Depression is a general term that can refer to a range of mental health problems or the symptoms of mental health issues. Depression can also refer to a category of disorders known as mood disorders. Mood disorders are characterized by high or low moods or changes in moods that negatively affect your life.
Mood disorders may cause emotional states that are inappropriate for your current circumstance or interfere with your daily life. Depressive disorders generally cause very low moods that can range from general discontentment to severe feelings of hopelessness, shame, and worthlessness. Depression can also come with other symptoms like:
- Mood swings
- Sleep problems
- Physical aches and pains
Nine Types of Depression
There are nine major types of depression that are separated by various factors, including:
- The length of time you experience symptoms
- The circumstances of your symptoms
- The presence of other symptoms
Depression can be dangerous when it’s severe and left untreated. As it worsens, it can start to affect multiple areas of your life. It can also lead to suicidal thoughts, ideation, or actions. If you experience any form of depression that leads to feelings that life is not worth living, speak to a loved one, doctor, or clinical professional immediately. Depression is a treatable disorder, and you may be able to find ways to feel better with help.
Major depression is often what people think about when they think about depression. It’s a common mood disorder, but it can be severe when left untreated. Major depression is characterized by the experience of a major depressive episode, which is a period of low mood and other symptoms that lasts for at least two weeks.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a tool that doctors and clinicians use to identify mental health issues. The fifth edition of the DSM outlines nine symptoms of major depression. In order for your experience to qualify as a major depressive episode, you have to experience at least five of these symptoms for at least two weeks. The symptoms include:
- Depressed mood. This low mood typically lasts for most of the day and occurs on more days than it doesn’t throughout a major depressive episode.
- Loss of pleasure. You may lose interest in activities that you normally do. Almost all activities are uninteresting or don’t bring you pleasure.
- Significant unintentional weight change. You may lose more than 5% of your body weight within one month. This may be because of changes in your appetite.
- Sleep problems. You may experience insomnia, waking up in the middle of the night or early in the morning. You may also experience hypersomnia when all you want to do is sleep, but you still feel tired.
- Psychomotor changes. Your movements may be slow and unresponsive or hyperactive and agitated. These changes in movements are usually enough to be noticed by people around you.
- Tiredness or fatigue. You may feel tired all the time or like you have very low energy levels. Normal tasks may feel more difficult to do and take longer to complete.
- A sense of worthlessness. You might have a sense of guilt or shame that’s inappropriate or even delusional.
- Cognitive impairments. It’s difficult to think clearly, stay focused on tasks, or make decisions.
- Recurrent thoughts of death. You may be preoccupied with thoughts about death in a way that’s different than generally fearing death or danger. You may also think about suicide.
To qualify as a major depressive episode, you have to experience one of the first two symptoms and four of the other symptoms. Symptoms also have to be severe enough to interfere with your life by causing significant impairments. As with all mental health diagnoses, your symptoms can’t be better explained by another cause like another mental health problem, a drug, or another biochemical cause.
How Common Is Major Depression?
Major depression is one of the most common mental health issues in the United States after generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The disorder affects around 16.1 million adults in the United States each year. It’s more common in women than in men, but millions of men and women are affected each year. Major depression can occur at any age, but it’s most common in the 20s or 30s.
How Long Does Major Depression Last?
Major depression will last for two weeks at a minimum, but major depressive episodes can come and go for months or years. Treatment with medications or psychotherapy can help you manage symptoms so that they don’t impair your life.
Atypical depression is actually a subtype of major depression that has some unique symptoms. Atypical depression can also be called depression with atypical features, and it refers to depression that can have some symptoms or features that aren’t usually associated with typical major depressive episodes. Some of the things that set it apart include:
- Depression that suddenly goes away in response to positive events
- Increased appetite, eating, and weight gain
- Hypersomnia and fatigue despite long hours of sleep
- The feeling that your limbs are heavy
- Sensitivity to rejection or criticism that puts a strain on your relationships
Seasonal depression is officially diagnosed as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or major depressive disorder with seasonal patterns. SAD is characterized by major depressive symptoms that seem to come and go with a specific season. Most people with SAD experience depressive symptoms during the winter.
These symptoms seem to begin during the fall and last until spring. In rare cases, people can experience SAD symptoms during the spring or summer. In most cases, SAD occurs in people who live far from the equator and experience cold and cloudy winter months. The leading theory as to what causes SAD is a lack of Vitamin D and other benefits that come from sunlight.
During the winter, shorter, cloudy days and more time spent indoors may keep you from the sun exposure that you’d get in the spring and summer or in warmer climates. This can affect your mood, energy levels, and other symptoms of a major depressive disorder.
How Long Does Seasonal Depression Last?
