*DISCLAIMER: Please note that my article is written from a lay perspective: I am NOT a clinician or therapist. I am speaking strictly from the point of view of a client/patient, and as one who has, yes, done quite a fair share of research on this subject – but more out of self-interest/preservation, not scholarship. I am making no extra-ordinary effort to exclude my own biases or experiences, and my tone may be just as colorful as anything else I have written. In other words, I make absolutely *no* pretense that my article is in any way suitable for publication in a more scholarly or professional forum or publication.*
Let me start off by listing the 4 main types of depression (of which I am aware, anyway). They are as follows: “regular” depression with which most people have at least a passive familiarity – otherwise referred to as Unipolar Depression. Some other diagnostic codes and labels (or google search words!) may be “Major Depressive Episode”, “Major Depression”, or simply “Depression”. The others are Bipolar Disorder (otherwise known as Manic Depression), Dysthymia, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
The plain vanilla depression, so to speak, is often very unfortunately dismissed as just the blues or feeling down. That’s not depression. That’s the blues – or feeling down! What characterizes *clinical* depression (a *REDUNDANT* term!), is such feelings as lack of interest in your usual passions, low or no motivation, sometimes suicidal ideation (or behavior!), feeling unusually sad or sometimes even angry or anxious, sometimes eating and sleep disturbances, and so on.
What brings any of this to any clinical significance is probably what defines almost ALL “mental disorders” – duration and intensity. Because I am uncertain of the specific diagnostic criteria, I am *NOT NOT NOT* going to hazard a guess. I think guessing in this particular area can be very dangerous and irresponsible. I will tell you that it is not because you’re bored or annoyed that your friend hasn’t called you or even that your (spouse) has been, er, not interested in certain activities and so you’re “so depressed”.
That is obvious, I’m sure, but I’m just sort of taking a dig at that casual use of the term, something with which I am not too happy. Incidentally, that same spouse who might be *bummed out* or disappointed over said decreasing frequency of intimate activity, should probably talk to his/her lover – who in fact may be exhibiting some s’s and s’s (signs and symptoms) of depression. But actual diagnosis and treatment must be done BY A DOCTOR. Don’t just run to Walgreen’s, grab some St. John’s Wart, and hope things improve. You can do that AND see your doctor. BUT SEE YOUR DOCTOR.
Another type of depression, less common than Major Depression, is called Manic Depression, or more formally/clinically called Bipolar Disorder. The simplified (perhaps oversimplified) description of this subtype refers to major mood swings – “intense, almost delusional highs” (mania/manic phase), alternating with the familiar lows. Both of these phases can be very dangerous for the person. When manic, a sufferer has fewer inhibitions, and in fact even some grandiose thinking, which can result in some extremely dangerous risk-taking and/or thrill-seeking.
In contrast, the depressive phase can be bad enough in it’s own right, but when juxtaposed to the mania, it can seem absolutely devastatingly painful and hopeless. The danger I refer to here is, of coursei, suicidal ideation or behavior, as well as just personal neglect and other behavioral manifestations which can have their own negative consequences (living on nothing but potato chips and water for a week, for example), or seriously irregular sleeping patterns (including lack or excess). All of the behaviors and physical s&s’s of Major “regular” depression, are the same for the depressive cycle of Bipolar Disorder. Much of the time, the type of things that bring this disorder to light for a person, are observed by a friend or loved one. I mean, let’s face it, when you yourself are feeling on top of the world and capable of almost super-human achievements and are just buzzing through life on little or no sleep and (temporarily) “not needing it”, why WOULD you go to your doctor?
“Gee, doc, I think something’s wrong. I’m too giddy!”
Kidding aside, it is often very difficult for someone with bipoloar disorder to seek help on his/her own and follow through with a treatment plan. Whether s/he is in the manic phase or the depressive phase.
Dysthymia is often described as a “low grade” but constant “down” feeling. Think Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. I would strongly recommend visiting www.psycom.net and depressionny.com . These have what look initially to be some very thorough information and resources. On the latter site, they referred to dysthmia as being a low grade but chronic depression. They also state often, people suffer with it for 20 or 30 years before seeking or getting any help! They also warn that the suicide risk is even higher in this group than in major depression.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can be easily remembered (but not dismissed as!) the “winter blues”. It has to do with the decreased availability and/or exposure to natural sunlight/daylight. For some people, this can really be a serious problem. The s&s’s for major depression apply, but ebb and flow with the seasons – hence the name. That is NOT to be misconstrued as meaning it’s just a little thing that “comes and goes”. Nope – it is major depression – for a good 25% of the year depending on where you live. Alaska is probably not the locale of choice for SAD sufferers!
This is just a very, very basic overview of these 4 subtyypes of depression. I said it at the beginning of my article, and I will conclude similarly: I AM NOT A CLINICIAN and assume no responsibility for any actions taken as a result of info gained from this article. So, DON’T ACT ON THEM.
Well, take no actions as a direct result of this article except for one: If you think you may be suffering from depression, or hell, your just not feeling yourself for whatever reason, please do see your doctor.