may sometimes feel as if life isn’t worth living.
Depression can be unbearable for some people, and many who suffer from it can even attempt suicide. If you struggle with suicidal thoughts or actions, call a national suicide hotline, or dial 911. Your life is always worth living, even if you sometimes can’t see why. The key with depression is to never let your emotions dictate your actions. Get help, and continue to move forward toward your goals.
There are a number of different kinds of depression, each with its own class of symptoms, causes, and complications. The following is a brief description of each type. If any of these sound like something you wrestle with on a regular basis, seek help from a licensed healthcare professional.
Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn’t worth living.
Known formerly as dysthymic disorder (or dysthymia), persistent depressive disorder is a mood disorder characterized by the same symptoms as major depression. However, with PDD, the symptoms last much longer, often for years. Although the symptoms are less severe than those that occur with major depression, people with PDD are at a greater risk of developing major depression. People with PDD often complain that they have an overall lower mood than most people, and can suffer from low self esteem, sleep-related issues, a lack of motivation, indecisiveness, pessimism, or an inability to enjoy pleasurable activities.
Bipolar Disorder is characterized by periods of intense highs and lows. Sometimes bipolar individuals will feel intense depression, even to the point of suicidal ideations. Other times, they will feel intense euphoria, as though they were on top of the world. In many cases, these states can be managed through effective medications and therapy. However, extreme stress or other challenges can trigger an episode, so the bipolar individual must have solutions on-hand when they feel an episode coming on.
Bipolar I Disorder is characterized as at least one episode of mania (intensely elevated mood) or mixed episodes (experiencing both mania and depression).
Bipolar II Disorder is diagnosed when a person has at least one bout of major depression followed by a period of hypomania (less intensely elevated moods). Because the mood swings are less dramatic, this form of Bipolar Depression is often missed or misdiagnosed.
In either form of Bipolar Disorder, medication management is particularly important, and often makes a significant positive difference.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression in which the individual experiences changes in mood in accordance with the change in season. Most people suffering from this condition begin to suffer from symptoms of depression with the onset of fall, and those symptoms persist through the winter months. Others experience depression with the onset of spring. Symptoms include a lack of energy, and a negative mood or affect.
Psychotic depression is a type of major depression in which the individual experiences some form of psychosis. Psychoses experienced by such individuals can include hallucinations, delusions, or some other break from reality. This condition affects about one out of every four people hospitalized for depression, and is very serious. Psychoses experienced by those suffering from psychotic depression center around themes of depression (e.g. hearing voices that are telling them they are worthless). Such individuals often have difficulty managing themselves, and often need medication.
Peripartum Depression is a form of depression in which an expecting mother experiences a major depressive episode during pregnancy or within four weeks following delivery. Pregnancy puts a woman’s body through a variety hormonal changes, and sometimes the body does not quite adjust properly. Formerly known as postpartum depression, peripartum depression is the preferred nomenclature, as it acknowledges that many women experience this depression prior to delivery.
Situational Depression occurs when a significant event in one’s life causes stress or trauma. The event could be either positive or negative, and can be related to health, living situation, relationships, family, job or career, goals, or any number of other things. Diagnosis concerns whether the symptoms arise following a traumatic event, whether the symptoms don’t go away after a period of grief, and whether the symptoms have a significant negative impact on one’s life.
Atypical depression is a subtype of major depression or dysthymic disorder in which the individual has a very specific set of symptoms related to mood. Unlike with melancholic depression, in which the individual is always depressed, positive events or experiences can cause an individual to experience temporary joy. Atypical depression is often hallmarked by one or more of four traits:
1) Increased appetite or weight gain
2) Sleeping too much
3) Severe reactions to rejection, in social relationships or the workplace
4) A feeling of being paralyzed or “weighed down” by life/circumstances
If you currently suffer from depression, hopefully reading this information has made you aware of it. Many people around the world live with depression that is undiagnosed. There are many kinds of depression, but all are characterized by negative thoughts, feelings, and/or emotions. Diagnosing the correct form of depression is important, as each is treated in a different way. A qualified medical professional will evaluate your medical history and symptoms to arrive at an accurate diagnosis.
Research into treating depression consistently shows that what helps people most to overcome depression is the right kind of therapy, along with the right kind of medication.
Psychotherapy is often referred to as “talk therapy”, because it involves the patient sitting down with a psychotherapist and opening up about his or her life. Good therapists do not merely talk and listen; they employ a wide array of strategies for helping their patients come to terms with where they are at in life, and what they need to do going forward. This type of therapy is effective for treating depression and empowers the individual to develop their own strategies for mitigating difficult situations moving forward.
EMDR is an evidence-based form of psychotherapy that has been thoroughly researched and proven to aid people in their recovery from depression and trauma especially when the trauma runs deep enough to trigger a physical stress response such as depression. If you experience a traumatic event, there will be times when your brain can’t deal with this trauma on its own, and you might need additional help beyond a regular therapeutic session. You can learn more about EMDR in this article.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy or CBT is among the most effective depression treatments as it can generates quick results. CBT is an evidence-based psychotherapeutic treatment to address multiple mental health issues. Besides being a treatment for depression, CBT can also help anxiety, depression, addictions, marital issues, and eating disorders to name a few.
Medication is often needed to treat various forms of depression, as the individual simply cannot get themselves into a positive state of mind on their own. This is especially true when the individual also suffers from a psychosis or is suicidal. In some cases, the individual will need medication on a long-term basis; in others, the medication is used temporarily to help the person get back on track emotionally, and then he or she can come off of it.
In some cases (e.g. Seasonal Affect Disorder), large quantities of light can help the individual process negative experiences or emotions in a much healthier manner.
If an individual consumes mood-altering substances such as drugs or alcohol, he or she may benefit greatly from ceasing such activity. Exercise can greatly improve a person’s mental and emotional well-being. So can eating or avoiding certain foods, or taking supplements. Changing one’s work environment to one that is more edifying or less stressful can also have a profound effect on reducing or eliminating symptoms
Jim Brillon is a licensed therapist in Orange County, and he specializes in treating depression of all kinds. If you think you might be suffering from depression, give our office a call and make an appointment. We’re happy to meet with you and come up with a specialized plan to give you relief and enable you to conquer life’s challenges with passion and purpose. Life is too short to waste lost in negative thinking and habits. With the right healthcare professional on your side, you won’t have to worry anymore. In Orange County CA, that professional is Jim Brillon.