Dictionary.com describes “depression” (in psychiatric terms) as a condition of general emotional dejection and withdrawal; sadness greater and more prolonged than that warranted by any objective reason.
We’ve all felt “blue” and had days we didn’t feel much like getting out of the bunk, especially with the change of seasons imminent. It’s completely normal to have “down” days, but what happens when there are more “down” than “up” days? Understanding the different types of depression, and being able to decide if medical intervention is necessary, can help you determine if it’s just a bad case of “the Mondays” or you really need to go to a doctor.
If you start feeling moody in the fall and continue into the winter months, feeling sluggish and unhappy, you may suffer from Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. It can range from a mild, nagging feeling of discontent to being completely debilitating. One of the most effective ways to combat SAD is light therapy. Keeping close watch on your vitamin D levels is also beneficial, as a deficit can cause symptoms of depression.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities. People with this condition often experience it throughout their lifetime, as symptoms can begin as early as adolescence and persist for more than two years.
Chronic Depressive Disorder (CDD) is characterized by bouts of depression throughout the lifetime, and is not as severe as Major Depressive Disorder, as it rarely debilitates the individual. Both MDD and CDD are often treated with medication and vitamin therapy, and conditions such as hypothyroidism and low testosterone have been linked to causing the conditions.
Manic-depressive illness, also know as Bipolar Disease, is not as prevalent as other forms of depressive disorders, and is presented with cycling mood changes that include severe “highs” (mania) and “lows” (depression). Mood swings can be rapid and dramatic. Left untreated, manic episodes can worsen to psychotic states and depressive cycles can spiral into suicide and self-harm.
While the cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, the current medical opinion is that this is a biological disorder that occurs in a specific part of the brain that causes chemical messengers to malfunction. There is a strong familial tie to the disorder, and it is theorized that individuals with parents who suffer from the condition may be more prone to it. Medication therapy is most often used in treating the condition, along with close psychiatric supervision.
Many people who suffer from depression live full and productive lives with the support of their medical professionals. Often, a full physical examination, with a complete blood work-up, can pinpoint the reasons for symptoms, and the condition can be completely alleviated with something as simple as an increase in a certain vitamin or mineral in your diet.
The most important thing to remember about depression is that “it’s not all in your head.” If you are having feelings of overpowering sadness that persist for long periods of time, it doesn’t mean you’re weak or crazy, it means you may need to have a tune-up and add some vital nutrients or medications to your daily routine. Don’t be afraid to talk about it.