Often, clinical depression is easy to identify. The person feels sad, miserable, and withdrawn. He does not want to do the usual things he does, and may lose interest in even the simple acts of eating, getting dressed, and getting out of the house. Often, there too is an identifiable cause for the depression. A family member may have just passed away, the person may have just gone through a breakup or divorce, lost his job, went bankrupt, or was recently diagnosed with a fatal disease. Or he may just be under a lot of stress. A great number of things can lead to depression. But there are also cases when a person becomes depressed for no apparent reason. This happens when the type of depression he has is the slow-building kind which takes weeks, months or even years to develop.
According to psychologists, there are in fact many types of clinical depression. The three most prevalent forms are major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder.
In major depression, the usual symptoms of depression are present, sometimes singly but more often in combination. These symptoms are:
• Being in a deeply sad or “empty” mood for at least two weeks
• Having persistent negative feelings, often mixed feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, pessimism, worthlessness, guilt, anger, irritability and anxiety
• Cognitive difficulties, or having trouble concentrating, remembering and making decisions
• Loss of interest in activities, even hobbies that were once enjoyed
• Being withdrawn, and avoiding interactions with family and friends
• Neglecting responsibilities or personal appearance
• Insomnia, not sleeping enough, or oversleeping
• Very little appetite, leading to weight loss; or, on the flipside, overeating and gaining weight
• Constant fatigue and lethargy. This happens even when the person oversleeps and overeats.
• Crying spells, or crying for no reason
• Some physical symptoms (such as headaches, digestive disorders, body pains), which have no particular cause and which do not respond to treatment
• Suicidal thoughts or attempts
Obviously, experiencing these symptoms will interfere with the person’s ability to work and live healthily. When in the clutches of a major depression, it is as if one ceases to be the person he once was. He doesn’t do the things he used to do, and he has no more interest in the things that once brought him joy and fulfillment. He seems, in fact, to have lost interest in life itself.
This state of major depression can happen once, twice or a number of times in a person’s lifetime.
Aside from major depression, another form of depression is dysthymia. This is a less intense type of depression. The symptoms mentioned above may be present, but in a decidedly less pronounced or severe manner. As such, they usually do not interfere with the person’s ability to live a normal life. The person may then seem to be on the melancholic side, but he continues to live and work as he used to.
A third type is bipolar disorder, which was called “manic-depressive illness” in the past. As its name implies, this condition is characterized by alternating bouts of depression and mania (elation and increased activity). One day, the person is depressed, and then the next day, he may be on a manic high. The depressed and manic stages can last for days or weeks, and in between them, there may be a “normal” phase in which the person seems to be well and functioning normally.
No matter what form of clinical depression a person has, the symptoms are more or less the same. They can be very severe and life-threatening, and so treatment should be given as soon as possible.