Most of us will experience a flat mood or degree of sadness resulting from various life events such as, losing a job or the breakdown of a relationship. However, if after two or more weeks our mood has not shifted, but instead is getting worse, then maybe we should consider talking to a psychologist or counsellor.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) depression is currently the fourth greatest cause of human suffering and disability around the world. In fact, the World Health Organisation predicts that by the year 2020, depression will have risen to become the second greatest cause of human suffering: Yapko, (2009). If untreated, depression can reach into practically every aspects of a person’s life: their physical health, especially cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Depression has been associated with self-defeating habits such as, smoking, alcohol and drug addiction. When people are depressed they may neglect their health and will often over or under eat and or eat foods with little nutritional value.
How Does Depression Affect Our Lives?
Depression affects the way we think about ourselves and others. When our thoughts are more negative they impact on our interactions with others, and of course the way others experience us. Consequently, if you get angry with me or if you smile at me that action creates a chemical synthesis in my brain that affects both you and me, (Doidge, 2007). According to Yapko, (2009); “Relationships can spread depression as surely as germs spread illness. Depression is contagious”.Our mood and how we make sense of the world around us are very much influenced by our relationships with others. However, there are a number of different types of depressive disorders, some of which are said to be more biological in origin than social.
Minor Depressive Disorder
Minor depressive disorder, also known as Non-Melancholic Depression, is the most common type of depression. It differs from Major Depressive Disorder in its severity; the person does not wish to harm themselves, they can still go to work and function reasonably well. In fact, many individuals are able to hide their depressed mood from friends and work colleagues. Usually only their most intimate partner or friends may know their true feelings. Some men have difficulty sharing or even exploring such feelings with a loved one or anyone, for that matter, preferring to keep their feelings to themselves for fear of appearing vulnerable.
Minor Depressive Disorder is caused by stressful life events like, relationship breakdown, loss of employment, failed business, etc. in combination with the person’s personality or character. It is psychological (how the person makes sense of their experience) rather than biological / genetic (coming from within) and is usually present for at least two weeks or more. For some people, especially mature, older people, minor depression disorder can occur due to a loss of purpose or meaning in life, or result from having to deal with a debilitating medical condition.
Symptoms of Minor Depressive Disorder
- Loss of pleasure in things
- Suicidal thoughts or wishes without intention
- Changes in appetite (eat more or less)
- Changes in sleeping patterns (sleep less or more, wake in the middle of the night or early waking )
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Irritability or sudden outbursts of anger
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of interest in sex
Whatever the reason, if you think that you have a number of the symptoms mentioned above, then don’t hesitate, give us a call and arrange an appointment to see one of our psychologists.
Major Depressive Disorder
Major depressive disorder MDD, also known as Melancholic Depression is a very severe type of depression because of its debilitating characteristics. Each episode may last for weeks or months then cease for two or more months before recurring. Major Depressive Disorder affects just under 5% of Western populations. It’s a disorder characterized by low mood, low self-esteem and loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities. In children and adolescents, the mood may be irritable more so than sad. Men, in particular, may hide their vulnerability to feelings of sadness and or worthlessness by increased levels of irritability and persistent anger. Major Depressive Disorder is adversely disabling in that it affects the person’s family life, their workplace, sleeping and eating patterns and their general health.
People suffering this disorder have difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions and have recurrent thoughts of death or suicide ideations, plans or attempts. They often describe having feelings of deep sadness and hopelessness. “I feel like I’m in this big black hole”, said one of my clients, “ where there is no light, no hope of anything changing, no way out, nothing to look forward to, just the same old horrible day-in and day-out misery”. As he spoke, I noticed his body was collapsed inward, his head down, his movements and thinking were slow and his speech monotone. He complained of having sustained fatigue where even the smallest task like washing and dressing required great effort. He said that he often woke up during the night and couldn’t get back to sleep. I have other clients with Major Depressive Disorder who report waking up too early and don’t return to sleep.
Associated Features of Major Depressive Disorder (DSM-V, Fourth Edition)
There are associated features of Major Depressive Disorder some of which are: uncontrolled tearfulness, brooding, obsessive rumination, anxiety, phobias, and excessive worry over physical health, complaints of pain, for example headaches or joint, abdominal or other pains. During a Major Depressive Episode, some individuals experience panic attacks.
Dysthymia is a chronically depressed mood that occurs for most of the day more days than not for at least two years or more (DSM-V, Fourth Edition). Individuals with this disorder will often complain of feeling flat or sad most of the time. In fact, there are only a few weeks or months in the year when they are without depressive symptoms. They may experience themselves as being uninterested and uninteresting and prone to self-criticism. When asked: How long have you felt this way? Their response is often…”I’ve always been this way. It’s the way I’m built”. Generally, they feel inadequate. They are reluctant to socialize, harbour feelings of guilt or brood about the past, their energy may be akin to a twenty watt bulb, have subjective feelings of irritability or excessive anger.
Bipolar Disorder (also known as Manic Depression)
Bipolar 1 Disorder: The essential feature of Bipolar 1 Disorder is the occurrence of one or more Manic Episodes or Mixed Episodes. A Manic Episode is characterized by inflated self-esteem or grandiosity, decreased need for sleep, excessive talking, flight of ideas, distractibility, and increased involvement in goal directed activities (either socially, at work or school or sexually) a constant need to move or fidget and excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that can result in significant painful consequences such as unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions or poor business investments. A Mixed Episode is characterized by a period of time, say one week or more, where the person’s mood oscillates between states of deep sadness and possible irritability to euphoria: over confident or over optimistic (DSM-V, Fourth Edition). In a nutshell, they can be up one minute (not literally) and down the next.
The essential feature of an adjustment disorder is the development of emotional or behavioural symptoms that are clinically significant in response to an identifiable stressful event such as the termination of a romantic relationship or multiple stressors like work place bullying, marital problems or a business failure. A sub type of Adjustment Disorder is Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood: where the individual feels depressed, is tearful and has feelings of hopelessness. Sometimes they may have a combination of depression with anxiety. In such cases the individual may also manifest symptoms of nervousness and worry.
If you have a number of symptoms of any of the above types of depression, please give us a call to see if we can be of some help.