Depression is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorders, yet it continues to be one of the most misunderstood.
Someone who has been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder experiences a change in mood that lasts for weeks or months. It usually involves a low or irritable mood and/or a loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities. It interferes with one’s normal functioning and often includes physical symptoms. This is a severe diagnosis and someone who is chronically and severely depressed will sometimes have suicidal thoughts or attempts. This is a depression over and above what one would normally feel after suffering a loss of some kind. It can be physiological in origin, and
Dysthymia is also a form of depression, but is less severe. It usually goes on for a longer period, often several years. The symptoms are similar to a major depressive disorder, but usually do not completely disrupt one’s normal activities.
Bipolar disorder is the most misunderstood mood disorder. It involves episodes of depression, usually severe, alternating with episodes of extreme elation called mania. Sometimes people will say “she is really moody, she must have bipolar.” The symptoms of bipolar are more specific than “really moody” and are often severe enough to cause serious functional impairment. Manic individuals can be delusional, extremely impulsive, and have very poor judgment. It is also possible to be both manic and depressed. Bipolar disorder has a higher suicide rate than major depressive disorder.
All of these mood disorders are diagnosable by a mental health or medical professional. If you are concerned about symptoms you are experiencing, or about someone you love, consult a qualified therapist, psychologist or your physician.