Good question and one that I suppose only an expert can diagnose. Speaking from experience I can honestly say there is a difference and it does matter.Unfortunately,one can lead to the other and both need to be treated by a professional. Whatever it takes to relieve the symptoms and get to the underlying cause should be done before things go too far My family ancestry pretty much guaranteed I would inherit both maladies as well as a predisposition for alcoholism.
My ancestors were Irish,English,Welsh, and Native American(Choctaw and Cherokee).
Growing up,I experienced both of these forms of depression with my parents. My father had a Jekyll and Hyde personality. When he drank,which he did at an increasing rate until a few months before his death at the age of 42 from a cerebral hemorrhage, he would be generous and loving one minute and cruel the next.
My mother didn't drink,but she was just as mercurial and would have days that she would lie in bed and cry.On those days she was either indifferent to us or dispensed spankings for the smallest infractions. Those dark days,she blamed on her Black Irish Moods. Fortunately, they were interspersed with days of smiles,manic house cleaning,baking,bedtime stories and a loving tenderness toward me and my younger sister.
I learned at a very early age to assess the moods of my parents in an instant and became adept at becoming a ghost or saying and doing just the right thing in the moment.Unfortunately, my stubborn and independent personality,coupled with a hot temper and inability to keep my mouth shut, assured me of many spankings.
As I grew older,I learned to become a ghost and dissappear.I spent most of my earliest childhood outside with my dog,Poco. Day or night,I stayed outside as long as possible to avoid the uneasy and ever-changing moods of my parents.My temper became worse and more destructive until I had little control of it and it had more and more control over me.
When I was eleven,my mother and father separated and divorced. By this time I hated and loved my father and my mother. I had no friends and preferred the company of my dog,Prissy.
Two years later,my mother met and married her very wealthy boss.I adored my new stepfather. When we moved to his farm when I was twelve and he gave me my first horse,I fell head over heels in love with him. He was everything to me. Everything I had ever wanted and needed from my father,he gave.
When I turned eighteen,I met a 21 year old college freshman,fell in lust and we were married a few months later.Within a few weeks i was miserable.I missed the farm,my horses and most of all my stepfather.I had nothing in common with the man I married. I missed the farm,my horses and most of all,my stepfather.I'm not sure when the dark moods began to take over.I was in too deep to recognize them as such.My husband certainly didn't seem to notice and if he did he ignored them.
After six years and two children,we divorced and I moved back to Louisiana.The old farm and my horses were gone,but my stepfather and mother had a new smaller farm and they welcomed me home.I was home again. Living on a new farm,with a new horse and back with my family.
Nothing was the same as it had been,but I didn't care,or so I thought
Before long dark despair would creep in at odd times and overwhelm me.I went for long solitary walks or rides on my horse and let the dark moods and crying jags come until the blackness would ease and I could breathe again. I appeared to function normally. I went to work,shopped, laughed with my family. No one seemed to notice,the laughter was hollow and never reached my eyes. I kept my inner torment and dark thoughts well hidden for many years.
My older children grew up and left home.I went to work,and appeared to be happy.No one,not even my present husband knew how miserable I was and how well I had learned to hide my dark thoughts of ending it all and my deep bouts of depression. I preferred to be alone as much as possible because it was easier to hide how I felt deep inside.When my son was killed in an accident,I wrapped myself in a cocoon of calm strength and held it together. Only when I was alone did I allow the tears and the darkness and grief to take over so I could release enough of the pressure to survive and keep going.
This cycle continued until my husband walked out ,leaving me and my youngest daughter alone and only then did I give in and seek help.Medication and therapy pulled me trough that very dark time.Eventually,I functioned normally(whatever the hell that is)!
However;I still have dark days, days when those, "Black Irish Moods",as my mother called them, creep in and send me to my knees.Sometimes,I give in and crawl into my cave. Let the thoughts of despair,doubt,fear,regret,memories of the past and everything I have lost and everyone who is gone overwhelm me. I don't fight it,I embrace it ,then let it go until the next time it creeps up on me and I let it in.I treasure the memories as much as I hate the losses. But,I am a survivor and I have more good days than bad.I am blessed with friends and family who love and care about me as much as I do them them. I am a survivor. I don't regret or curse what my ancestors have passed on to me. They have given me,courage,strength,perseverance, a gift of the gab, and the strong belief that Magic,Spirits,the Fey and all the things that go bump in the night, still exist in the world. SLA'N,( Gaelic for Farewell).