About 21% of the population suffers from Major Depressive Disorder at some time in their life. About 10% of the adult population currently does. Many famous people have been afflicted, which makes for interesting reading of some of their biographies. If you're suffering with it, you're in good company.
There are several types of this affliction. All of them share some common symptoms. The main difference is in number of symptoms, length of time depressed, and intensity of symptoms.
One form of depression, called "bipolar", includes a high energy, or "manic phase", that goes way beyond a normal happy or irritable mood.
By the way, please don't diagnose yourself or others based on these general descriptions. Depression symptoms can mimic other mental health or medical problems. If you feel like any of the following descriptions fit you, you'll want to get a professional opinion right away.
What it's like...
Major Depressive Disorder brings on moderate to severe feelings of sadness, hopelessness and guilt. Depressive physical and behavioral symptoms are also present, such as significant weight loss or weight gain, insomnia, loss of pleasure in life, and loss of motivation and energy to get things done. Getting out of bed in the morning can become an impossible task. Suicidal thoughts, planning and attempts are also part of Major Depressive Disorder when it becomes more severe.
The thoughts that come up during a really bad phase of depression can be torturous. They're repetative, self told stories where the depressed person feels like they are, were, or will be, especially pathetic, ridiculous, or awful in some way. These thoughts can also be about others, and about the future.
These thoughts tend to be sticky and can gain intensity as they go around the hamster wheel of the mind over weeks, months...years. They become so distilled and refined as to be as sharp as an arrow to the heart. As time goes by, these thoughts become so abbreviated and quick, and the depressed person so down trodden and weary, that the thoughts are barely in awareness anymore. Yet they continue to torment until the person feels that they are in a black pit of, "I'm so screwed up even God couldn't straighten me out," as one client describes it.
Sometimes the depressed person can move on from these thoughts and feelings and go about their day - but in a much worse mood, that progressively becomes harder and harder to recover from. Self-loathing sets in as the person despises themselves for their inability to get better.
If this sounds painful - you're right! And if this describes you (or someone you love), professional help and guidance can begin to pull you out of the pit. Don't wait for it to get any worse!
If you know someone who has it, it's really important to know that nobody would choose to be depressed. It's light years away from sympathy seeking or work avoidance. If you have a loved one who suffers from depression, trust that the person is doing the best they can, and try to be on the same team with them. Remember that expecting them to "snap out of it" or to get some "self help" may be too high of an expectation. One of the most common and most frustrating symptoms is a significant loss of motivation. Typically the person also feels guilty for the way they feel and their inability to get a handle on it.
Major Depressive Disorder Symptoms
Major Depression is characterized by a depressive episode that is clearly a change from the way the person normally is. The following symptoms occur nearly everyday, for most of the day, for a minimum of 2 weeks. (You don't need to have all of the symptoms, and they can range in severity.)
Here's a list of general symptoms associated with depression. Keep in mind that they can also be part of a medical or other diagnoses:
If you or a loved one suffer from depression, the most important thing is to get help as soon as possible. The constant negative feelings are very hard on the sufferer's physical health, family and friends, work effectiveness, potential in life, and can put the person at risk for worse episodes in the long run.
If you're depressed, you need relief - as soon as possible. Relief often comes from a combination of things. It's a unique journey taking many forms that involve gaining new knowledge, trying new things, and opening your heart and mind in new ways.