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Depressive Disorders

People often say “I’m depressed”  when they are feeling a little down; but most of the time they are not referring to the clinical definition of depression. Instead, it is a temporary state of sadness or a case of the blues that may last only a day or two. Depressive disorders go beyond simple melancholy; its grip is so pervasive that it interferes with an individual’s daily functioning.

Although treatable, unfortunately most people never seek treatment for depression because they wrongly believe it is a sign of weakness. Depressive disorder symptoms are  serious, long-lasting and recurrent, making it is important to seek treatment If left untreated,  depression can lead to long-term physical, emotional and interpersonal problems.

Depressive disorders are categorized by types:

Major Depressive Disorder

A disabling condition that interferes with the individual’s ability to function. During periods of depression, the individual may be unable to cope with ordinary life activities like school, work, or even family and friends. While some people may have a single occurrence of major depression during their lives, most people diagnosed with major depression have recurrent bouts with it.

Dysthymic Disorder

Less severe than major depression but characterized by depression that has lasted two or more years. The symptoms may not disable the individual, as they do in major depressive disorder,  but they can interfere with the individual’s coping skills. When dysthymic disorder develops into major depression, it tends to be more difficult to treat.

Depression with Psychosis

Occurs during a break with reality, in which an individual may experience delusions and/or hallucinations. People with depression with psychosis may imagine that something is terribly wrong with their bodies, or think God is unfairly punishing them, others, or their circumstances.

Postpartum Depression

Occurs within the first six months of childbirth, and is often referred to as the “baby blues.” Postpartum depression can cause mothers to be irritable, tearful and feel resentment toward their infants, and can also be a sign of bipolar tendency.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Occurs during the winter months when there is less exposure to sunlight, and is  sometimes referred to as “winter depression.”

Mood Disorder Due to Medical Conditions

When depression has a dual diagnosis with medical conditions such as cancer, thyroid abnormalities or other debilitating illnesses that can induce similar changes in the brain. Recent research shows that depression, inflammation, and immunological abnormalities are interrelated; therefore, making the individual  vulnerable to heart or other illnesses influenced by inflammation or a weak immune system. It is important to treat both the medical condition and psychological grief or loss when this occurs.

Medication-induced Depression

A a side effect of certain prescription medications, such as antibiotics, antifungal drugs, blood pressure medications, acne medications, interferon, oral contraceptives, and steroids. Before taking any medication, inquire about the possible mood altering side effects.

Substance-induced Mood Disorder

Happens when the depression occurs while using substances, while intoxicated or after withdrawal.

Here is a list of some of the commons symptoms of depressive disorder:

Signs and Symptoms of Depressive Disorder

  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Feeling worthless
  • Inappropriate guilt
  • Feeling empty
  • Loss of confidence
  • Daily fatigue
  • Appetite change
  • Insomnia
  • Increased sleep
  • Physical pain or aches
  • Thoughts of death/suicide
  • Irritability
  • Suicide attempts
  • Self-loathing
  • Shame
  • Memory problems
  • Agoraphobia
  • Restlessness
  • Indecisiveness
  • Persistent sadness
  • Inappropriate crying
  • Diminished pleasure
  • Pessimism
  • Headaches
  • Waking too early
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty with relationships
  • Sexual problems
  • Substance abuse
  • Jaw Pain
  • Backaches
  • Painful joints
  • Muscle aches
  • Stomach aches
  • Reckless behavior

(Because these symptoms in and of themselves do not always indicate the presence of a depressive disorder, please contact your physician or mental health treatment provider in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis.)

The possibility of relapse is high, and multiple interventions and long-term therapy/support are needed to ensure long-term success. Depressive disorders can be treated successfully but must be individualized based on the causes and symptoms. Depressive disorders are usually treated with a combination of the following interventions:

Behavioral Therapy to develop coping strategies to combat the drug/alcohol cravings and to avoid relapse

Cognitive Therapy to change unproductive thinking patterns that lead to chemical abuse

Medication to eliminate the symptoms caused by chemical imbalances in the body, to “wean” the individual off the drug, or to treat co-occurring disorders

If you suspect that you or a loved one may have a chemical dependency problem, please contact a professional mental health provider for diagnosis and treatment.