Learn About Depression
Experiencing periods of sadness is a normal part of life for the vast majority of people. Feeling sad can be upsetting, but this form of emotional response can be healthy in allowing us to move toward positive growth and change. However, when sadness begins to impact everyday living, occurs alongside additional distressing symptoms, or continues for weeks, months, or even years, an individual might be struggling with a depressive disorder.
Depressive disorders, which are often referred to by the general term depression, are much more serious than just feeling upset or battling the blues. Depressive disorders are a group of mood disorders that significantly impact one’s life with symptoms of irritability, emptiness, and sadness, as well as physical symptoms and changes in thought patterns. The most common types of depressive disorders include major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
These three types of depressive disorders and their symptoms include:
Major depressive disorder: Individuals who have major depressive disorder will have periods of at least two weeks in duration during which they experience sadness, lack of pleasure, loss of energy or motivation, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, weight and appetite changes, sleeping changes, decreased ability to think or concentrate, and thoughts of death and suicide.
Persistent depressive disorder: Those who struggle with persistent depressive disorder will battle with symptoms similar to those of major depressive disorder, though the symptoms of persistent depressive disorder are typically less severe, but last for at least two years.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder: This form of depressive disorder includes symptoms similar to those of major depressive disorder. However, symptoms are connected to a woman’s menstrual cycle. These symptoms can include anxiety, irritability, dysphoria, and depressed feelings prior to menses and mood changes. These symptoms decrease after menses has occurred.
All depressive disorders are challenging to manage and can seriously impact an individual’s life. Many of these disorders begin slowly, and many individuals are unaware that a disorder such as this has consumed their everyday lives until symptoms become worse. In many instances, an individual will be battling a substance use disorder, and find that he or she also begins struggling with a co-occurring depressive disorder.
While symptoms of depressive disorders can be hard to manage, there is treatment available. With the proper care and support, those who are battling major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder can go on to living happy, healthy lives.
Depression impacts roughly 14.8 million adults in America, or 6.7% of those ages 18 and older. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) states that depression often begins between ages 18 and 25. Rates of depression spike again after age 50, and adult women are more likely to report depression than men. Women are 1.4 to 3 times more likely to report major depressive disorder than men are.
Causes & Risks
Causes and Risk Factors of Depression
There are a number of risk factors and causes of depression. Some of the most common risk factors for depressive disorders are:
Genetic: There is a significant link between genetics and depression. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), those with close relatives who have depression are 400% more likely to suffer from this disorder.
Environmental: Depressive disorders can be triggered by stressful, challenging, or traumatic events. Those who have experience trouble in childhood, including abuse or bullying, might also be at increased risk for developing a depressive disorder at some point in life. If an individual’s environment is often without hope or includes many upsetting experiences, that individual’s chances of experiencing depression will increase.
- Past trauma
- Gender (women report depression more often than men do)
- Negative thinking or negative cognitions
- Family history of depressive disorders
- Loss of a loved one
- Substance use disorders such as alcoholism
- Age (depression is more common within the 18-29 age group and becomes more common again later in life)
Signs & Symptoms
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Each person will experience a depressive disorder differently, especially if his or her depressive disorder is co-occurring to his or her primary diagnosis of substance use disorder. The type of depressive disorder, the individual’s history, and his or her personality will all affect his or her signs and symptoms of depression. Some of the most common symptoms of depressive disorders include the following:
- Less attendance in social activities or pleasurable activities
- Crying or tearfulness
- Anxiety or jittery behavior
- A decline in work or school performance
- Slowed movements and speech, or a decrease in movement or speech
- Irritability or angry outbursts
- Oversleeping or inability to sleep
- Somatic pains such as headaches or stomachaches
- Changes in appetite
- Fatigue or listlessness
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Trouble making decisions
- Racing thoughts
- Slowed cognitions
- Difficulty focusing on tasks
- Withdrawal from usual activities
- Irritable affect
- Shame, guilt, or sadness
- Thoughts of suicide or giving up
Effects of Depression
Without obtaining the correct treatment, depression can become extremely dangerous, especially when a depressive disorder is co-occurring alongside of a substance use disorder. Depressive disorders can lead to a series of problems, such as:
- Relationship conflict and strain
- Sleep problems and exhaustion
- Job loss
- Substance use
- Difficulty keeping up with work or responsibilities
- Family conflict
- Risky or dangerous behaviors
- Suicidal ideation
- Suicide attempts
- Isolation and withdrawal
Those who have depressive disorders might be at a greater risk for developing other mental health issues, including:
- Anxiety disorders
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Substance use disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Eating disorders