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Drugs and diseases reference index

Definition of «Depression»

Depression: An illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts, that affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. A depressive disorder is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be wished away. People with a depressive disease cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people with depression.

The signs and symptoms of depression include loss of interest in activities that were once interesting or enjoyable, including sex; loss of appetite (anorexia) with weight loss or overeating with weight gain; loss of emotional expression (flat affect); a persistently sad, anxious or empty mood; feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness; social withdrawal; unusual fatigue, low energy level, a feeling of being slowed down; sleep disturbance with insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping; trouble concentrating, remembering, or making decisions; unusual restlessness or irritability; persistent physical problems such as headaches, digestive disorders, or chronic pain that do not respond to treatment; thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts. Alcohol or drug abuse may be signs of depression.

The principal types of depression are major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disease (also called manic-depressive disease). Major depression causes a combination of symptoms that interfere with the ability to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy once pleasurable activities. Such a disabling episode of depression may occur only once but more commonly occurs several times in a lifetime.

Dysthymia is a less severe type of depression with long-term chronic symptoms that do not disable, but keep one from functioning well or from feeling good. Many people with dysthymia also experience major depressive episodes at some time in their lives.

Bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) is characterized by cycling mood changes: severe highs (mania) and lows (depression). Sometimes the mood switches are dramatic and rapid, but more often they are gradual. When in the depressed phase of the cycle, one can have any or all of the symptoms of a depressive disorder. When in the manic cycle, one may be overactive, overtalkative, and have excess energy. Mania often affects thinking, judgment, and social behavior in ways that cause serious problems and embarrassment. For example, the individual in a manic phase may feel elated, full of grand schemes that might range from unwise business decisions to romantic sprees. Mania, left untreated, may worsen to a psychotic state. Bipolar disorder is not nearly as common as other forms of depressive disorders.

The signs and symptoms of mania include abnormal or excessive elation; markedly increased level of energy; less need for sleep; grandiose notions; racing thoughts and increased talking; increased sexual desire; poor judgment; and inappropriate social behavior.

Clinical depression is still widely misunderstood. The prevailing attitude is "Keep a stiff upper lip, have a drink, maybe it will go away." About 12% of men and up to 25% of women suffer from depression during their lifetimes. While more women attempt suicide, men are more likely to be successful.

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