Understanding the Different Types of Depression

Depression is a group of conditions associated with a person's elevated or decreased mood. Learn about the different types of depression including major depression, persistent depressive disorder, bipolar disorder & more.

Understanding the Different Types of Depression

Depression is a group of conditions associated with a person's elevated or decreased mood, such as major depression, persistent depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder, psychotic depression, and postpartum depression. Each type of depression has its own set of symptoms and treatments. It is important to understand the differences between them in order to get the right diagnosis and treatment. Major depression, also known as clinical depression, is a state in which a dark mood consumes everything and you lose interest in activities, even those that are usually pleasurable. Symptoms of this type of depression include difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite or weight, loss of energy, feeling worthless, and thoughts of death or suicide.

It is usually treated with psychotherapy and medication. For some people with severe depression that is not relieved by psychotherapy or antidepressant medications, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be effective. Persistent depressive disorder (formerly called dysthymia) is a type of mild and long-lasting depression. People suffering from this type of depression experience symptoms that are less severe than those experienced by patients with major depression. These symptoms may include changes in appetite and sleep, lack of energy, low self-esteem or hopelessness.

Because the symptoms of persistent depressive disorder last so long and may not have a major impact on your life, you may not even realize you have the condition. Bipolar disorder is a type of depression in which a patient oscillates between periods of abnormally elevated mood (mania) and depressive episodes. Since bipolar disorder includes periods of mania as well as depression, treatment is different from major depression, which does not include mania. Treatment for bipolar disorder typically involves a combination of psychotherapy and medication to help prevent the intense ups and downs associated with the condition. Talk therapy can also help you recognize what triggers mania and depression and help you better manage your symptoms. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a period of major depression that occurs most often during the winter months, when days get shorter and you get less and less sunlight.

It usually disappears in spring and summer. Treatment for SAD typically involves light therapy (phototherapy), psychotherapy, and medications. Psychotic depression is a severe form of major depression that includes psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions. A combination of antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs can treat psychotic depression. ECT can also be an option. Postpartum depression affects some mothers after childbirth.

You may have heard it called “postpartum melancholy” although it is more serious than sadness. Symptoms may include feelings of sadness or emptiness, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, fatigue or loss of energy, changes in appetite or weight, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, thoughts of death or suicide. Not only is depression difficult to endure, it is also a risk factor for heart disease and dementia. If you experience cognitive or mood changes that last more than a few weeks, it's a good idea to contact your doctor or see a mental health specialist to help determine possible causes.

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