What is depression?
Sadness is a normal human emotion that occurs on a continuum -- everyone feels down at one time or another. But when sadness becomes significant, depression may be present. When a person is experiencing certain symptoms -- and those symptoms are frequent and severe -- it may be a depressive disorder.
There are different types, including Major Depressive Disorder, Dysthymic Disorder, and Depressive Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (when significant depression is present, but specific criteria are not met for a diagnosis). Major Depressive Disorder is diagnosed when significant symptoms are present for at least two weeks. Dysthymic Disorder is diagnosed when less severe but significant symptoms are present more often than not, for a period of at least two years (one year for children and adolescents).
Symptoms of Depression
Symptoms include sad mood, a lack of interest or pleasure, significant weight loss or appetite change, insomnia or hypersomnia, fatigue/loss of energy, worthlessness, hopelessness, low self-esteem, excessive/inappropriate guilt, difficulty concentrating, and suicidal thoughts.
In addition to specific symptoms of depression, other signs may include withdrawal from normal activities, changes in behavior, and physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomach aches. In children and adolescents, the mood may be irritable instead of sad. They may fail to make expected weight gains.
There is help for people suffering from depression! Psychotropic medication and psychotherapy have both been shown to be very effective for reducing symptoms and improving self-esteem and functioning. Most therapists and psychiatrists have experience treating depression and can assist in developing coping skills. Dr. Kathleen McHugh has helped many child and adult patients leave depression behind and lead normal, positive lives.
Postpartum depression is not a clinical diagnosis within itself, but Major Depressive Disorder can be specified as having a Postpartum Onset. There is a difference between the "baby blues," which may have similar symptoms to depression but are less frequent and/or severe. Specific criteria must be met for Major Depressive Disorder With Postpartum Onset.