6 Types of Depression: A Comprehensive Guide

Depression is a difficult condition to endure and it can be a risk factor for heart disease and dementia. Learn about 6 types of depression including major depression, persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia), bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder (SAD),

6 Types of Depression: A Comprehensive Guide

Depression is a difficult condition to endure, and it can be a risk factor for heart disease and dementia. If you experience cognitive or mood changes that last more than a few weeks, it's important to contact your doctor or see a mental health specialist to help determine possible causes. Dr. Nancy Donovan, Psychiatry Instructor at Harvard Medical School, explains that there are many different types of depression.

Events in your life can cause some, while chemical changes in your brain can cause others. Your doctor may diagnose major depression if you have five or more of the following symptoms most days for two weeks or more:

  • Depressed mood or loss of interest in activities
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of energy
  • Feeling worthless
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
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 (Dysthymia)

Formerly called dysthymia, persistent depressive disorder refers to low mood that has lasted at least two years but may not reach the intensity of major 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

A person with bipolar disorder, which is 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.

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.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

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.

Psychotic Depression

A combination of antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs can treat psychotic depression. ECT can also be an option.

Peripartum Depression

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.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

If you experience depression, sleepiness, and weight gain during the winter months, but feel perfectly well in spring, you may have a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), currently called major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern. Prevalence rates for SAD can be difficult to determine because the condition is often not diagnosed or reported. It is more common in areas further away from the equator. If you or someone you love is struggling with depression, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

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