Episodes of major depression usually last about 20 weeks.
Depression in Children. Symptoms for major depression in children can differ from those in adults and may include:
- An inability to enjoy favorite activities
- Persistent sadness
- Increased irritability
- Complaints of physical problems, such as headaches and stomachaches
- Poor performance in school
- Persistent boredom
- Low energy
- Poor concentration
- Changes in eating and/or sleeping patterns
Dysthymia (Chronic Depression)
Dysthymia, or chronic depression, afflicts 3 - 6% of the general population and is characterized by many of the same symptoms that occur in major depression. Symptoms of dysthymia are less intense and last much longer, at least 2 years.
The symptoms of dysthymia have been described as a "veil of sadness" that covers most activities. Possibly because of the duration of the symptoms, patients who suffer from chronic minor depression do not exhibit marked changes in mood or in daily functioning, although they have low energy, a general negativity, and a sense of dissatisfaction and hopelessness.
About a third of patients with depression have atypical depression. Atypical depression refers to a subtype of depression characterized by mood reactivity, which is the ability to temporarily respond to positive experiences. It is accompanied by two or more associated symptoms such as sensitivity to rejection, hypersomnia (oversleeping), overeating (usually related to carbohydrate craving), and leaden paralysis (feelings of heaviness in the arms and legs).
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is characterized by annual episodes of depression during fall or winter that improve in the spring or summer. Other SAD symptoms include fatigue and a tendency to overeat (particularly carbohydrates) and oversleep in winter. A minority of individuals with SAD have symptoms of undereating and being sleepless. SAD tends to last about 5 months in those who live in the northern part of the U.S.
Seasonal changes affect many people's moods, regardless of gender and whether or not they have SAD. Simply being mildly depressed during the winter does not mean that one has SAD. Living in a northern country with long winter nights does not guarantee a higher risk for depression. Changes in light may not be the only contributor to SAD.
Review Date: 01/27/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.