A very common habit among youngsters is to use the line, “I am depressed!”, when they are simply sad or upset. People don’t realise the enormity of the word depression and tend to use it as a substitute to sadness.

Most often we think that depression is just a case of extreme sadness. When we are faced with a tragedy, we feel depressed. But after a while it goes away. That’s what the general belief is. But depression is far more than a mere bout of sadness. It is something with the potential to cause extreme harm and ruin lives, if not treated appropriately.

Keeping the magnitude in mind, let me throw some light on what exactly depression entails.

What is depression and why is it caused?

• Depression is a state of being where a person tends to feel absolutely empty, anxious and lost. It is the lowest point on the emotional scale and is marked by a variety of negative feelings like, guilt, helplessness, anger, irritability, etc.

• Depression is much more than an extreme mood swing. It is a behavioural disorder, which like any disorder needs treatment. No matter how happy a person may be, if there is depression, it needs to be treated.

• Depression is not to be confused with sadness. Sadness is an emotion. No doubt it is painful and negative, but it is nowhere as serious as depression.

• Depression can be caused due to a variety of reasons. Some of the most common ones include traumatic events from ones childhood, sexual abuse, family pressures, etc. Loss of a dear one can also be a reason.

• Some other reasons could include life changing events, like childbirth, menopause, any medical diagnosis, etc.

• Among adolescents, the highest number of depression cases are due to societal rejection, bullying, peer pressure etc.

• Certain medicines, like medication for Hepatitis C, sleep medication, high blood pressure medication, etc. are also known to cause depression. Such cases are known as medically induced depression.

• Another major cause for depression is substance abuse, narcotics, etc.

Types of depression

1. Major Depression

This is the most commonly known type of depression. It is also referred to as Major Depressive Disorder. It can be caused due to any major event or even a series of smaller events or problems. A person is diagnosed with major depression if he/she displays symptoms of depression (given below types) for over two weeks.

2. Persistent Depressive Disorder

If a person has undergone depression for over a period of 2 years, it is called persistent depressive disorder. Although the cause of depression may be same as major depression, for some reason the person may be incapable of overcoming it. Previously PDD was known as dysthymia.

3. Manic Depression

Manic depression is more commonly known as Bipolar Disorder. In the case of bipolar disorder, a person experiences extreme mood swings, ranging from unbelievable highs to depressive lows. The person cannot control his behaviour and may take drastic steps.

Manic depression is one of the most serious forms of depression.

4. Seasonal Affective Disorder

It is a form of depression which is seasonal in nature, mostly happens during the winters. People who have seasonal depression, find it difficult to cope in the lack of bright sunlight. Hence during winter, their depression peaks.

5. Psychotic Depression

People suffering from psychotic depression, have symptoms similar to depression along with psychotic symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, etc.

6. Post-Partum Depression

This is the form of depression that women experience in the period immediately after childbirth. This could happen because of the obviously overwhelming experience, excess attention to the new born, etc.

The above given types are the 6 most common types of depression diagnosed among people. While the impact and the treatment for these forms of depression may differ, the symptoms are similar for most of them. Listed below are the most common symptoms.

Symptoms of Depression:

• Lack of appetite or excess of appetite.
• Lack of interest in activities you once loved doing.
• Sudden weight loss or weight gain
• Sleeplessness (insomnia) or excessive sleep
• Fatigue
• Reckless behaviour
• Thoughts of death, suicide, etc.
• Self-hate or self-loathing
• Unexplained guilt and anger
• Crying for no reason, getting upset easily

From the above listed symptoms, if any 5, including lack of interest and thoughts of death, persist over a week, it is advisable to visit a general physician and then a proper counsellor or psychiatrist.

Self-medication must be avoided at all costs and if the doctor prescribes any medication, it should never be stopped, unless the doctor himself expressly says so.

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