Depression can develop in anyone, regardless of age or sex. This common mental condition affects roughly 7 percent of Americans in any given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Acute depression symptoms often interfere with your ability to perform everyday activities and may severely limit your ability to function. Recognizing the symptoms of a depressive episode, or acute depression, is important so that you can be treated as soon as possible and limit the impact of this distressing condition on your daily life.
The symptoms of depression can start suddenly or develop gradually. Depression symptoms are often rated as mild, moderate or severe. A definitive diagnosis of major depression is made according to criteria established by the American Psychiatric Association in the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders."
Some of the most common acute depression symptoms include loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities, suicidal thoughts or behaviors, and sleep disturbances. Symptoms that last for 2 weeks or more may indicate acute depression. The symptoms of acute depression typically disrupt your normal pattern of interacting with friends and family members. Your work may also be adversely affected.
Loss of Interest or Pleasure
Many people with acute depression experience a loss of interest in activities that once brought excitement or pleasure. The severity of this symptom varies. You may may notice you don't experience the same level of enjoyment you once did with certain activities, or your interest may disappear entirely. Activities you once enjoyed may no longer be fun for you. Many people with depression report feeling that nothing brings them happiness.
Feelings of hopelessness are common with acute depression, which can lead to thoughts of suicide. The longer your depression exists, the more likely you are to experience suicidal thoughts. Ultimately, some depressed people resort to attempting suicide to relieve their mental pain. Although antidepressant medications eventually help many people with depression and suicidal thoughts, a person’s risk of suicide may temporarily increase during the first 1 to 2 weeks of treatment. Close monitoring is important during this time.
Acute depression often causes sleep disturbances that may manifest as sleeping too much or too little. People who are acutely depressed commonly experience a marked lack of energy and prefer to sleep most of the day, if possible. Disturbed sleep can impair your ability to focus, concentrate and think clearly.
Considerations and Precautions
Depression can happen to anyone. It is not something to be ashamed of and there is no need to suffer in silence. If you are experiencing symptoms of acute depression, see your doctor.
If you or a loved one experiences suicidal thoughts, seek medical help immediately.
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- Stahl’s Essential Psychopharmacology: Neuroscientific Basis and Practical Applications; Stephen M. Stahl
- Manual of Clinical Psychopharmacology; Alan Schatzberg, et al.
- Understanding Pharmacology for Health Professionals; Susan Turley