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Depression: Symptoms and Types

Overcoming depressionHave you ever felt a lack of interest or pleasure in activities that you previously enjoyed? Are you having sudden bursts of anger that you can’t justify? Sleeping too much or a lack of appetite may be some of the other clues that might be hinting at the possibility of depression.

Depression has been defined as a mental disorder with a state of mind of sustained low mood, sleep problems, appetite disturbances and having feelings of guilt, hopelessness and worthlessness.


These symptoms may help you recognise whether you or your loved ones are a victim of depression.

  • Low/irritable mood
  • Loss of pleasure in enjoyable activities
  • Sleeping problems
  • Major appetite changes
  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness, self-hate, and guilt
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Slow or fast movements
  • Inactivity or trying to avoid usual activities
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless
  • Repeated thoughts of death or suicide
  • Low self esteem

Dysthymic Disorder/ Mild depression

Mild to moderate depression is also known as dysthymic disorder. According to DSM-IV it is marked by prolonged and protracted symptoms which are milder than major depression. It can however last for years if not treated. To be considered dysthymia the first 2 years of depressed mood can not include any episodes of major depression.

The diagnostic criteria for this type of depression is depressed mood most of the day for more days than not, for a period of at least 2 years.  It also includes the presence of two or more of the following symptoms that cause clinically significant impairment in social, work, or other important areas of functioning:

  1. Major decrease or increase in appetite
  2. Sleeping problem whether insomnia or sleeping too much
  3. Low energy or fatigue.
  4. Low self-esteem.
  5. Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions.
  6. Feelings of hopelessness, guilt or worthlessness

Major Depressive disorder

It is very important to determine whether clinical depression falls in the category of Major Depressive Disorder. This kind of depression can last up to six months. DSM-IV defines major depressive disorder as:

Depressed mood and/or loss of interest or pleasure in life activities for at least 2 weeks and at least five of the following symptoms that cause clinically significant impairment in social, work, or other important areas of functioning almost every day:

  1. Depressed mood.
  2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities.
  3. Signifcant (>5% body weight) weight loss or gain, or increase or decrease in appetite.
  4. Insomnia or hypersomnia.
  5. Psychomotor agitation or retardation.
  6. Fatigue or loss of energy.
  7. Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt.
  8. Diminished concentration or indecisiveness.
  9. Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.

Minor Depression

Minor depression is said to be same as major depression but it only presents with two or four of the symptoms listed by DSM IV for Major depression.

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depressive illness and it is a mental disorder that causes unusual shifts between a state of mania and depression as the name suggests. These shifts may occur in mood, energy or activity levels.

To be classified as a bipolar disorder there must be more than one bipolar episode.

There are three main types of bipolar disorders:

  1. Bipolar 1 Disorder: The primary symptom presentation is mania. It may also present with rapid cycling episodes of mania and depression on a daily basis.
  2. Bipolar 2 Disorder:  The primary symptom is recurrent depression accompanied by some hypomanic episodes. Hypomania can be described as a milder state of mania in which the symptoms are not severe enough to markedly impair social function or require hospitalization, but are sufficient to be observed by those around you.
  3. Cyclothymic Disorder: A chronic state of cycling between episodes of hypomania and depression. This disorder does not reach a diagnostic standard for bipolar disorder.

The episodes of mania in a bipolar disorder are characterised by:

  1. A characteristic period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, lasting for a period of at least 1 week
  2. During this period of mood disturbance, any three (or more) of the following symptoms have persisted throughout (4 if the mood is only irritable) and also present to a significant degree:
  • Increased self-esteem or grandiosity
  • Reduced need for sleep (e.g., feels sufficiently rested after only 3 hours of sleep)
  • More talkative than usual or urge to keep talking
  • Has flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing
  • Easily distracted
  • Increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation
  • Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments).

If you’re wanting help with  overcoming depression, please contact me on 0413 181 320 for a FREE 15-minute phone consultation on how I can help you.
photo credit: Jessica.Tam

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Colleen Hurll, Counsellor and Psychotherapist

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