The word “depression” is used to describe both a temporary mood where a person feels sad or blue and a serious illness that cannot be willed away and involves the body, mood, and thoughts. When it’s a disabling disorder it can affect a person’s work, sleep, eating, and health patterns, as well as the ability to enjoy normally pleasurable activities. Generally speaking, I look at the descriptions of depression on a continuum with sadness at one end, dysthymia or chronic depression in the middle, and clinical depression at the other end.
Sadness can be viewed as a temporary lowering of mood, with the operative word being temporary, as most of us have those feelings from time to time. Individuals feel sad for a variety of reasons: When they’ve lost something important, when they’ve been disappointed, when something sad has happened, or when they are feeling lonely or helpless.
The symptoms of dysthymia are the same as those for clinical depression, except they are less severe and can linger for a long period of time. Those who suffer from dysthymia are usually able to function adequately but may seem consistently unhappy. Interestingly, the Greek word dysthymia means “bad state of mind” or “ill humor.” Symptoms of dysthymia may include:
- Feelings of hopelessness and despair that last for more than two years
- Low energy or fatigue
- Low self-esteem
- Poor appetite or overeating
- Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions
- Sleep disorders, such as insomnia or sleeping too much
Clinical depression is a physical illness with many more symptoms than an unhappy mood. Persons with this disorder find there is not always a logical reason for their dark feelings. According to Mytherapy.net, “One in four people are affected by depression…and one in ten people experience a major depressive episode every year. The World Health Organization has estimated that by the year 2020, depression will be the 2nd leading cause of health impairment worldwide.”
Symptoms of clinical depression may include:
- Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling “slowed down” or sluggish
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt, or helplessness
- Insomnia, early-morning waking, or oversleeping
- Loss of appetite and/or weight loss, or overeating and weight gain
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities once enjoyed, including sex
- Marked change in mood, a deep feeling of sadness
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” moods
- Restlessness or irritability
- Thoughts of death or suicide or attempts at suicide
For More Information
What you have just read is the tip of the iceberg called depression, but it may help you sort out what you are feeling. The topic of depression is complex and takes a great deal of study. In addition to the various gradations of depression hat I’ve described above, there are various types of depression: seasonal affective disorder (SAD), post-partum depression, and geriatric depression, to name a few.
If you’re interested, you can take a depression screening test by clicking here. The test is adapted from the National Depression Day Screening, which is conducted nationwide every October. However, if you think you are experiencing symptoms of either dysthymia or clinical depression, contact a therapist or physician who specializes in these disorders to get help.