We all have the right to have a worse day or mood, to feel sad or unwilling to face daily challenges. However, if the state of lowered mood persists over a long period of time and its intensity does not diminish despite the passage of at least two weeks, you may be struggling with dysthymia or depression.
According to the World Health Organisation, depression is on the podium in the ranking of the most serious health problems. It is increasingly referred to as the disease of civilization of the 21st century. Fortunately, thanks to effective educational campaigns, more and more people struggling with depression are opting for treatment and making a conscious effort to improve their quality of life.
What is depression? What are the symptoms of depression? What is the treatment for depression?
What is depression?
Depression is sometimes used in the public space to describe a state of low mood or long-lasting sadness, but it does not have to mean illness. After all, life is not all roses, and bad days and depression can be a natural result of unpleasant events, such as the death of a loved one, loss of a job or health problems of one’s own or someone close.
Depression is a disease entity whose diagnosis is based on the DSM-IV classification (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). In order to be able to determine whether a person is suffering from depression, certain diagnostic criteria must be met, which we can also refer to as symptoms of depression.
Symptoms of depression
The characteristic symptoms of depression are assumed to be a lowering of mood that persists for a significant part of the day and for at least two weeks, and a loss of interest in most or all activities that were previously a source of pleasure and satisfaction.
In addition, a minimum of five of the following symptoms should occur at the same time:
- marked weight loss or gain
- sleep problems – insomnia or excessive sleepiness
- chronic fatigue – felt almost all the time, regardless of objective factors
- reduced concentration and thought processes/intellectual slowing down
- reduced motor coordination/feeling out of control/physical slowness
- feelings of worthlessness and lack of power
- recurrent thoughts of death and suicide
- If you suspect that you or a loved one is depressed – do not hesitate to seek specialist help!
Symptoms of dysthymia
In the aforementioned DSM-IV classification, in addition to depression, there is also the concept of dysthymia, commonly referred to as “minor depression”. The term refers to a chronically persistent lowering of mood that is experienced for most of the day and for more than half of the days over the past two years.
In addition, a minimum of two of the following symptoms should occur at the same time:
- a decrease or increase in appetite
- sleep problems – excessive sleepiness or insomnia
- feelings of lack of energy/fatigue
- low self-esteem/lower self-worth
- difficulty concentrating and reduced decision-making power
- feelings of hopelessness
- Dysthymia can be treated through therapeutic processes and, if necessary, also with pharmacology.
Types of depression
Depression is a mood disorder that can manifest itself in different ways in different people, as well as manifesting itself in strictly physical/somatic complaints. Depression is most often a reaction of the body to past or current events. It may also accompany addictions or be associated with other illnesses, such as cancer or thyroid disease.
Depressive states are divided into three groups:
biological depressions – occurring in the course of recurrent affective events
somatic depressions – occurring in the course of somatic illnesses, caused by the illness itself and/or the medication used)
psychogenic depressions – having strictly psychological causes, e.g. bereavement.
There are also a number of specific depressive conditions that affect people in a specific life situation, facing specific challenges. These include postnatal depression and senile depression, as well as so-called seasonal depression. One of the most difficult to diagnose effectively is masked depression, whose symptoms are non-specific and may differ significantly from those distinguished in the DSM-IV classification.
Where to seek help for depression?
The decision to seek treatment for depression is of great importance to the person suffering from it. This is because it gives them hope for an improvement in their mental health and quality of life, as well as rebuilding relationships with loved ones, returning to their passions or regaining their professional position.
The treatment of depression can be multi-faceted and include both pharmacological treatment (ordered and supervised by a psychiatrist) and psychotherapy.
Appropriate support should be sought in professional medical institutions, preferably those specialising in the treatment of mental disorders, such as depression, neurosis and addiction. The latter are often accompanied by depression.