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Depression: What are the Symptoms & How is it Treated? PART 1.

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

In Australia, Psychologists use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Addition (DSM-5) as a guide to assess whether someone meets criteria for a diagnosis of depression.

There are several possible diagnoses for depressive conditions:

Major Depressive Disorder

Most people experience temporary sadness triggered by difficult life experiences.

Symptoms of depression are more significant, however, and the sadness or low mood is present most of the day, nearly everyday as demonstrated by a self-report of feelings of sadness, emptiness or hopelessness or external signs that others may observe, for example, tearfulness, usually for a minimum 2 week period. In young children and adolescents irritable mood is often present instead of or in addition to sadness.

Another symptom of Major Depressive Disorder may be a loss of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyed activities, or anhedonia, as it is known, most days either reported by the individual or observed by others.

In addition to these predominant symptoms of depression, individuals may also experience rapid weight loss or weight gain or a decrease or increase in appetite most days, as well as insomnia (inability to fall or remain asleep) or hypersomnia (excessive sleep), physical agitation or slowness, loss of energy or feeling lethargic most days, as well as any of the following experiences: feeling worthless, unnecessary/excessive guilt, being unable to concentrate and make decisions and have recurring thoughts about dying and/or suicidal thoughts.

The depressive symptoms usually affect the person's ability to function socially or at work or to meet their usual obligations.

Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)

Persistent Depressive Disorder (also known as Dysthymia) is a more chronic, ongoing depression and because of this may not be as obvious as Major Depressive Disorder and, therefore, often goes untreated. Depressed mood is the predominant symptom in Persistent Depressive Disorder, present most days usually for at least 2 years in adults. In young children and adolescents irritability may be more significant than sadness and usually occurs for at least one year.

In addition to the sadness (or irritability) there are usually a further two symptoms such as: reduced or excessive appetite, insomnia or hypersomnia, low energy/lethargy, feelings of worthlessness, difficulty with concentrating and making decisions or feeling hopeless. The symptoms of Persistent Depressive Disorder do also usually cause difficulties in social, occupational and other spheres of the person's life.

Depressive Disorder Due To Another Medical Condition

The symptoms of depression in Depressive Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition are triggered by a medical condition such as a stroke, Huntington's disease or Parkinson's disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Hyperthyroidism, Cushing's disease and Traumatic Brain Injury, among others.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Some women experience a periodic depression or dysphoria associated with their monthly menstrual cycle, affected by changes in hormones, as these impact on mood. Clients often report difficulties managing mood changes, feeling more sensitive than usual, like they don't have control over their feelings as well as many of the usual symptoms of depression mentioned previously. Some women with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder experience physical symptoms such as breast tenderness or swelling, joint or muscle pain, or a feeling of being bloated. The symptoms as for other depressive disorders may impact on the key spheres of life including social and occupational functioning.

Substance/Medication-Induced Depressive Disorder

​The key symptoms of depression frequently include: depressed mood and/or diminished interest or pleasure in usual activities (anhedonia). Individuals with Substance/Medication-Induced Depression, usually develop these symptoms post substance (alcohol or drug) intoxication or withdrawal or after ingestion of a medication e.g. opioids. Key areas of functioning are also often affected.

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

Infrequent irritability and anger are appropriate responses to everyday stressors.

However, when these emotional experiences become more common and pronounced resulting in temper tantrums or aggression towards others or property, this may be symptomatic of Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, which is a depression that more commonly presents itself in childhood and adolescence. The behaviour is considered inappropriate for the developmental level and episodes may occur 3 or more times per week with consistent irritability and anger between outbursts observed by significant others (such as teachers, parents and peers). This disorder impacts young people between the ages of 6 and 18 and the symptoms impact at least two settings such as home or school.

Depression: What are the Symptoms & How is it Treated? Stay tuned for the next post which will cover effective treatments in PART 2, coming very soon.



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