Seeking Help for Depressive Disorders

Almost everyone goes through periods where they feel sad or down. These emotions are perfectly natural, and in most cases they do not last. However, some people feel intensely down states of mind. They also feel those distressing states for extended amounts of time. If you experience such intense, prolonged moods, you may have some form of diagnosable depression. 

Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in America. Many people are affected by a severe condition called major depression. Others are affected by any one of several additional depressive disorders. All forms of this disorder are treatable. This is true even for the most severe cases of major depression. Proper treatment helps you re-gain a sense of normalcy and return to a fulfilling lifestyle. 

What Is Depression

Besides major depression, there are six other depressive disorders. All of these disorders produce down or negative emotions strong enough impair you in some way. However, some of these illnesses may only:

  • Appear in certain circumstances
  • Affect children
  • Have an impact in women

In addition, some disorders produce problems that go beyond depression symptoms

Major depression is the most common depressive disorder. Researchers once believed that this illness only affected adults. Today, they know that this is not true. The major depressive disorder affects more than 19 million U.S. adults. It also affects almost 4 million U.S. teens and preteens. A down mood is not always the most obvious symptom of childhood major depression. Instead, the main symptom may be an unusually high level of anxiety. 

Depression is not always the direct result of mental illness. Instead, it may appear in connection with heart disease, diabetes or certain other serious physical conditions.

Types of Depression

Major Depression

Major depression is also known as clinical depression or major depressive disorder. It produces severe symptoms that lead to a serious decline in your ability to function. You may only go through one episode of major depressive disorder in your entire life. However, the illness is often recurring and chronic.

Persistent Depressive Disorder, or PDD

This disorder was formerly known as dysthymia. Most of the time, PDD does not produce severe depression symptoms. Instead, it tends to produce mild or moderate problems. Still, most people with PPD also go through bouts of severe depression. The symptoms of PDD are called persistent because they last for prolonged periods of time. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD

Technically, seasonal affective disorder is not a distinct mental illness. Instead, the term is used to describe major depression that occurs seasonally. Some people develop winter-pattern SAD. Others develop summer-pattern SAD. Both versions of the disorder can produce additional symptoms not always found in major depression. 

Postpartum Depression

This disorder only appears in women who have recently gone through childbirth. Its symptoms go far beyond the “baby blues” that many women experience during this time. Women with postpartum depression often have difficulty connecting with their newborns. They also experience a range of other symptoms. Roughly 12 percent of all postpartum women develop the illness.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, or PMDD

PMDD occurs in women of childbearing age who are a week or two away from menstruation. In some ways, it is an exaggerated form of premenstrual disorder. However, PMDD produces severe depressive disorder or severe symptoms of anxiety. These symptoms fade close to the time of ovulation, then recur from month to month. 

Psychotic Depression

Like major depressive disorder, psychotic depression produces severe depression symptoms. Those symptoms are accompanied by psychosis. That is the name for a group of symptoms that distort or reduce your connection to reality. Classic psychosis symptoms include delusional thinking and hallucinations.

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, or DMDD

DMDD is a childhood disorder. It can sometimes resemble bipolar disorder, an illness that combines depression and some form of mania. However, as they grow older, most children with DMDD no longer experience mania. The condition can also resemble something called oppositional defiant disorder. For these reasons, it can be quite hard to diagnose.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Symptoms of Major Depression

Potential symptoms of major depressive disorder include:

  • Emotional states such as sadness, helplessness, worthlessness, guilt or hopelessness
  • A more general sense of feeling “down”
  • Unusually slow speech or body movements
  • Feelings of fatigue
  • An uptick or drop in your normal appetite
  • Disinterest in things you once loved to do
  • Sleeping much less or much more than usual
  • Problems focusing or thinking clearly
  • Thinking about suicide or dying

Symptoms of Persistent Depressive Disorder

The classic indicator of PDD is feeling down or sad most of the time. In other respects, the disorder’s symptoms are very similar to those found in major depression. The big difference is the intensity of those symptoms. In PDD, they are typically milder.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

In addition to major depression symptoms, people with winter-pattern SAD may experience:

  • An increase in appetite, especially for carbohydrates 
  • An associated increase in weight
  • Withdrawal from social contact
  • Excessive sleeping

Classic symptoms of summer-pattern SAD include:

  • A decrease in appetite, with associated weight loss
  • Sleeplessness
  • Feelings of anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Violent outbursts

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

In addition to typical depression symptoms, women with PPD experience such things as:

  • Lack of interest in your newborn
  • Feeling like your baby is not actually yours
  • Absence of a bond with your newborn
  • Thinking about hurting your baby or yourself

Many women try to hide these symptoms out of fear of what others will think. 

Symptoms of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Besides common depression symptoms, people with PMDD may experience things that include:

  • Persistent feelings of anger or irritability
  • Bouts of panic
  • Rapid mood changes
  • Loss of a sense of personal control
  • Food binging 

Symptoms of Psychotic Depression

Apart from their severe depressive disorder, people with this disorder may have delusional thoughts. Such thoughts are rigid beliefs that do not match up with reality. These beliefs are disturbing in some way to the affected person. People with psychotic depression may also experience hallucinations that:

  • Change how they hear or see things that are real
  • Produce sounds or sights that do not actually exist

Symptoms of Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

Children with DMDD may experience symptoms similar to major depression. Additional potential problems include:

  • Extreme temper tantrums multiple days a week
  • Feelings of anger or irritability that occur most of the time
  • Outsized emotional reactions 

It is common for affected children to also have symptoms of other mental health conditions. 

