A persistent low mood
More than just a bout of the blues, Depression isn’t a weakness, nor is it something that you can simply “snap out” of. It is normal for feelings of sadness, low mood or self-doubt to arise throughout the course of our lives. However, when these feelings persist or keep coming back and begin to interfere with your daily life, you could be experiencing a major depressive episode also known as Clinical Depression. At its worst, Clinical Depression is highly distressing and will have a severe impact on a person’s quality of life and ability to function. At these times the person may require effective psychological treatment. On the positive side most people with depression are helped with psychological counselling, medication or both.
Other symptoms associated with Depression are:
- Either diminished appetite with weight loss or increased appetite with weight gain
- Insufficient OR increased sleep
- Agitation OR slowed movements
- Loss of all pleasure and enjoyment
- Feeling empty
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Feelings of sadness, guilt, worthlessness and hopelessness
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Thoughts of death, including suicidal thoughts and plans
Less intense but longer-term
Dysthymia is a less intense but longer-term form of Depression. The distinguishing feature of Dysthymia is a depressed mood that occurs for most of the day, for more days than not, for at least two years (or at least 1 year for children and adolescents). Sufferers of Dysthymic Disorder will often claim that they can’t ever remember not feeling depressed.
Individuals who suffer from Dysthymia can also experience periods of Major Depression–sometimes called “double depression”. Depression and Dysthymia have the same type of symptoms but Dysthymia sufferers experience fewer in number and lesser intensity.
The highs and lows
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. The severe mood swings characteristic of this disorder seriously affect a person’s mood and interferes with their ability to function effectively in everyday life.
People with Bipolar Disorder may also have behavioural problems. They may abuse alcohol or substances, have relationship problems, or perform poorly in school or at work. At first, it’s not easy to recognise these problems as signs of a major mental illness.
Bipolar Disorder has the same symptoms as Depression when the person is feeling low plus the symptoms of Mania or the “highs” of Bipolar Disorder:
- Excessively euphoric mood
- Extreme irritability
- Rapid thinking or racing thoughts
- Inability to concentrate
- Difficulty sleeping
- Poor judgment
- Increased sex drive
- Abuse of drugs
- Aggressive behaviour