Depressions are not all alike. Everyone has times of some depression, usually related to particular events. However, there are some forms of depression that do need treatment.
Some are present rather constantly over time, but a person has adjusted to living with a less-than-optimal quality of life, often without realizing they are depressed or that their life could be better. It is important to seek treatment for this form of depression, However many do not recognize that it is depression since they have lived with it for so long so that their status simply feels "normal" to them. Often they enter treatment for other reasons (such as relationship or work concerns) and then learn they have been living with a mild depression.
Other people experience very deep, or “major” depression, that has come on more recently, and severely compromises their ability to go about normal daily activities. Often it includes suicidal thinking or other thoughts of harming oneself or someone else. This is a form of depression that needs to be treated as an emergency.
There is one kind of depression that is part of a bipolar condition—where a person has swings of mood between depressed and manic episodes (which are times of high energy levels, insomnia, and sometimes activities that are very uncharacteristic of the person exhibiting them). The depression that accompanies bipolar conditions can be very severe, and this is also a condition that needs immediate treatment.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) is also known as “winter blues.” It appears to occur more often in winter, and people find themselves feeling depressed, often sleeping more, eating more, feeling fatigue and lethargy. This form of depression can be helped by lifestyle changes, medication or especially, finding a light source which helps when the days are short. There is an opposite form of this known as “reverse seasonal affective disorder” which can include anxiety as a symptom and typically appears in the spring or summer.
A woman can have post-partum depression. This comes at a time soon after childbirth, and may leave her feeling low energy, depressed and often guilty because she is unable to be as responsive to her infant as she wants to be. This is a serious condition and treatment should be sought quickly. Many women do not understand that this debilitating condition is not their fault, nor is it a judgment about their mothering abilities.
There can be a depression that arises around loss and grief. While this sort of depression can be normal and expected after the loss of a loved-one, or of something important in one’s life, if it becomes prolonged and the person is unable to get back into previous activities in a reasonable time, it may have become a clinical depression that needs treatment.
Symptoms of depression may include:
--Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, self-hatred, guilt
--Unusual increase or decrease in sleep or appetite (insomnia, periods of waking during the night, early AM awakening, recent gain or loss of weight)
--Loss of interest in, or withdrawal from, normal activities, hobbies or relationships
--Feeling hopeless, empty, irritable, pessimistic, restless
--Difficulty with concentration or memory
--Thoughts of harming yourself or someone else/having an actual plan or attempt at suicide
Talk therapy and/or medications are usually quite effective for treating all forms of depression.
NOTE: If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts seek help immediately! Either call 911 or go to your local emergency room.)