Depression is a group of conditions associated with a person's elevated or decreased mood, such as major depression, bipolar disorder, persistent depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, psychotic depression, peripartum depression, and postpartum depression. Each type of depression has its own unique set of symptoms and treatments. Major 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, and feeling worthless.
Thoughts of death or suicide may occur. It is usually treated with psychotherapy and medication. Persistent depressive disorder (formerly known as dysthymia) is a type of mild and long-lasting depression. Many people with this type of depression can function day by day, but they feel depressed or joyless most of the time.
Other depressive symptoms may include changes in appetite and sleep, lack of energy, low self-esteem or hopelessness. Bipolar disorder (also sometimes called manic depression) has mood episodes that range from high-energy extremes with a high mood to low depressive periods. When you're in the low phase, you'll have symptoms of major depression. 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.
A combination of antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs can treat psychotic depression. 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. Peripartum depression affects some women after childbirth. 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. Postpartum Mood Disorder (PMDD) may be related to hormonal changes. Your symptoms often start right after ovulation and begin to subside once you have your period. Situational depression (or adjustment disorder with depressed mood) resembles major depression in many ways. Some people may experience cognitive or mood changes that last more than a few weeks due to life events such as job loss or divorce. For some people with severe depression that is not relieved by psychotherapy or antidepressant medications, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be effective. ECT treatment stimulates prefrontal cortex cells with electromagnetic pulses. 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.