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Masked depression is a specific type of depressive disorder that produces non-specific symptoms that differ from the classic symptoms of the disease. These can be various types of pain, anxiety, phobias, compulsions, problems with the circulatory system, eating disorders, a tendency to stimulants. Due to non-specific symptoms, masked depression is often confused with somatic disorders and mistreated.

Masked depressionis sometimes referred to as "depression without depression" - this is because it gives symptoms completely unrelated to the stereotypical image of this disease. Headaches, muscle tension, itching of the skin, pressure spikes, anorexia, weight loss - both patients and doctors associate similar symptoms with somatic diseases and try to combat them with painkillers, medications or diet.

Meanwhile, these may be "masks" under which the real cause of malaise is hidden, i.e. depression.

Masked depression - symptoms

Depression is commonly referred to as a disease of the soul and is most often diagnosed on the basis of disorders related to the mental sphere, such as depressed mood, lack of motivation, apathy, low self-esteem, insomnia. With masked depression, similar signs are usually low or absent. Instead of them, symptoms of the body called "masks" come to the fore.

Specialists distinguish 5 types of masks:

pain masks- a symptom of depression is then pain of various origins, most often headache, but it may also affect muscles (back, neck, shoulders, arms), genitals, specific nerves ( e.g. sciatic), and even the heart - then it is easy to confuse depression with a coronary heart disease or a heart attack;

vegetative and psychosomatic masks- refer to various signals from the body such as itchy skin, restless leg syndrome, digestive problems (nausea, constipation, colic), heart palpitations, jumping pressure. They can also manifest themselves in the form of changes in the natural cycles of the body's functioning, e.g. disorders of the menstrual cycle in women, disorders of the sex drive. Dizziness, problems with memory, concentration, and the assimilation of information are also possible;

psychopathological masks- these are symptoms typical of mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorders (chronic anxiety or panic attacks), phobias and compulsions (especially agoraphobia, anorexia);

behavioral masks- are related to changes in behavior or habits through which the patient wants to drown depressive states of mind. This applies to addiction to alcohol, drugs or drugs, as well as to everyday rituals that distract from the disease, e.g. overeating or shopaholism;

disturbances of circadian rhythms- concern problems with the regular functioning of the body during the day and night. These symptoms can appear as difficulty falling asleep, insomnia at night or excessive daytime sleepiness.

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It is estimated that masked depression occurs in people 3 times more often than the classic form of this disease. Despite this, it is very rarely diagnosed.

Women between the ages of 20 and 30 are most likely to develop this type of depression. In older people, the occurrence of the phases of the classic form of depression alternating with the phases of masked depression is more often observed.

Masked depression - diagnosis

The diagnosis of masked depression is very difficult, because its symptoms "pretend" to those of other popular somatic diseases, and they are not very expressive. Headaches are easily taken as a sign of recurrent migraine, muscle or nerve pain is often associated with discopathy, heartache with coronary artery disease, digestive disorders with irritable bowel syndrome, etc.

Before being referred to a psychiatrist, patients usually heal for months or even years for ailments that they don't really have. Depression is suspected only when the ordered tests show nothing and the prescribed medications do not improve the well-being.

Unfortunately, due to the complex clinical picture of masked depression, its diagnosis must be preceded by necessary tests that will exclude a somatic disease.

Masked depression - treatment

In the treatment of masked depression, the same drugs are used as in the case of the typical form of this disease, i.e. antidepressants. Their selection is carried out by a psychiatrist, who, when prescribing a given drug, takes into account the type and severity of symptoms in a particular patient and his he alth condition. Pharmacological therapy may be supplemented by individual or group psychotherapy, which speeds up the treatment process and reduces the risk of relapse.

Antidepressant treatment should be started as soon as possible, especially in people who in the past showed a tendency todepressive or have episodes of this disease behind them. Failure to start therapy may result in the development of an advanced form of depression with all the symptoms typical for it.

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