The Signs & Symptoms of Depression
As many as 1 in 4 Canadians will develop a form of depression in their lifetime and ultimately require treatment. Depression is one of the most common types of mental health disorders, affecting more than 300 million people globally. Common types of depression include major depression, persistent depressive disorder, manic depression (also known as bipolar disorder), seasonal affective disorder, psychotic depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, as well as postpartum depression. It’s also possible for an individual to develop atypical depression and situational depression, though this isn’t a term that is commonly used in psychiatry.
Someone with depression will often feel a combination of emotional and physical symptoms. Emotional symptoms typically include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, emptiness, restlessness, irritability, anxiety, guilt, worthlessness, withdrawal, as well as have trouble concentrating and making decisions, in addition to loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. Physical symptoms include lack of energy, changes in appetite, weight loss or weight gain, changes in sleep patterns, general body aches and pains, dizziness, headaches, digestive problems, as well as behaviour that is considered self-destructive such as loss of control, excessive alcohol consumption, and illicit drug use. Depending on the type of depression an individual is diagnosed with, these symptoms may differ.
Also referred to as clinic depression, major depression is a mood disorder that is characterized by a number of key symptoms, such as depressed mood, lack of interest, lack of energy, feeling sluggish, changes in weight and sleep, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, trouble concentrating, as well as thoughts of suicide. If you have 5 or more of these symptoms and they occur over most days for a period of 2 weeks or more, then your doctor may diagnose you with major depression.
PERSISTENT DEPRESSIVE DISORDER
Used to describe both low-grade persistent depression and chronic major depression, you will be diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder if you have depression that lasts for 2 years or more. Common symptoms of persistent depressive disorder include changes in appetite, sleeping too much or too little, fatigue, lack of energy, feelings of hopelessness, trouble concentrating, and poor self-esteem.
BIPOLAR DISORDER / MANIC DEPRESSION
An individual with bipolar disorder or manic depression will have periods of low moods and higher than average moods — also often referred to as low lows and high highs, or mood swings. During the “low” phase, an individual with bipolar disorder will typically experience symptoms of major depression, while during the “high” phase, an individual will be happier than usual and not exhibit any symptoms of depression at all.
SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER
Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as “SAD” or seasonal depression, is a type of depression that typically occurs during fall and winter months — for example, when the days are shorter and there is less sunlight. While it’s not know what, exactly, causes SAD, some experts have suggested that there may be a link to hormones that trigger attitude-related changes during certain times of the year. In rare cases, an individual may also develop seasonal depression during the warmer, summer months. Seasonal Affective Disorder is most common in young adults, and tends to affect more women than men.
Individuals with psychotic depression will experience the classic symptoms of major depression, along with other symptoms including hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia. Meaning that they will see or hear things that aren’t there, have false beliefs, as well as be under the impression that people are out to hurt them. 20% of those diagnosed with major depression will also develop some of the symptoms of psychotic depression.
PREMENSTRUAL DYSPHORIC DISORDER
Also known as PMDD, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is a type of depression that occurs in women around the time of their menstrual cycle and is thought to be caused by an abnormal reaction to hormonal changes. Along with feeling depressed, a woman with PMDD can also develop mood swings, have changes in their appetite and sleeping habits, fatigue, and may feel overwhelmed.
Postpartum depression, also known as PPD, is when a woman develops major depression after childbirth. Symptoms of postpartum depression can vary, though they will commonly include anxiety, feelings of dread, feeling disconnected to their newborn, as well as avoidance of social situations.
In almost all types of depression, treatment is dependent on the symptoms, but will often include a combination of medication and counselling, such as cognitive behavioural therapy. In addition to medical intervention, patients suffering from depression can also benefit from making lifestyle changes, such as getting regular exercise (physical activity has been proven to improve the mood), changing your eating habits (healthy foods will help minimize mood swings, increase your energy, and have many other benefits), as well as keep in contact with friends and family members. If you think you might suffer from depression, don’t be ashamed to address this with your family physician. The more open and honest you are about any symptoms you’re experiencing, the easier it will be to treat and/or manage them. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or has made any attempt, you shouldn’t wait to seek medical treatment and should instead go to the nearest emergency room.