“I THINK,” Robin Williams once said, “the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy, because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.”
He was one of millions of Americans diagnosed with depression. The National Alliance of Mental Illness reports that an estimated 16 million American adults have experienced a depressive episode in the past year.
October is proclaimed as Depression Awareness Month. The National Institute of Mental Health defines depression as a” common mood disorder that affects how you feel, think, and how you handle daily activities, such as eating, sleeping or working.” There are different types of depression:
• Persistent depressive disorder (also called dysthymia) is a depressed mood that lasts for at least two 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 two years to be considered persistent depressive disorder.
• Perinatal depression is much more serious than the “baby blues” (relatively mild depressive and anxiety symptoms that typically clear within two weeks after delivery) that many women experience after giving birth. Women with perinatal depression experience full-blown major depression during pregnancy or after delivery (postpartum depression). The feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that accompany perinatal depression may make it difficult for these new mothers to complete daily care activities for themselves and/or for their babies.
• Psychotic depression occurs when a person has severe depression plus some form of psychosis, such as having disturbing false fixed beliefs (delusions) or hearing or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations). The psychotic symptoms typically have a depressive “theme,” such as delusions of guilt, poverty, or illness.
• Seasonal affective disorder is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. This depression generally lifts during spring and summer. Winter depression, typically accompanied by social withdrawal, increased sleep, and weight gain, predictably returns every year in seasonal affective disorder.
• Bipolar disorder is different from depression, but it is included in this list is because someone with bipolar disorder experiences episodes of extremely low moods that meet the criteria for major depression (called “bipolar depression”). But a person with bipolar disorder also experiences extreme high — euphoric or irritable — moods called “mania” or a less severe form called “hypomania.”
There are a variety of treatments available for people coping with depression. Common treatments include a combination of medication, therapy and exercise can help manage the symptoms of depression. Consult a doctor to see which treatment works best for you.
For more information about the symptoms and treatments for depression, please visit www.nami.org or www.nimh.nih.gov.
For information about legal protections available for people with depression, please contact NMPASI at 235-7273/74 or visit us online at www.nmpasi.org.