Types of Depressive Disorder

There are many kinds of depression that can occur. Knowing the differences and similarities between them all can go a long way in identifying and treating the form of depression. While often a “silent” disease, it costs the United States billions of dollars every year and fuels countless co-occurring conditions such as drug addictions. At worst, suicide can be the final stage for some with severe depression.

Major depressive disorder

This form of depression usually manifests itself after a traumatic event like losing a job, losing a loved one or ending a romantic relationship. It is also the type of depression that most people are familiar with. It’s natural for anyone to be depressed due to any of these events, but the symptoms of major depression go far beyond the stages of any natural depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling “slowed down”
  • Insomnia, early morning waking or over-sleeping
  • Low appetite and weight loss or over-eating and heavy weight gains
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts

Major depression can happen just once and go away or persist in some people. While exact statistics can be hard to pin down because of the nascent nature of depression, between 10 and 25 percent of women and between 5 and 12 percent of men will experience a depressive episode some time in their lives. One in four young people experience a mental disorder that includes depression. Untreated, a typical case lasts about six months.

Persistent depressive disorder, or PDD (formerly called dysthymia)

This type of depression can last up to two years, and while it isn’t as severe as major depression, both forms suffer from many similar symptoms. People with dysthymia are often viewed as overly critical and incapable of having fun. This condition often presents with changed appetite and sleeping patterns as well as fatigue. Some children co-present this condition with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), behavioral or learning disorders, anxiety disorders or developmental disabilities. While symptoms can come and go, PDD is a serious condition and should be dealt with as soon as a diagnosis is given.

Minor depression

Minor depression is a shorter form that can last anywhere between two weeks and two months. It can still develop into major depression if not treated.

Psychotic depression

Psychotic depression is a condition characterized by bouts of depression presenting symptoms of hallucinations, delusions and paranoia. Patients can often get angry for no reason. They may not pay attention to their appearance and may stay awake all night to sleep all day.

This isn’t to be confused with schizophrenia. Typically, psychotic depression is categorized with delusions or hallucinations consistently about feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. Schizophrenia usually has delusions that have no cause or root in reality. For example, someone with schizophrenia may irrationally think they are being followed. Nevertheless, psychotic depression can lead to episodes of suicidal tendencies, physical lashing out, self-medicating and other risky behaviors.
These behaviors can be particularly dangerous for both the patient and those around them. Immediate psychiatric care is advised.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Normally occurring in the winter, less sunlight can cause progressively worse depressive episodes in certain people.
This is one of the more mysterious forms of depression, as researchers aren’t sure of the exact causes. However, some theories do exist, such as the increased absence of sunlight disrupting one’s internal clock. Decreased sun presence may also drop the body’s serotonin levels, triggering depression. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite and sleep. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep and is also affected by the presence of sunlight. Note that while melatonin can be bought without a prescription, it is not known if the supplements will help those with SAD or any other condition.

Treatment for SAD typically includes light therapy (phototherapy), psychotherapy and medications. Many with this disorder brush it off every year as a “funk” to be dealt with alone. However, with help, it can be possible to maintain a consistency of mental health throughout the year.

Female specific depressive disorders

Both postpartum depression and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) are depressive disorders that only affect women. The former is a depression that sets in the mother for weeks and months after childbirth and causes feelings of sadness and hopelessness in the mother. PMDD causes depression at the start of the menstrual cycle. Mood swings, irritability and anxiety are also symptoms.

Postpartum depression shouldn’t be viewed as a personal flaw. It can just be a part of childbirth. However, postpartum needs immediate attention, as rare cases include thoughts of harming oneself or their baby.

PMDD goes beyond typical premenstrual symptoms with at least one of these notable symptoms:

  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Anxiety or tension
  • Extreme moodiness
  • Marked irritability or anger

While several treatments exist, birth control pills are among the most common and effective.

Depression and suicide

One common unifier among every type of depression is suicide. Every year, 40,000 people take their own lives in the United States and the rate continues to climb. Each of those suicides can emotionally victimize 10 or more people. While suicide can be difficult for some to understand, learning about depression can go a long way in gaining empathy for those having difficulty with the will to live.

Depression and co-occurring conditions

While depression can be independent of circumstances in some cases, it’s common for co-occurring conditions both feed to and off of the illness. Drug addiction, for example, can be a form of self-medicating for a preexisting condition that is either undiagnosed in the patient or mistreated by their current physician.

Trauma, ranging anywhere from domestic violence to witnessing a crime, can spark both anxiety and depression in anyone, especially women and people who are left untreated after the incidents occur.

It is for that reason and more that dual diagnosis is vital in treatment within any addiction or mental health disorder facility. Dual diagnosis is a method that treats both the symptom and illness, two things that so often feed into each other. By doing so, it reduces the chance of relapse and increases the odds of a consistently healthy mind in the patient.

Possible treatments

Fortunately, no matter the severity or kind of depression, many treatments do exist. While antidepressants aren’t for everyone, they have been a great, even life-saving, help to some people. Psychotherapy, which consists of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IT), is a strong choice for most people. During CBT, the therapist teaches the patient how to restructure negative thought processes so a patient interacts in a more positive way. Interpersonal therapy deals with underlying issues or relationships that may have triggered the depression.

For more about these methods and more, visit “Treatment Options” on this site.

If you fit one of these or any other description of depression, don’t hesitate to call 855-678-0400 to find a treatment specialist.

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