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Depression is different from just feeling unhappy or sad. Depression is more intense, lasts longer, and has a large negative impact on a person's life. The following are the symptoms of depression, also called a major depressive episode, as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM IV):

  • Depressed mood for almost every day, and for the majority of the day.

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities.

  • Considerable weight loss or weight gain.

  • Difficulties falling asleep, or sleeping too much.

  • Feeling constantly on edge and restless, or lethargic and "slowed down."

  • Feeling worthless and/or guilty.

  • Difficulties concentrating and/or making decisions.

  • Thoughts of ending one's own life.

There are several forms of depressive disorders:

  • Major Depression: Severe symptoms that interfere with your ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy life. An episode may occur only once in a person's lifetime, but more often, a person has several episodes. According to the DSM-IV, to be diagnosed with a major depressive episode, a person must experience 5 of these symptoms all within the same 2-week (or longer) period.

  • Persistent Depressive Disorder: Depressed mood that lasts for at least 2 years. A person diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder may have episodes of major depression, along with periods of less severe symptoms. But symptoms must last for 2 years.
Some forms of depression are slightly different, or they may develop under unique circumstances. They include:

  • Psychotic Depression, which occurs when a person has severe depression, plus some form of psychosis, such as having disturbing false beliefs or a break with reality (delusions), or hearing or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations).

  • Postpartum Depression, which is much more serious than the "baby blues" that many women experience after giving birth, when hormonal and physical changes, and the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming.

    It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of women experience postpartum depression after giving birth.

  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. The depression generally lifts during spring and summer.

    SAD may be effectively treated with light therapy, but nearly half of those with SAD do not get better with light therapy alone.

    Antidepressant medication and psychotherapy can reduce SAD symptoms, either alone, or in combination with light therapy.

  • Bipolar Disorder, also called manic-depressive illness, is not as common as major depression, or as persistent depressive disorder. Bipolar disorder is characterized by cycling mood changes - from extreme highs (e.g., mania) to extreme lows (e.g., depression).

Depression is one of the most commonly occurring disorders in PTSD. In fact, it has been found that among people who have, or have had, a diagnosis of PTSD, approximately 48 percent also had current or past depression. People who have had PTSD at some point in their life are almost 7 times as likely as people without PTSD to also have depression. Another study found that 44.5 percent of people with PTSD one month after experiencing a traumatic event also had a diagnosis of depression.

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