Unlike a typical major depressive disorder, SAD symptoms don’t come and go randomly. They tend to come and go with a specific season. For most people, spring and the return of sunny days bring an end to SAD symptoms. But they may return the following winter. To qualify as SAD, you have to have experienced seasonal depressive symptoms for at least two years, but these symptoms may come and go with the season for many years without treatment.
How Is Seasonal Depression Treated?
Seasonal depression can be treated with medications and counseling like other forms of depression, but it can also be treated in ways that specifically address the lack of sun exposure. Vitamin D supplements can help replenish a deficiency that’s caused by a lack of sun. Spending more time outdoors when the sun is out may also help when it’s possible. In some cases, light therapy is used to treat SAD symptoms. Light therapy used a special artificial light source called a lightbox to simulate sun exposure.
Depressive psychosis is a specific form of a major depressive disorder that also comes with some psychotic symptoms. It’s also called major depression with psychotic features. Psychosis is a loss of touch with reality that’s caused by two major symptoms: delusions or hallucinations. Delusions are false beliefs that are illogical, irrational, and resistant to evidence that contradicts it. A typical example of a delusion is the feeling that there are hidden messages in a news broadcast that are intended to speak directly to you.
Hallucinations are sounds, sights, or feelings that you perceive and that other people can’t. Hallucinations may be vague, like movement in the corner of your eye or whispers that only you can hear. They can also be more clearly defined, like fully imagined people that you can see and hear in the room with you, even though they aren’t actually there.
There are also other psychotic symptoms in addition to hallucinations and delusions, including disorganized thinking and abnormal
movements. You may also have a blunted affect, which is an inability to show emotions that are appropriate for the situation.
Psychotic disorders and mood disorders are generally separate mental health issues, but they can overlap in more than one disorder. When psychosis is a feature of a depressive disorder, the symptoms of psychosis generally relate to your depressed mood. For instance, depression can cause you to have delusions that no one likes you, even random people on the street that don’t even know you. You may feel like there’s a conspiracy against you that makes life worthless. You may also experience things like blunted affect as a result of severely low energy levels and moods.
How Is Depressive Psychosis Treated?
Psychosis often manifests during a severe depressive episode, and treatment often requires hospitalization. Since psychosis may come with very severe depression, people with depressive psychosis may be at a higher risk for suicide, which is why hospitalization may be the safest course.
Psychotic symptoms are usually treated with antipsychotic drugs like loxapine or thioridazine. Once psychotic symptoms are under control, you may go through other treatments that are used to address depression, such as medications or psychotherapy.
Bipolar disorder, also called manic depressive disorder, is a mood disorder that involves periods or major depressive episodes. However, unlike typical major depression, bipolar disorder can also involve very high moods called manic episodes. Bipolar disorder is characterized by both periods of high moods and low moods. You may experience depressive episodes that follow the same criteria as major depressive disorders. After a few weeks, you may also experience a manic episode, which has its own criteria in the DSM. The symptoms of bipolar disorder include:
- Inflated self-esteem. This is also referred to as grandiosity, and it’s more than just a positive view of yourself. You might feel that you’re a superhero or a divine being.
- Decreased need for sleep. This is different from insomnia, which is a sleep disorder that leaves you feeling tired. Mania can cause you to feel energized in minimal sleep.
- Increased talkativeness. You may have a stream of fast and constant talking, or you may feel the need to keep talking with other people.
- Racing thoughts. This is also called a flight of ideas. You are constantly thinking of new ideas that keep your mind working.
- Easily distracted. You may find it difficult to focus and that things grab your interest easily and often. This could be related to racing thoughts and trying to attempt new ideas.
- Increased activity. You may constantly pursue new goals and leave tasks unfinished. You may also have psychomotor agitation and feel the need to move constantly.
- Increased risk-taking. You engage in risky behavior like financial investments, shopping sprees, dangerous sexual behavior, and other things that can have negative consequences.
To qualify as a manic episode, you will have to have experienced three of these symptoms for a week or more. Your symptoms may also be a manic episode if they require hospitalization, even if it doesn’t last a full week.
What Are the Types of Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is separated into two major types with other subtypes that don’t fit into the other categories. Bipolar I is characterized by the occurrence of at least one manic episode. If your symptoms fall short of the DSM’s criteria for a manic episode, you don’t have bipolar I. You may also experience a major depressive episode or a low mood that falls short of a full major depressive episode. Most people with bipolar one will experience periods of neutral moods when they feel relatively stable before or after a manic episode.
Bipolar II involves at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode. Hypomania is less severe than a full manic episode and may involve fewer symptoms. You may return to a neutral mood between depressive and hypomanic episodes.
If you experience high and low moods, but they fall short of manic or major depressive episodes, you may have cyclothymic disorder. Cyclothymic disorder involves less extreme moods than the other types of bipolar disorder, but it can still be distressing and require treatment.
