Because most people get depressed from time to time, there is that eternal question if depression is a real illness. The answer is: yes. The clinical one, that is. It has been said that about one out of eight United States residents will likely become clinically depressed. Some experience it once in a lifetime, while others have multiple episodes. This is a fact: if a person gets depressed for the first time, there is a 50 percent chance that he will fall to the same predicament again. And come the second time, there is the threat that he will go into a third depressing episode.
Depression is a real illness as it involves the mental, emotional, and even physical faculties of the person. It is not just a transient sad feeling that will go away when one wills it to. There are symptoms and signs as well as corresponding treatment. If not handled properly and immediately, it may escalate to worse conditions. Like any other illness, depression has also variations.
There are three types of depressive disorders: major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and dysthymia disorder.
Major depression is a culmination of all the symptoms and signs that intervene with one’s capability to act normally. It can happen once, but recurring episodes are possible.
Its less severe counterpart is dysthymia which is characterized by the same symptoms of major depression, only they do not totally interfere with one’s activities. A person who has dysthymia disorder can suffer major depression sometime during his life.
Bipolar disorder is also a type of depression that involves drastic mood changes, from being very high one minute to severely depressed the next. The manic cycle can make the person hyper and overenthusiastic but it changes as soon as the depressed cycle hits. The depressed cycle encompasses all the symptoms of depression.
Because depression is an illness, there are symptoms. Again, they are the following:
1. Persistent “empty” feeling.
2. Unbelievable hopelessness.
3. Feeling guilty and worthless all the time.
4. Lack or loss of interest in activities that used to bring joy to the patient and this includes sex.
5. Prominent fatigue.
6. Has a difficult time making decisions.
7. Development of sleep problems.
8. Loss of appetite and drastic weight change or loss.
9. Suicidal attempts and thoughts.
10. Pronounced irritability.
11. Physical aches and pains that have no physiological basis.
The good news is at the end of this dark tunnel called depression, there is hope. Treatment is available in three types: psychotherapy, antidepressant medicine, and the combination of the two. There are also times when electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and light therapy are employed. We will discuss this in-depth in an upcoming article.