What is Depression?
Diagnosing Depression is complicated and the diagnosis should only be made by a qualified healthcare professional (such as a psychologist, psychiatrist or doctor). The following explanation of Depression has been simplified and is presented with the aim of enhancing understanding of the disorder. Should you experience many of these symptoms as distressful please contact a healthcare professional.
Depression can affect anyone, of any age and culture; yet early adulthood is the most common time of onset. It is important to recognize that the symptoms of Depression manifest differently in children, adolescents and adults.
The symptoms include experiencing a persistent gloomy mood most of the time; a significant loss of interest or pleasure in all or most activities that were previously enjoyed; significant changes in body weight or appetite (that are not due to dieting); irregular sleeping patterns (either not being able to sleep or needing to sleep much more than usual); an observable increase or decrease in physical activity (restlessness or slowing down); exhaustion or consistent lack of energy; feelings of worthlessness or unwarranted guilt; difficulty in being able to think, concentrate or make decisions; persistent and frequent thoughts about death, suicidal thoughts, plans for committing suicide or a suicide attempt.
An individual with Depression would experience most of these symptoms daily or almost daily for a minimum of two weeks. The symptoms would cause clinically significant distress and hamper the individual’s functioning (e.g. socially).
However, the symptoms of Depression may actually be indicators of a different disorder or be a natural reaction to circumstances. Therefore in order to make a diagnosis of Depression; one first has to eliminate the possibility of other mental disorders (such as Bipolar disorder or Schizophrenia). Furthermore, to warrant a diagnosis of Depression these symptoms cannot be a direct effect of a general medical condition or the direct effects of a substance (e.g. medication). After the loss of loved one, individuals may experience symptoms of Depression without actually having Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). Therefore further criteria need to be met in order to be diagnosed with Depression when suffering from bereavement.
Once a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) has been established, treatment may involve psychotherapy, antidepressants (medication) and lifestyle changes. With the correct help, Depression can be overcome; however for some people it is a chronic (or continued) disorder which they can learn how to manage.