Depression comes in different colors and flavors. It can occur in reaction to major life events, physical changes, or for no apparent reason at all. Depression is often combined with anxiety, and the anxiety symptoms can predominate. In fact, you can be severely depressed without any feeling of sadness at all.
So how do you know whether your problem is depression? The best advice is to let a trained therapist make the diagnosis. Self-diagnosis is never 100% accurate. That said, here is a list of the most common types of depressive disorders and their symptoms.
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is the most commonly diagnosed form of depression. To be diagnosed, a patient needs to have either (1) a notably sad mood, or (2) a loss of interest or ability to feel pleasure from all or nearly all things previously enjoyed. These symptoms have to persist most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks. In children and adolescents, irritability can substitute for sadness, but it must be a marked change from normal.
In addition to those emotional symptoms, a patient must have four or more symptoms from the following list, during the same time period.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of major depression (see above) that follows a seasonal pattern. Usually people get this problem when the days shorten in the fall or winter and recover in the spring. However, even with a seasonal pattern, treatment helps greatly.
Post Partum Depression is a type of major depression (see above) that begins shortly after a woman gives birth to a child. Though it begins with a hormonal change, it can worsen and persist for many months.
Dysthymia is similar to Major Depressive Disorder. The
difference is that dysthymia is chronic and less severe. To be
diagnosed with dysthymia, a patient must have a depressed mood
most of the day, most days for at least two years. In children,
irritability can substitute, and the required period is one year.
During this time period at least two of the following symptoms must be present.
Bereavement can be very similar to Major Depressive Disorder. In response to the death of a loved one, severe grief is considered 'normal' for at least two months. Still, patients come in seeking help for symptoms, especially if they believe that a only a short mourning period is allowed or that their grief is excessive. A well-trained therapist can distinguish between grief and depression, and can help a mourner cope with his or her reactions.
Adjustment Disorder occurs in response to a stressful situation, such as job loss, financial problems, divorce, or illness. To meet this diagnosis, the symptoms of depression must either be out of proportion to the source of stress or cause a major decline in the person's ability to function. The loss of ability to function can either be at work or in the person's role as a family member or socially. This can become a chronic problem if the source of stress continues and the person continues to be unable to cope.
Adjustment Disorder is not diagnosed if the person's symptoms are severe enough to qualify for Major Depressive Disorder, Dysthymia, or Bereavement (see above).
Only a trained professional can truly distinguish between these disorders. If you are feeling suicidal or having thoughts of suicide, GET HELP NOW.