Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can have a negative effect on a person's thoughts, behavior, feelings, world view and physical well-being.
Depressed people may feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, worried, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, hurt or restless. They may lose interest in activities that once were pleasurable, experience loss of appetite or overeating, have problems concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions and may contemplate or attempt suicide. Insomnia, excessive sleeping, fatigue, loss of energy, or aches, pains or digestive problems that are resistant to treatment may also be present.
Depressed mood is not necessarily a psychiatric disorder. It is a normal reaction to certain life events, a symptom of some medical conditions and a side effect of some medical treatments. Depressed mood is also a primary or associated feature of certain psychiatric syndromes such as clinical depression.
- Life events
Life events and changes that may precipitate depressed mood include menopause, financial difficulties, job problems, relationship troubles, separation and bereavement.
- Medical treatments
Certain medications are known to cause depressed mood in a significant number of patients. These include Hepatitis C drug therapy and some drugs used to treat high blood pressure, such as beta-blockers or reserpine.
- Non-psychiatric illnesses
Depressed mood can be the result of a number of infectious diseases and physiological problems including hypoandrogenism (in men), Addison's disease, Lyme disease, multiple sclerosis, sleep apnea and disturbed circadian rhythm. It is often one of the early symptoms of hypothyroidism (reduced activity of the thyroid gland). Chronic pain causes depression. For a discussion of non-psychiatric conditions that can cause depressed mood, see Depression (differential diagnoses).
- Psychiatric syndromes
A number of psychiatric syndromes feature depressed mood as a main symptom. The mood disorders are a group of disorders considered to be primary disturbances of mood. These include major depressive disorder (MDD; commonly called major depression or clinical depression) where a person has at least two weeks of depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in nearly all activities; and dysthymia, a state of chronic depressed mood, the symptoms of which do not meet the severity of a major depressive episode. Another mood disorder, bipolar disorder, features one or more episodes of abnormally elevated energy levels, cognition and mood, but may also involve one or more depressive episodes. When the course of depressive episodes follows a seasonal pattern, the disorder (major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, etc.) may be described as a seasonal affective disorder.
Alexithymia - emotional blindness - is a personal trait which affects roughly 10% of the population.
Alexithymia describes the difficulty of people to perceive and describe emotions of others and themselves. Most persons concerned are not aware about this deficit and usually they are just recognizing it in contact with others, especially close friends, within their family or their partner.
These pages should deliver additional information about Alexithymia and offer information for affected persons, relatives and generally interested people.