Depression is a mental and physical illness. Depression usually begins gradually and gets progressively worse. Sometimes unfortunate or tragic events can make depression much worse very quickly. Suddenly everything seems wrong and hopes for the future have faded away. Thankfully, depression is a mental and physical state that can be reversed. Most depression survivors say that during their depression, they never would have imagined how amazing their lives would become once they found the help they needed.

Symptoms and diagnosis

The diagnosis of depression is generally made when five or more depression symptoms which last over two weeks, according to the 2013 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSM-5) by the American Psychiatric Association. The DSM-5 criterion consists of the symptoms and symptom qualifiers, such as duration and severity Signs and symptoms of depression include:

  • Loss of energy almost every day
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in usually enjoyable activities
  • Change in appetite, weight loss or gain for unknown reason
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Irritability or anger outbursts
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Depressed mood
  • Trouble sleeping
  • General, persistent thoughts about death or suicide

Types of depression

As previously mentioned, depression can be determined according to what symptoms a person exhibits and their length and severity. These factors will normally indicate what types of depression a person is dealing with. Some of the main types of depression and their characteristics include the following:

  • Major depressive disorder: characterized by feeling depressed most of the time throughout most of the week along with other depressive symptoms
  • Persistent depressive disorder: this is a type of depression that lasts for more than two years and is characterized by the aforementioned depression symptoms
  • Bipolar disorder: Previously known as “manic depression” bipolar disorder includes mood swings between high and low moods with low periods exhibiting and depressive symptoms
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): SAD is exhibited when an individual suffers from major depression symptoms that happen during the winter months when they have less sun exposure. Some individuals are also affected by a form of SAD that occurs in spring and summer when a person encounters more sun and suffers from major depressive symptoms

Other forms of depression can include postpartum depression, psychotic depression and others.

Factors that affect depression

There are many different things that can cause or exacerbate depression. These can include biological factors, environmental factors or other factors. Some different things that can affect depression include:

  • Genetic influence: individuals with a family history of depression are more likely to develop depression than others
  • Trauma or abuse: Suffering from a traumatic experience or the trauma of physical, sexual or mental abuse can increase the risk of developing depression
  • Grief and loss: While grief is a natural process that occurs in response to a significant loss, it can worsen and develop into depression if an individual is unable to cope with it well enough. Grief is characterized by feelings of sadness, guilt and emptiness but can worsen and develop into depression noted by the presence of a pervasive lack of interest or pleasure in daily activities
  • Underlying or co-occurring disorders: Depression symptoms can veil or occur alongside of symptoms of others problems. When depression is masking the symptoms of another disorder then the secondary disorder is known as an underlying problem which may be fueling the depression. Likewise, a co-occurring disorder is one that shows up along with the depression as can be caused by exacerbated by or can worsen the depression. Depression symptoms are often seen with other mental conditions like Post-traumatic stress disorder or different anxiety disorders. Bipolar, conduct and personality disorders may also contribute to (or exacerbate) symptoms of depression. Whatever the case may be, if an individual is struggling with depression and another disorder, both conditions should be treated simultaneously to ensure a full recovery.
  • Substance abuse: Alcohol is a depressant. Therefore, it causes depression. Any substance that causes over-stimulation of the opiate receptors in the brain will eventually lead to depression-like symptoms when the substance wears off and the body’s natural opiates are depleted from the “high”. In addition, substance abuse is characterized by negative consequences and loss in every aspect of life. It is easy to see why substance abuse causes depression. However, some people use alcohol and drugs to ease depression symptoms or “self-medicate”. Understanding which problem came first is important to determine appropriate treatment strategies.

Finding help

Depression is a serious disorder that should be identified and treated as quickly as possible to ensure an effective recovery and reduce the risk of the problem worsening. It is important to discuss symptoms with a doctor to get a proper diagnosis and determine which treatment method will work best for you.

For those looking for help with depression you can call the Florida Depression Helpline. Our helpline is your resource for information on depression and finding proper treatment for men, women and teen. If you or your loved one are in need of help with depression you can reach our team at anytime at (866) 267-5177.

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