There are a few types of diagnosable depressions in the DSM.
- Major Depressive Disorder
- Persistant Depressive Disorder
- Unspecified Depression
- Honorable mention to PMDD and Seasonal Affective Disorder
Let’s get into it- Major Depressive disorder is a depressed mood that impairs your functioning (eating, sleeping, irritability, hopelessness, sadness) for at least 2 weeks. That’s right, all it takes is two weeks. When the things that normally make you happy don’t make you happy anymore, you can’t find joy or pleasure in activities that used to get you excited and you feel generally lost. This is not the same as a depressed mood, feeling a little sad, or just having the blues for a day or two. This is when there is significant impairment that affects your day-to-day life and functioning. To the point that is causes a significant disruption in your ability to go to work, school, socialize etc.
Persistent Depressive disorder is when you have all these same feelings but for at least one year so they may not be as extreme as some of the above symptoms but you have a touch of them all and can’t shake it. Sadness, loneliness, (moments of happiness) but overall a depressed mood. You might still be able to lead a “normal” life but overall there’s a cloud, a darkness and and overarching theme of sadness in your life.
PMDD are all of these but limited to your menstrual cycle and Seasonal Affective Disorder is the same but tied to the seasons (this has lots to do with activity level, vitamin D and all that good stuff that we don’t get a lot of north of the Mason Dixon line.
Why is Depression such a hot topic?
More recently, thanks to our good friend COVID-19, a lot of the activities that normally bought us happiness and pleasure were involuntarily taken away, we were all kind of lost and to be honest things were looking pretty hopeless for awhile. We were all (by these standards) somewhat forced into an environment that fostered a collective, community depression. Additionally these feelings of hopelessness and loneliness are exactly what leads to suicide and self-harm and this is when its time to seek help. People like to throw around the phrase “I’m so depressed” and this is actually one of those mental health terms that applies to a large number of people.
How do we help?
In my time during my clinicals I’ve seen quite a few patients with depression and it’s a tough thing to treat. When someone feels hopeless telling them “It’s going to be okay!” actually has the opposite effect and is not helpful at all. Sometimes just being there to listen so they don’t feel lonely, giving them hope in the form of encouraging words, and small suggestions like taking a walk, making an art piece, and other small self-care tips. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it works, it’s been working for many people and will continue to work for many others. If someone you’re close to is suffering from depression, firstly try to encourage them to get into therapy. If they’re not at that place yet, just talk with them, listen to them and help them to not feel so alone. Suggest taking a walk, coloring, drawing, doing a puzzle, yoga, stretching, getting them to laugh. Something to engage their brain and help them to break free from the fog.
*If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or are having thoughts of self-harm call the suicide hotline 800-273-TALK (8255)