Depression Causes and Risk Factors

Causes of Major Depression

The exact causes of major depressive disorder vary from case to case. Things known to increase your risks include:

  • Having other people in your family bloodline with depression
  • Developing a physical illness capable of triggering depression 
  • Chronic stress
  • Traumatic experiences
  • Other major changes in your personal circumstances

Causes of Persistent Depressive Disorder

The causes of PDD are not known. However, changes in levels of the brain chemical serotonin may play a role. Chronic stress and certain physical illnesses may also contribute to your risks.

Causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Researchers believe that SAD risks are sometimes inherited. This is especially true for people with family histories of other mental illnesses. You are also more likely to develop SAD if you already have major depressive disorder. Other mental illnesses common to people with the disorder include:

  • Bipolar II disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • ADHD
  • Eating disorders

Causes of Postpartum Depression

Pregnancy-related changes in your hormones may help trigger PDD. Certain emotional states may also play a role. That includes such things as:

  • Doubts about your parenting abilities
  • Feeling overwhelmed by the needs of your newborn
  • Setting unrealistic goals for being a “good” mother
  • Grieving over the life you lived before childbirth

Causes of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

No one knows why PMDD occurs. However, women who develop the disorder may have unusual sensitivities to:

  • Normal hormonal changes produced by the monthly menstrual cycle
  • Menstruation-related changes in the levels of the brain chemical serotonin

Causes of Psychotic Depression

Like major depression, psychotic depression may sometimes run in families. However, no one knows why the additional symptoms of psychosis occur. The single most common thing in the histories of affected people is trauma or other problems during childhood.  

Causes of Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

The causes of DMDD are also unknown. Research on this topic is ongoing. There is particular interest in the role of changes in normal brain function. 

Depression Diagnosis

Depression Diagnosis

A thorough mental health exam is needed to identify all forms of depression. This means that you cannot simply fill out an online “do I have depression” quiz. Instead you must seek out a mental health professional. Each depressive illness has its own standards for diagnosis.

For a major depression diagnosis, you must be affected by your symptoms for no less than two weeks. Adults with persistent depressive disorder must have their symptoms for no less than two years. For children, this timespan drops down to no less than one year.

People with seasonal affective disorder must have major depressive disorder or specific seasonal symptoms. For two years or more, those symptoms must appear in either summer or winter. Depression symptoms must also occur more often than usual during either of these seasons. 

Postpartum women have postpartum depression if their symptoms last for longer than two weeks. You have PMDD if:

  • You have least five symptoms of that disorder
  • At least one of those symptoms alters your normal mood

People with psychotic depression must qualify for a severe depressive disorder diagnosis. They must also have diagnosable symptoms of psychosis. As a rule, these psychosis symptoms relate in some way to the effects of depression. 

To be diagnosed with DMDD, children must have symptoms that develop between ages six and 10. Those symptoms must remain in effect for a year or longer. In addition, affected children must find it difficult to function at school, in their homes or with their peers. 

Addiction and Depression

Mental illnesses and substance problems are strongly linked health conditions. Doctors refer to cases of people with both types of disorders as dual diagnosis. Cases involving major depression are more common than any others. If you suffer from dual diagnosis, you will need substance treatment as well as depressive disorder treatment. 

Depression Treatment and Therapy Options

Treating Major Depression

The vast majority of people with major depressive disorder get better with treatment. Antidepressant medication helps correct brain chemistry issues that may be responsible for your symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is also featured in many treatment plans. This therapy helps change depression-related behaviors and thoughts for the better. If you have severe symptoms or do not respond to other treatments, electroconvulsive therapy may be an option. This therapy uses controlled doses of electricity to improve your brain function. 

Treating Persistent Depressive Disorder

Antidepressants are also used to treat PDD. The same is true for behavioral therapy. The two options are often combined for more effective treatment.

Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder

In addition to antidepressants and behavioral therapy, there are two other options for treating SAD. The first of these options is light therapy. This treatment, used for winter-pattern SAD, exposes you to very bright light for brief periods of time. The light is believed to offset the drop in daylight during winter months. The second additional option, also for winter-pattern SAD, is vitamin D supplementation. This is a less proven treatment than light therapy.

Treating Postpartum Depression

Antidepressants may be used to help women with postpartum depressive disorder. These women may also receive brexanolone, a medication specifically approved for PPD treatment. Psychotherapy is common, and electroconvulsive therapy may also be used in limited circumstances.

Treating Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

A group of antidepressants known as SSRIs is commonly used to treat this disorder. A birth control pill with the brand name Yaz has also been approved for PMDD treatment. In addition, affected women typically benefit from:

  • Non-prescription painkillers 
  • Stress reduction techniques
  • Getting plenty of exercise
  • Eating a healthy diet

Treating Psychotic Depression

Both antidepressants and antipsychotic medications are used to help people with this disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy is also a typical part of effective treatment. In addition, people with psychotic depressive disorder often need considerable social support. As with major depression, electroconvulsive therapy is a last-resort treatment option. 

Treating Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

DMDD is treated on a case-by-case basis. Many plans feature individual and/or family therapy. Parental education on the nature of the disorder is also common. In addition, some children with DMDD need medication for symptoms of depression or other mental illnesses.

Learn More About Depressive Illnesses

Have questions about depression or other related conditions? Call the Experts at Emerald Isle today. We can answer any questions you may have about these types of illnesses. Emerald Isle is also a premier provider of depression treatment. For more information on our many services, contact us today.

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