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8 Different Types of Depression

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Thursday, October 12th, 2023
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Do you have depression?

Whether you’re a college student in the middle of a major slump, a new mom who can’t pinpoint why she’s feeling so glum, or a retiree grieving over the loss of a loved one, that question isn’t an easy one to answer.

We all feel sad at times. But depression is different. This serious mood disorder causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and manage your daily life, often leading to persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities. Many labels actually fit under the umbrella term “depression,” from major depression to atypical depression to dysthymia.

The good news is that even if depression symptoms are severe, there is treatment. Options like therapy or medication can help to improve depression symptoms and give you your life back again.

There are different types of depression, and several disorders include depression symptoms. That’s why it’s so important to talk to a physician or mental health professional and get an accurate depression diagnosis so you can get proper treatment for your type of depression.

Do any of these eight types of depression sound familiar?

1. Major Depression: A Common Type of Depression

If you’re experiencing major depression, you may feel and see symptoms of extreme sadness, hopelessness, anhedonia or loss of interest in pleasurable activities, lack of energy, irritability, trouble concentrating, changes in sleep or eating habits, feelings of guilt, physical pain, and thoughts of death or suicide — and for an official diagnosis, your symptoms must last for more than two weeks, per NIMH.

In some instances, a person might only experience one episode of major depression, but this type of depression tends to recur throughout a person’s life.

Some people may also develop major depression with “atypical” features — though these symptoms are not as uncommon as the name might suggest.

People with this depression type may also gain weight, experience irritability, have relationship problems, or have increased sensitivity to interpersonal criticism or rejection, per Cleveland Clinic.

2. Dysthymia: The Common Depression Type You May Not Know

Dysthymia is a type of depression that causes a low mood over a long period of time — perhaps for a year or more, says Dr. Halaris. “People can function adequately, but not optimally.” Symptoms include sadness, trouble concentrating, fatigue, and changes in sleep habits and appetite.

This depression type is usually treated with psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Because dysthymia usually lasts longer than five years, some people may need long-term treatment, per Johns Hopkins Medicine. People with dysthymia may also be at risk for episodes of major or clinical depression.

3. Postpartum Depression: Low Mood After Having a Baby

Many new moms feel some sadness during pregnancy or shortly after their baby is born, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. But for up to 1 in 8 women, that sadness is serious enough to be diagnosable as a type of depression called postpartum depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Postpartum depression is characterized by feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, fatigue, loneliness, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, fears about hurting the baby, and feelings of disconnect from the child. This depression type can occur anywhere from weeks to months after childbirth, and Halaris says that it almost always develops within a year after a woman has given birth.

“It needs prompt and experienced medical care,” Halaris says — and that may include talk therapy, medication, or a combination of the two.

4. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Extreme Winter Weariness

Would you prefer to hibernate during the winter than face those cold, dreary days? Do you tend to gain weight, feel blue, and withdraw socially during the season?

Though many people find themselves in winter funks, SAD is characterized by symptoms of anxiety, increased irritability, daytime fatigue, and weight gain. This type of depression typically occurs in winter climates, likely due to the lack of natural sunlight. “We don’t really know why some people are more sensitive to this reduction in light,”

This type of depression usually starts in fall or winter and lifts in the spring, and it can be treated with light therapy or artificial light treatment. But for some people, SAD can be linked to the summer months.

5. Psychotic Depression: Losing Touch With Reality

Psychosis — a mental state characterized by disorganized thinking or behavior; false beliefs, known as delusions; or false sights or sounds, known as hallucinations — doesn’t typically get associated with depression.

“People with psychotic depression may become catatonic, not speak, or not leave their bed,” Halaris says.

Treatment may require a combination of antidepressant and antipsychotic medications. A review of 10 studies, published in January 2018 in The British Journal of Psychiatry, showed that it may be best to start with an antidepressant drug alone and then add an antipsychotic drug if needed.

Another review, however, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, showed that the combination of medications was more effective than either drug alone in treating this serious type of depression.

6. Bipolar Disorder: From High to Low (and Back to High Again)

If your periods of extreme lows are followed by periods of extreme highs, you could have bipolar disorder (a type of depression previously called manic depressive disorder because symptoms can alternate between mania and depression).

Symptoms of mania include high energy, excitement, racing thoughts, and poor judgment. “Symptoms may cycle between depression and mania a few times per year or much more rapidly,” Halaris says, a type of bipolar disorder known as “rapid cycling.” “This disorder affects about 2 to 3 percent of the population and has one of the highest risks for suicide.”

Bipolar disorder has four basic subtypes: bipolar 1 (characterized by at least one manic episode, with or without ever having had a depressive episode); bipolar 2 (characterized by hypomanic episodes — which are milder — along with depression); cyclothymic disorder (characterized by milder highs and lows than those of bipolar 1 or bipolar 2 disorders); and “other specified bipolar and related disorder.”

People with this type of depression are typically treated with drugs called mood stabilizers, as well as psychotherapy.

7. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder: When Depression Strikes Women Once a Month

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD, is a type of depression that affects women 7 to 10 days before their menstrual cycle begins and continues for the first few days of their cycle. Symptoms include depression, anxiety, and mood swings.

Unlike premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which affects up to 75 percent of women and has milder symptoms, PMDD affects about 5 percent of women of childbearing age and is much more severe, according to the Office on Women’s Health.

“PMDD can be severe enough to affect a woman’s relationships and her ability to function normally when symptoms are active,” says Halaris. Treatment for this kind of depression may include a combination of depression drugs as well as talk and nutriton therapies, per research.

8. Situational Depression: When Life Gets You Down

Many episodes of depression are triggered by a stressful or life-changing event, such as a job loss, the death of a loved one, trauma — even a bad breakup. This is what’s known as situational depression, also known as adjustment disorder with depressed mood.

The predominant symptoms often include low mood, tearfulness, or feelings of hopelessness.

In these cases, the symptoms don’t meet the full criteria for a diagnosis of major depression and typically last for a shorter period of time. However, an adjustment disorder with depressed mood can develop into more severe depression over time, per the University of Maryland.

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