Depression affects 14.8 million Americans annually, but not all cases are similar! Depression is always a debilitating mental illness, but it manifests in many different ways. The two most common forms of the condition are major depressive disorder, also called major depression and clinical depression, and dysthymia, more commonly known as chronic depression. Major depression is characterized by a loss of enjoyment in people, places, and activities, as well as by pervasive feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and pessimism. Physical symptoms, like lethargy, sleep and appetite changes, and aches and pains, are also common. An episode of major depression may occur just once in a person's life, but more often, the condition comes and goes. Dysthymia, meanwhile, produces milder symptoms of depression, which continue for two years or more. Dysthymia does not usually affect an individual's ability to function; however, many people with this condition eventually experience at least one episode of major depression. Psychotic depression is another, less common, form of this mental illness. As its name suggests, psychotic depression combines a major depressive illness with some form of psychosis, like: hallucinations, which involve seeing things that aren't there, or delusions, which are beliefs that aren't based in reality. As many as 15 percent of people suffering from major depression will show signs of psychotic variety. Meanwhile, a form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder, or sad, appears to be directly related to seasonal changes. People with sad experience depression symptoms during the winter months, when there's less sunlight. Still, other depression variants are unique to women. These include postpartum depression, which describes a major depressive episode following the birth of a baby, and a very severe form of premenstrual syndrome called premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD. Some 10- to 15-percent of new moms get postpartum depression, while three- to five-percent of all women have PMDD. Another form of depression, atypical depression, is also more common in females, although it is not unique to them. People with atypical depression experience specific symptoms, like overeating, oversleeping, and extreme sensitivity to rejection. What separates atypical depression from other types is that people with atypical depression see their mood improve in direct response to positive life events. Interestingly this is not the case with any other form of depression! Finally, some people with depression experience the condition as part of another mental illness called bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder alternate between periods of clinical depression, and periods of extreme elation, called mania. Whatever the type of depression, the condition will affect more people than any other health problem within the next 20 years, according to the world health organization. While this information is disheartening, it is the organization's hope that knowing how common depression really is will encourage more people to seek treatment for the condition!
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012