Depression is psychological state characterised by low mood. We all have periods in our lives where we feel ‘low’ –in this sense, most people can relate to the symptom of depressed mood. The word ‘depression’ is more commonly used as a colloquial reference to a clinically diagnosable depressive disorder. That is, conditions such as major depressive disorder (MDD), or persistent depressive disorder (i.e., dysthymia, also commonly referred to as ‘chronic depression’). These conditions describe patterns of depressed mood that exceed ‘normal’ feelings of sadness. Feeling depressed in response to a trigger, such as the death of a loved one, is expected and considered normal. When sadness does not subside over time, or if it occurs/persists in the absence of any apparent trigger, the person may be experiencing a depressive disorder. Depression can include symptoms such as
- Being unable to find enjoyment in previously enjoyable activities (i.e., anhedonia)
- Eating more than usual (hyperphagia), or less than usual (hypophagia)
- Difficulty sleeping (insomnia), or sleeping too much (hypersomnia)
- Feeling tired
- Feeling worthless
- Feeling guilty
- Inability to concentrate, or remain alert
- Suicidal thinking
Clinically diagnosable disorders involving depression include
- Major depressive disorder (MDD): severe depressive symptoms for two weeks or more
- Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia, also sometimes called ‘chronic depression’): depression lasting for a minimum two year period. Depressive symptoms are generally less severe than MDD.
- Bipolar disorders: are characterised by episodes of depressed and abnormally elevated mood (e.g., mania, hypomania)
IMPORTANT: If you are experiencing a crisis or have suicidal thoughts please seek immediate assistance from your local mental health support services. Australian residents can contact Lifeline (phone number: 13 11 14) for 24/7 crisis support. Other Australian mental health support services can be found here.
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