Are We All Depressed?

Thursday January 17, 2019                        By: Dr. Mona AbuHamda

manic-depression-hospital-for-womenDepression has become a common word used by the layperson to describe feelings of sadness. In the psychology field, we call depression the “common cold of mental illness”.

Do you know anyone who has never gotten a cold?  Basically, what this means is that everyone at some point in their life and based on the circumstances will experience a form of depression for a duration of time. So why is it classified as a mental illness? Well!  There is the general feeling of melancholy “feeling blue” and then there are the clinical forms of a depressive disorder.  All of us can wake up in the morning “on the wrong side of the bed” as the saying goes. But when can depression be diagnosed as an illness and what can we do about it?

In this series, I will list the different types of depression.  As professionals, we understand depression as a bio-psycho-social illness. What this means is that it results from a multitude of biological, psychological, and social factors that all interact to create and maintain the disorders. … The psychological factors in the bio-psycho-social model refer to our thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions about our experiences, our environment, and ourselves. The social factors refer to our social support system and our community and finally the biological factors refer to our genetics and our personal unique biological wiring.

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Depression knows no race, gender, culture or age.  However, the prevalence of major depression is 1.7 times higher in women. It is known to be the number one cause of absence from the work place in the United States of America.

There are several types of depression:

  • Persistent depressive disorder (also called Dysthymia)is a depressed mood that lasts for at least two years. A person diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder may have episodes of major depression along with periods of less severe symptoms, but symptoms must last for two years to be considered persistent depressive disorder.
  • Postpartum depression is much more serious than the “baby blues” (relatively mild depressive and anxiety symptoms that typically clear within two weeks after delivery) that many women experience after giving birth. Women with postpartum depression experience full-blown major depression during pregnancy or after delivery (postpartum depression). The feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that accompany postpartum depression may make it difficult for these new mothers to complete daily care activities for themselves and/or for their babies.
  • Psychotic depression occurs when a person has severe depression plus some form of psychosis, such as having disturbing false fixed beliefs (delusions) or hearing or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations). The psychotic symptoms typically have a depressive “theme,” such as delusions of guilt, poverty, or illness.
  • Seasonal affective disorder is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. This depression generally lifts during spring and summer. Winter depression, typically accompanied by social withdrawal, increased sleep, and weight gain, predictably returns every year in seasonal affective disorder.
  • Bipolar Depressionis different from depression, but it is included in this list because someone with bipolar disorder experiences episodes of extremely low moods that meet the criteria for major depression (called “bipolar depression”). But a person with bipolar disorder also experiences extreme high – euphoric or irritable – moods called “mania” or a less severe form called “hypomania.”

Examples of other types of depressive disorders newly added to the diagnostic classification of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) include disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (diagnosed in children and adolescents) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

What are the most common symptoms of depression? How do I know if it’s more than just the blues?

Signs and Symptoms

7ea41ziaqvf01If an individual experiences some of the following signs and symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, they may be suffering from depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

Not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom. Some people experience only a few symptoms while others may experience many. Several persistent symptoms in addition to low mood are required for a diagnosis of major depression. The severity and frequency of symptoms and how long they last will vary depending on the person and his or her particular illness. Symptoms may also vary depending on the stage of the illness.

Can depression be treated? The short answer is, YES.  The scientifically approved approach for the treatment of depression is a combination of medication (known as anti-depressants), psychotherapy (or talk therapy) and finally, lifestyle changes.

Over the next few articles, I will provide a more in depth understanding of the various types of depression and the most commonly used treatment approaches.

Book recommendation: “Is it weird in here or is it just me” by Rod Whyte

References:

  • The National Institute on Mental Health
  • The American Psychological Association
  • The American Psychiatric Association

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Dr. Mona Ezzat-AbuHamda began her graduate studies at Regent’s College in London in 1993 and received her doctoral degree from the George Washington University in Washington, DC in 2003

She serves as clinical faculty at the George Washington University, school of professional psychology and held an adjunct faculty position at The Johns Hopkins University, school of business and education.  In addition to her private practice in Mclean, VA. Dr. AbuHamda is an independent consultant providing clinical services at Washington Behavioral Health, a day-treatment outpatient hospital for adolescents and adults who struggle with addiction disorders

She is a native of Egypt and lives in the Washington DC Metro area with her family.

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