Many people experience depression, but depression affects people differently. One type of depression is sometimes known as melancholia, or melancholic depression.
What is melancholia?
The word ‘melancholia’ was used from the time of the ancient Greeks to describe feeling intensely sad and hopeless. Melancholic depression is usually a severe illness. It makes people lose interest in almost all activities and has other distinct symptoms.
Symptoms of melancholia
The symptoms of melancholia are similar to the general symptoms of depression but are usually more severe. Most people with melancholia slow right down. Their movements, thoughts and speech can be very slow. However, it can also go the other way and these things can speed up.
People with melancholia might also:
- be very down and flat, especially in the morning
- show very little emotional expression or response
- lose their appetite and lose weight
- sleep badly and wake early in the morning
- have trouble concentrating and remembering things
- have strong feelings of hopelessness or guilt
- think about suicide
Diagnosis of melancholia
The first step to getting a diagnosis of depression, including depression with melancholic features, is to see a doctor or mental health professional. The doctor may refer the person to a psychiatrist for a more in-depth assessment.
Treatment of melancholia
A treatment called electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is sometimes recommended when other treatments for depression have failed. Some people with melancholia find it keeps coming back. Further information and support is available for the person with melancholia and for their friends and family.
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Last reviewed: April 2020