Several Forms of Depressive Disorders

When a person has a depressive disorder, it interferes with daily life, normal functioning, and causes pain for both the person with the disorder and those who care about him or her. Depression is a widespread but serious illness, and most who experience it need treatment to get better. Intensive research into the illness has resulted in the development of medications, psychotherapies, and other methods to treat people with this disabling condition.

There are several forms of depressive disorders. The most common are major depressive disorder and dysthymic disorder.

Major depressive disorder, also called major depression, is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person's ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once pleasurable activities. Severe depression can be very disabling and can prevent the sufferer from functioning effectively in their day-to-day life. An episode of major depression may occur only once in a person's lifetime, but more often, it recurs throughout a person's life.

Dysthymic disorder is typically longer term, often two years or more, however the symptoms are typically less serious and the individual will usually suffer less. Individuals with dysthymia can also suffer from numerous episodes of depressive symptoms throughout their life.

Some types of depression may show slightly different symptoms than those outlined above, or they may begin at unique times. However, not all scientists agree on how to characterize and define these forms of depression. They may include:

Psychotic depression, which occurs when a severe depressive illness is accompanied by some form of psychosis, such as a break with reality, hallucinations, and delusions.

Postpartum depression, which is diagnosed if a new mother develops a major depressive episode within one month after delivery. It is believed that 10 to 15% of woman suffer from postpartum depression after having a child.

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD is indicated when depression occurs during the winter months when there is less natural daylight. This particular kind of depression is generally much less severe during the spring and summer months. SAD may be effectively treated with light therapy, but nearly half of those with SAD do not respond to light therapy alone. Antidepressant medication and psychotherapy can reduce SAD symptoms, either alone or in combination with light therapy.

Bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive illness, is not as common as major depression or dysthymia. Bipolar disorder is indicated when there are extreme mood fluctuations - from excessive highs (for example, manic episodes) to extreme lows (for example, severe depressive symptoms).

What are the signs and symptoms of depression?

People with depressive illnesses do not all experience the same symptoms. The severity, frequency and duration of symptoms will vary depending on the individual and his or her particular illness.

Symptoms may comprise of any of the following:

- Persistent sad, anxious or empty feelings
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
- Agitation, irritability and impatience
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies, including sex
- Exhaustion, tiredness and a decrease in energy level
- Problems with focus, lack of memory and difficulty in making decisions
- Insomnia, early morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Excessive eating or the complete loss of appetite
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment

This information on depression is based on material from the DSM-IV-TR of Mental Disorders (APA, 2000) and the National Institute of Mental Health website.
Writen By: Nigel VideoPix
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