Persistent depression, also called dysthymia, involves long-lasting depression symptoms. While major depressive disorder involves episodes of very low mood that last for a few weeks and then go away, persistent depression can last for months or years. People with persistent depression often experience less severe depressive symptoms than those with major depressive disorder. Still, dysthymia can cause feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest in regular activities, low energy, and a lack of motivation.
If persistent depression is left untreated, it could significantly impair your life. One of the biggest consequences is a lower quality of life, you may feel gloomy or lethargic on a consistent basis. You may find it difficult to enjoy the things in your life, connect with other people, or advance in your career. You may also have periods of more severe depression that cause feelings of despair and hopelessness.
How Is Persistent Depression Treated?
Dealing with persistent depression can be a challenge. Since it’s chronic, learning to cope with it may seem like a daunting task. However, it can be treated with both medications and psychotherapy. Medications like SSRIs and SNRIs (antidepressants) can help to correct biochemical causes for depression. Talk therapy can help you vent frustrations, gain insight as to the causes of your depression, and learn ways to cope with depression symptoms. Even though persistent depression is chronic, treatment can help you manage your symptoms in a way that they don’t interfere with your life and allows you to increase your quality of life.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a mood disorder that can cause depressive symptoms around the time a woman goes through menstruation. PMDD may be difficult to identify because many women assume that it’s just a part of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). However, while PMS comes with some very common mood changes and discomfort, PMDD can cause some debilitating depressive symptoms that can impact your life and interfere with your daily living.
PMDD is marked by five of 11 common symptoms. These symptoms are separated into two lists, and you need to experience at least one symptom from both lists for it to qualify as PMDD. The first list includes:
- Mood swings or sudden feelings of sadness
- Increased irritability or anger that contributes to interpersonal conflicts
- Depressed mood or hopelessness
- Feeling anxious or on edge
The second list of PMDD symptoms includes:
- Decreased interest in regular activities
- Concentration issues and the inability to focus on tasks
- Lack of energy and easily tired out
- Changes in appetite that cause overeating or strange food cravings
- Changes in sleep patterns like insomnia or hypersomnia
- Feeling overwhelmed and like things are out of control
- Physical aches and pains like joint pain, breast tenderness, and feeling bloated
How Can PMDD be Treated?
Treating PMDD will depend on your specific needs. If you experience consistent depression and mood problems while having PMDD, antidepressants can help to ease depressive symptoms. PMDD may also be treated with birth control pills that can help regulate hormonal changes that happen around menstruation. When you speak to your doctor, you should ask about blood tests. In some cases, a blood test can reveal nutritional issues like vitamin deficiencies that can contribute to some symptoms, especially low energy levels.
Perinatal depression has to do with the hormonal changes that cause mood problems in women that surround pregnancy. While postpartum depression is caused by changes that occur in mothers after birth, prenatal depression involves mood issues that occur during pregnancy. Perinatal depression is the term that’s used to encompass mood disorders that occur before and after birth.
What Causes Perinatal Depression?
Perinatal depression can be caused by several factors. While pregnancy can be an extremely positive experience in the life of a mother, it also represents a time of significant change and challenge in a person’s life. Pregnancy can come with stress, major life changes, and biochemical changes within your body. Perinatal depression is fairly common. Around 13% of women may go through major depressive episodes around pregnancy. As much as 20% of women experience postpartum depression.
Situational depression may be one of the most common forms of depression. It’s sometimes referred to as an adjustment disorder because it often comes after a traumatic event, a period of high stress, or a major disappointment. Situational depression is a temporary period of depressive symptoms that follow a traumatic event or period in your life. It can be caused by several common events, including:
- The death of a loved one
- High-stress periods at work
- Relationship problems or breakups
- Health issues or disappointing diagnoses
- Major life changes like moving
Situational depression can be caused by very serious negative moments in your life, such as a death in your family or being diagnosed with a serious disease. But it may also be caused by seemingly less severe stresses like moving to a new city. It’s often caused by things that force you to adjust to new or disappointing things in your life. It’s usually temporary because most people are able to learn to cope with new changes after a period of depressive symptoms. But during an episode of situational depression, it may not feel temporary, and you may feel like your sadness and hopelessness will continue for a long time.
When Is Treatment Necessary?
Since situational depression is usually temporary, it may go away on its own within a few weeks or months. Unlike a major depressive episode, your symptoms may go away gradually over a period of several weeks rather than clearing up quickly as your mood returns to normal. Talking to friends and family can help ease some symptoms and help you feel like you’re not alone in what you’re going through. You may also talk to a therapist to learn how you can cope with the stress or changes in your life and the feelings they cause. If your symptoms are severe or if they last for a long period without letting up, you can speak to a doctor about other treatment options.