Types of Depression: What They Mean and How to Treat Them

Explaining how substance abuse treatment works & what family interventions can look like, there are many types of depression each with its own set of symptoms & treatments. Learn about major & persistent depressive disorders & how to treat them.

Types of Depression: What They Mean and How to Treat Them

Explaining how substance abuse treatment works, what family interventions can look like, and how to help children from families affected by alcohol and drug abuse, depression is a medical condition that affects mood and ability to function. There are many types of depression, each with its own set of symptoms and treatments. Major depression, persistent depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder, psychotic depression, peripartum depression, and atypical depression are all types of depression that can be experienced. Your doctor may diagnose major depression if you have five or more of these symptoms most days for two weeks or more.

At least one of the symptoms should be a depressed mood or loss of interest in activities. Major depression is usually treated with psychotherapy and medication. For some people with severe depression that is not relieved by psychotherapy or antidepressant medications, electroconvulsive therapy may be effective. Persistent depressive disorder is a type of mild and long-lasting depression. People suffering from dysthymia experience symptoms that are less severe than those experienced by patients with major depressive disorder (MDD).

Because the symptoms of dysthymia last so long and may not have a major impact on your life, you may not even realize you have the condition. Treatment for persistent depressive disorder includes psychotherapy, lifestyle changes, and medication. 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 MDD, which does not include mania. This helps prevent the intense ups and downs associated with bipolar disorder.

Talk therapy can also help you recognize what triggers mania and depression and help you better manage your symptoms. Medicines may also be prescribed to help stabilize moods. Seasonal affective disorder 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 seasonal affective disorder includes light therapy, psychotherapy, medications, and lifestyle changes. A combination of antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs can treat psychotic depression.

ECT can also be an option. Women who have major depression in the weeks and months after childbirth may have peripartum depression. About 1 in 10 men also experience depression in the peripartum period. Antidepressant medications may help in a similar way to treating major depression that is not related to childbirth. You may have heard it called “postpartum melancholy” although it is more serious than sadness.

Not only is postpartum depression difficult to endure, it is also a risk factor for heart disease and dementia. Treatment for postpartum depression includes psychotherapy, medications, lifestyle changes, support groups, and self-care. Depressive symptoms can occur in adults for many reasons. 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. Traditional antidepressants are not always recommended as first-line treatments for bipolar depression because there is no evidence that these drugs are more useful than a placebo (a sugar pill) for treating depression in people with bipolar disorder.

In addition, for a small percentage of people with bipolar disorder, some traditional antidepressants may increase the risk of causing a high phase of the disease or speed up the frequency of having more episodes over time. Sometimes they may also recommend an older type of antidepressant called MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitor), which is a class of antidepressants that has been well studied to treat atypical depression. People who have major depressive disorder have had at least one major depressive episode (five or more symptoms for at least a two-week period). The depressive state of persistent depressive disorder is not as severe as that of major depression but it can be just as disabling.

For some people with atypical depression who do not respond to traditional antidepressants, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) may be recommended. Bipolar disorder used to be known as “manic depression” because the person experiences periods of depression and periods of mania, with periods of normal mood between them. From a medical point of view, depression is defined as a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness or despair and the often profound loss of interest in things that usually bring you pleasure. When people think about depression they often divide it into one of two things: clinical depression which requires treatment or “regular” depression which almost anyone can go through.

It's important to remember that no matter what type of depression you are experiencing there are treatments available to help you manage your symptoms.

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