Depression (cont.)

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

What are myths about depression?

The following are myths about depression and its treatment.

  • It is a weakness rather than an illness.
  • If the sufferer just tries hard enough, it will go away.
  • If you ignore depression in yourself or a loved one, it will go away.
  • Highly intelligent or highly accomplished people do not get depressed.
  • People with developmental disabilities do not get depressed.
  • People with depression are "crazy."
  • Depression does not really exist.
  • Children, teens, the elderly, or men do not get depressed.
  • There are ethnic groups for whom depression does not occur.
  • Depression cannot look like (present as) irritability.
  • People who tell someone they are thinking about committing suicide are only trying to get attention and would never do it, especially if they have talked about it before.
  • People with depression cannot have another mental or medical condition at the same time.
  • Psychiatric medications are all addicting.
  • Psychiatric medications are never necessary to treat depression.
  • Medication is the only effective treatment for depression.
  • Children and teens should never be given antidepressant medication.

What are the types of depression, and what are depression symptoms and signs?

Depressive disorders are mood disorders that come in different forms, just as do other illnesses, such as heart disease and diabetes. Three of the most common types of depressive disorders are discussed below. However, remember that within each of these types, there are variations in the number, timing, severity, and persistence of symptoms. There are sometimes also differences in how individuals express and/or experience depression based on age, gender, and culture.

Major depression

Major depression is characterized by a combination of symptoms that last for at least two weeks in a row, including sad and/or irritable mood (see symptom list), that interfere with the ability to work, sleep, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities. Difficulties in sleeping or eating can take the form of excessive or insufficient of either behavior. Disabling episodes of depression can occur once, twice, or several times in a lifetime.

Dysthymia

Dysthymia is a less severe but usually more long-lasting type of depression compared to major depression. It involves long-term (chronic) symptoms that do not disable but yet prevent the affected person from functioning at "full steam" or from feeling good. Sometimes, people with dysthymia also experience episodes of major depression. This combination of the two types of depression often is referred to as double-depression.

Bipolar disorder (manic depression)

Another type of depression is bipolar disorder, which encompasses a group of mood disorders that were formerly called manic-depressive illness or manic depression. These conditions show a particular pattern of inheritance. Not nearly as common as the other types of depressive disorders, bipolar disorders involve cycles of mood that include at least one episode of mania or hypomania and may include episodes of depression as well. Bipolar disorders are often chronic and recurring. Sometimes, the mood switches are dramatic and rapid, but most often they are gradual.

When in the depressed cycle, the person can experience any or all of the symptoms of a depressive disorder. When in the manic cycle, any or all of the symptoms listed later in this article under mania may be experienced. Mania often affects thinking, judgment, and social behavior in ways that cause serious problems and embarrassment. For example, indiscriminate or otherwise unsafe sexual practices or unwise business or financial decisions may be made when an individual is in a manic phase.

A significant variant of the bipolar disorders is designated as bipolar II disorder. (The usual form of bipolar disorder is referred to as bipolar I disorder.) Bipolar II disorder is a syndrome in which the affected person has repeated depressive episodes punctuated by what is called hypomania (mini-highs). These euphoric states in bipolar II do not fully meet the criteria for the complete manic episodes that occur in bipolar I.

Symptoms of depression and mania

Not everyone who is depressed or manic experiences every symptom. Some people experience a few symptoms and some many symptoms. The severity of symptoms also varies with individuals. Less severe symptoms that precede the more debilitating symptoms are called warning signs.

Depression symptoms of major depression or manic depression

  • Persistently sad, anxious, angry, irritable, or "empty" mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, or excessive guilt
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Social isolation, meaning the sufferer avoids interactions with family or friends
  • Insomnia, early morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Decreased appetite and/or weight loss, or overeating and/or weight gain
  • Fatigue, decreased energy, being "slowed down"
  • Crying spells
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and/or chronic pain

Mania symptoms of manic depression

  • Inappropriate elation
  • Inappropriate irritability or anger
  • Severe insomnia or decreased need to sleep
  • Grandiose notions, like having special powers or importance
  • Increased talking speed and/or volume
  • Disconnected thoughts or speech
  • Racing thoughts
  • Severely increased sexual desire and/or activity
  • Markedly increased energy
  • Poor judgment
  • Inappropriate social behavior
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/5/2014

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Depression - Treatments Question: What kinds of treatments have been effective for your depression?
Depression - Therapy Question: Do you currently undergo therapy? Describe your experience.
Depression - Symptoms in Teens Question: What are the symptoms of your teenager's depression?