Making Sense Of Depression Symptoms

in Understanding Depression

Depressed Boy

It would be difficult to make a list of depression symptoms that would apply to all people who suffer from the disorder or even to any one person at all times.

However, some symptoms, such as sadness and loss of interest in pleasurable activities, do apply to almost everyone who is depressed.

Other symptoms vary, depending on the type of depression a person has, the severity of the depression, the cause of the illness and even the gender of the sufferer.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

When psychologists diagnose clinical depression, they use a specific guide known as the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, version four).

The two most common types of depression are major depression, a disorder characterized by severe depression symptoms, and dysthymia, a low grade, chronic condition in which the symptoms are milder.

In major depression, five of the following depression symptoms must be present for at least two weeks. Of the five, depressed mood or loss of interest in activities that were once pleasurable must be one of the symptoms.

• Depressed mood most of the day nearly every day

• Loss of interest in activities or the inability to feel pleasure

• Weight loss or weight gain without dieting or decreased or increased appetite

• Difficulty sleeping

• Restlessness or lethargy that is noticeable to others

• Fatigue or loss of energy

• Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate feelings of guilt

• Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions

• Frequent thoughts of death, plans for suicide or a suicide attempt

Dysthymia is diagnosed when a person has felt depressed or appears to others to be depressed most of the time for a period of at least two years.

In addition, a person with dysthymia has two or more of the following depression symptoms and these symptoms interfere with his or her ability to work or function personally or socially.

  • Decrease or increase in appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Low energy or fatigue
  • Low self-image or feelings of worthlessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Difficulty concentrating

The symptoms of dysthymia are milder than those of major depression, and people with this condition are often able to hide it from all but the people who are closest to them.

Before diagnosing a person with dysthymia, doctors rule out causes such as another emotional disorder, a medical problem or the use of prescription or illegal drugs.

Physical Symptoms of Depression

Depression affects the whole person. This means that when a person is depressed, his or her mind, emotions, body and spirit suffer.

While many of the formal signs and symptoms that doctors use to diagnose depression apply to the emotions and mind, there are also physical symptoms of depression that can easily be overlooked or attributed to some other cause.

People with depression are more likely to have frequent physical ailments like headaches, backaches, joint pain, stomach problems, fatigue and general aches and pains.

In addition, loss of energy and loss of libido are physical symptoms that are common in people with depression.

In fact, many people who visit their doctors to be treated for physical complaints are, in fact, depressed.

The doctor may prescribe a pain killer or antacid medication that masks the physical symptoms for a while, but the problem will almost always return unless the underlying depression is treated.

Depression Symptoms in Women

Depression is somewhat more common in women than it is in men, and there are at least two explanations for this.

First, women are more emotionally sensitive by nature than men.

Conversely, depression symptoms in men may be less obvious because men are more likely to act out their depressed feelings with outbursts of anger, substance abuse or overworking in order to avoid facing emotions like sadness.

There is also a subtype of depression that occurs after a woman has given birth to a baby.

This is known as postpartum depression, and while most of the symptoms are similar to those of general depression, a new mother who is suffering from postpartum depression may also be faced with the troubling realization that she has little interest in taking care of her infant or that she does not feel a bond with the child.

This can exacerbate other symptoms of depression, such as feelings of guilt and worthlessness.

Depression bookYou can read more about postpartum depression, as well as the specific differences in the way depression is experienced in women and men, in End Your Depression.

End Your Depression also contains useful, practical steps that you can take to deal with the different symptoms of depression.

You will learn how to actually get past the troubling consequences of the illness, such as feelings of guilt, low self esteem and lack of energy.

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