What is depression?
"Depression" is a blanket term used to describe a range of moods – from low spirits to a severe problem that interferes with everyday life. If you are experiencing severe or 'clinical' depression you are not just sad or upset.
People often use say ‘I feel depressed’ when sad or miserable about life. Typically, everybody feels this way at some point. However, if the feelings are interfering with your life and activities of daily living, don't go away after a couple of weeks, or if they come back, over and over again, for a few days at a time, it could be a sign that you're depressed in the medical sense of the term.
Who does depression affect?
Depression affects both men and women, but more women than men are likely to be diagnosed with depression However, depression is not a “normal part of being a woman” nor is it a “female weakness.” Many people with depression never seek treatment in our environment due to the dearth of support for mental health issues. The story is changing and even people with severe depression, can get better with treatment.
What types of depressive disorders exist?
- Major depression: this is a combination of severe symptoms that interfere with the ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy life. An episode can occur only once in a person’s lifetime, but more commonly, people have several episodes of major depression.
- Persistent depressive disorder: A depressed mood that lasts for at least 2 years. A person diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder may have episodes of major depression along with periods of less severe symptoms, but symptoms must last for 2 years.
Some forms of depression are slightly different, or they may develop under unique circumstances. Some of these are;
- Psychotic depression: occurs when a person has severe depression plus some form of psychosis, such as having disturbing false beliefs or a break with reality (delusions), or hearing or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations).
- Postpartum depression: is diagnosed if a new mother has a major depressive episode within one month after delivery. About 10 to 15 per cent of women experience post-natal depression in the first year after having a baby. They may be unusually tearful, anxious or irritable, and may also find it difficult to play with their babies and respond positively to them.
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. The depression generally lifts during spring and summer. Here, it is common around the rainy season and gets better during harmattan and dry season.
- Bipolar disorder: This is different from depression. However, someone with bipolar disorder experiences episodes of extreme low moods (depression). But a person with bipolar disorder also experiences extreme high moods (called “mania”).
- Dysthymic disorder/dysthymia: this kind of depression lasts for a long time (two years or longer). The symptoms are less severe than major depression but can prevent you from living normally or feeling well.
Depression indeed has many faces and as such it is not very easy to prescribe a general treatment modality for it. Seeking professional help is the best initial step to achieving a treatable diagnosis and getting your life back on track.