Depression, also known as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) or unipolar depression, is a serious medical condition which changes the behavior of a person in a negative way. Feeling stressed out and sad is a common reaction that every person gives against different negative events occurring in life. When this level of stress increases beyond one’s coping capability and affects the daily activities for a longer period of time, it can be termed as depression. It can happen to people of any gender and age, inclusive of children as well.
MDD is characterized by major negative changes in the thinking process and emotions such as the feeling of extreme hopelessness, unhappiness, frustration, anger and worthlessness. For a medical diagnosis of depression, these characteristics should last for more than two weeks, occurring nearly everyday. These changes reach a peak point in the life of a depressed person which obstructs their daily activities as well as their social activities. A depressed person feels lifeless and empty, and can make suicidal attempts.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Changes in Feelings
- Starting to feel hopeless about life: The person starts feeling that there is no hope for any positive change in life and feels extreme helplessness.
- Feeling that one’s worthless of anything: The person feels that he/she is not worth for anything good in life. It is followed by the feeling of low self- esteem and confidence.
- Sudden anger outbreaks: The person shows sudden outbursts of anger and agitation
- Extreme mood swings: The person is in a roller coaster of emotions. One moment he/she can be really angry and irritated, and the very next moment he/she can be tearful. He/she shows frequent changes in the mood.
- Frustration and restless: The person is frustrated even about small matters involving life and feels restless.
- Guilt : The person feels that he/she is the reason for negative events surrounding his/her life and family and sees his/her fault in everything.
- Anxiety: The person might also feel anxious and fearful persistently.
- Lacking interest in usual activities: The person shows loss of interest in daily activities that include eating habit, clothing, cleaning habits, personal hygiene, work and studies. He/she will lose interest in things he/she previously enjoyed like sports, hanging out with friends, family and other desirable activities including sex.
Changes in thoughts
- Recurring thoughts of harming oneself or someone else: Thoughts about harming oneself or someone else can emerge in the person.
- Not being able to make proper decisions: The person has difficulty in thinking and making decisions.
- Problem with remembering things: The person has trouble with remembering things, and keeping track of matters involving everyday life.
- Poor concentration: The person has trouble with concentrating on one thing at a time.
Changes in behavior
- Isolation: The person withdraws himself/herself from family, friends and any social activities. He/she starts preferring to stay alone and isolated. He/she starts missing school, work or any activities involving society and people.
- Substance abuse: The person can opt for alcohol or drugs as a medium to cope with his/her sadness and struggles.
- Harmful and suicidal attempts: The person may do something that harms himself/herself or someone else. There are major chances of suicidal attempts by a depressed person.
- Fatigue: The person feels tired most of the times. As a result, he/she feels lethargic to do any physical activity.
- Changes in sleep: The person either feels insomnia i.e. unable to sleep or hypersomnia i.e. excessive sleeping.
- Slow or fast movements: The person may be really active or really passive like talking too fast or slow, walking too fast or slow and other similar actions.
- Change in appetite: The person loses his/her appetite and has a major weight loss. The person might also have an aggravated appetite and consequent weight gain.
- Unusual aches and pain: The person might have unusual headaches, backaches or cramps as effects of other symptoms.
Any normal person can show at least one of the above mentioned symptoms when he/she faces a distressful moment. However, only when five or more of the above symptoms are shown inclusive of the feeling of sadness over a time period of two-weeks, occurring almost everyday, then the person can be termed as ‘depressed’.