7 Types of Depression: A Comprehensive Guide

Bipolar disorder, postpartum depression, major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, cyclothymic disorder, dysthymia and seasonal affective disorder are all types of depression. Learn about each type and how they are treated.

7 Types of Depression: A Comprehensive Guide

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by periods of abnormally elevated mood known as mania. These episodes can range from mild to extreme, and can cause a marked deterioration in a person's life, requiring hospitalization or affecting their sense of reality. Most people with bipolar disorder also experience episodes of major depression. Currently classified as peripartum onset depression, postpartum depression (PPD) is more than just postpartum melancholy.

It is a serious condition that affects one in nine women who have had a child, regardless of age, race or economic status. Symptoms include feelings of sadness, indifference, exhaustion and anxiety. Depression can be caused by events in your life or chemical changes in your brain. Your doctor may diagnose major depression if you have five or more symptoms most days for two weeks or more, with at least one symptom being a depressed mood or loss of interest in activities. If your depression lasts for two years or more, it is called persistent depressive disorder. Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is characterized by mood episodes that range from high-energy extremes with a high mood to low depressive periods.

When you are in the low phase, you will experience 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 for treating depression in people with bipolar disorder. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a period of major depression that occurs most often during the winter months when days get shorter and sunlight decreases. It usually disappears in spring and summer. Psychotic depression is treated with a combination of antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs, or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Women who have major depression in the weeks and months after childbirth may have peripartum depression.

Antidepressant medications may help in a similar way to treating major depression that is not related to childbirth. Major depressive disorder (MDD) is diagnosed if these problems persist for more than two weeks. Major depressive episodes usually last a few months but can recur in people affected. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) affects 3-8% of women who are menstruating and causes symptoms that start around the first stage of the menstrual cycle and usually end soon after menstruation begins. Cyclothymic disorder is often described as a milder form of bipolar disorder. The person experiences chronic fluctuating moods for at least two years, including periods of hypomania (a mild to moderate level of mania) and periods of depressive symptoms, with very short periods (no more than two months) of normal between. Dysthymia is similar to major depression but less severe.

A person has to have this milder depression for more than two years to be diagnosed with dysthymia. Bipolar disorder affects approximately 2 percent of the population and was formerly known as “manic depression” because the person experiences periods of depression and periods of mania, with periods of normal mood between them. Stress and conflict can trigger episodes in people with this condition, and it's not uncommon for bipolar disorder to be misdiagnosed as depression, alcohol or drug abuse, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or schizophrenia. People with recurrent episodes of major depression are sometimes said to have unipolar depression (or what was once called “clinical depression”), because they only experience periods of low or depressed mood. Persistent depressive disorder (formerly dysthymia) is a chronic, ongoing state of low-level depression. Summer-related depressive episodes can also occur in people with bipolar disorder or other types of mood disorders.

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