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Depression, Types, causes and symptoms.

What Is Depression?

Depression is a disorder that is evidenced by excessive sadness, loss of interest in enjoyable things, and low motivation.
It is normal to experience feelings of sadness and despair in response to adverse life events. Such events could include loss, major life changes, stress, or disappointment. In most cases, the sad feelings resolve as you come to terms with the changes in your life. In situations such as bereavement, these feelings may persist for months and return at significant times, such as birthdays and anniversaries related to the lost loved one. Provided you have times when you can enjoy things, however, this sadness is not a sign of depression.
Depression is common. One in three people will experience a major depressive episode at some stage in their lives. While most cases of depression are mild, about one person in ten will have a moderate or severe episode.

Depression, Types, causes and symptoms.
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What Are the Types of Depressive Disorders?

Depression isn’t a single disorder, but rather a class of conditions separated by severity and duration. However, common factors exist among all types.

Major Depressive Disorder

Major depressive disorder occurs when the person has feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or anger that persist over a period of weeks and interfere with daily life. It can lead to suicide in severe cases.

Chronic Depression/Dysthymia

From the Greek for “poor mood,” dysthymia is characterized by a persistently sad disposition, as though the person is always in a bad mood. The symptoms last longer than with major depression, but they are not as severe.

Atypical Depression

Atypical depression can be hard to diagnose and it often lasts for years. Some of the common symptoms of depression, such as decreased appetite, are reversed; the person may have cravings for chocolates or sweets.

Bipolar or Manic Depression

Bipolar disorder is characterized by cycling between depressive periods and manic periods in which the person engages in a lot of activity and feels extremely empowered and positive. The time between phases varies from person to person.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

SAD often strikes people during the winter months. A lack of sunlight, exercise, and fresh air causes irritability and lethargy in people who suffer SAD.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression occurs often with women who have recently given birth. The time of onset varies; it can occur as early as three months or as late as a year after delivery. It is moderate to severe.

Psychotic Depression

Patients who suffer psychotic depression exhibit psychotic symptoms along with the depression, such as delusions or hallucinations. The hallucinations can affect any or all of the senses. Usually, the delusions involve feelings of unwarranted guilt or inadequacy.

Causes of depression.

Depression can be triggered by different things in different people. Sometimes there is no clear cause for the depression. Factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing depression include: 

  • Having had depression in the past
  • A family history of depression
  • Serious loss or stress, such as the death of a partner, close family member or friend; unemployment; divorce or relationship difficulties
  • Biological factors such as vitamin deficiencies or endocrine disorders, eg: underactive thyroid
  • Changes affecting brain chemistry 
  • Some medications, such as blood pressure lowering medications and anti-migraine medications
  • Serious or chronic illnesses – such as stroke, heart attack, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Some women are more likely to experience depression after childbirth. This is known medically as post-natal or postpartum depression. The likelihood of post-natal depression developing is increased if other risk factors are also present.
  • Excessive alcohol or the use of recreational or party drugs can make depression worse.  It is estimated that one in six New Zealanders will be affected by depression at some point in their life.  It can occur at any age and is diagnosed more commonly in women than men.

Symptoms of depression

Symptoms of depression vary between individuals and each person will have a different experience of the condition.  In general, the most common signs of depression (including post-natal depression) are: 

  • Feeling down, depressed or hopeless.
  • Having little interest or pleasure in doing things (anhedonia).
  • Early morning awakening (occurs in 90% approximately)
  • Other symptoms of depression include: 

  • Irritability/mood swings
  • Tearfulness
  • Low self-esteem/low motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory difficulties
  • Reduced sex drive (libido)
  • Feelings of emptiness or loneliness
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Thoughts of hopelessness or suicide.
  • Physical symptoms of depression include: 

  • A pounding heart
  • Stomach cramps
  • Loss of energy
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep problems
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Children and young people with depression can exhibit symptoms such as: 

  • Anger and aggression
  • Risk-taking behaviours
  • Significant mood swings
  • Social isolation
  • Being quiet and shy
  • Denying that something is wrong.



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