What Type of Depression Do I Have and How to Help?
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, it’s common to be confused about what type of depression you may have. After all, many people do not realize that there are different forms of depression, and they tend to group all of the symptoms of depression into one category. However, there are nine major different types of depression. If you are struggling with what you think might be depression and find yourself asking, “What type of depression do I have?” this guide to the types of depression, their symptoms, and how to treat them can help you understand what you are experiencing, and can also offer you the start to improving your mental health and physical symptoms.
Major depression, sometimes called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is the type of depression most of us picture when we refer to depression in general terms. People with major depressive disorder feel the symptoms of depression the majority of the time for several weeks in a row, typically a minimum of at least two weeks. In general, doctors diagnose patients with major depressive disorder when they experience five or more of these signs of depression, most days of the week, for two weeks or longer:
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities they once enjoyed
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Difficulty staying awake
- Feeling restless, irritated, and agitated
- Feeling sluggish and run down, lack of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or shame
- Difficulty making decisions
- Difficulty concentrating
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors, thoughts of death
- Changes to eating habits that cause weight loss or weight gain
- Lacking energy
Treatment of major depressive disorder usually involves two components: psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy) and medication. There are four main classes of drugs that are used to treat depression, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), tricyclic antidepressants, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Most people experience a reduction in their symptoms when taking antidepressant medication and utilizing talk therapy. If those more common types of treatments don’t work, it’s possible to try electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), both of which stimulate activity in different areas of the brain. This stimulation can help improve brain activity in areas of the brain that are responsible for determining your mood.
Health conditions and medical conditions can also contribute to this type of depression as well, so it’s important to get in touch with your health care provider if you’re experiencing depression at the same time you’ve had any recent changes in your health or medications.
Persistent Depressive Disorder
Persistent depressive disorder (PDD), sometimes referred to as dysthymia or chronic depression, is a type of depression that persists for a period of time of two years or longer. Compared to major depressive disorder, the feelings and symptoms of persistent depression are typically less intense than those associated with major depression, but they can still disrupt your personal relationships and make it difficult to carry out your daily activities. Persistent depressive disorder is often characterized by symptoms that include:
- Feelings of deep hopelessness or sadness
- Lack of interest in things you previously enjoyed
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Difficulty functioning in work, school, and home settings
- Social withdrawal
- Feelings of inadequacy
- Low self-esteem
- Changes in appetite (overeating or less than usual)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
- Incapable of feeling joy, even during happy times
It is possible for patients to experience major depressive disorder in conjunction with persistent depressive disorder, as the feelings associated with the depression may come in waves of intensity. Persistent depressive disorder is typically treated with medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both treatments.
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mood disorder that is characterized by periods of high energy, sometimes called mania, as well as low mood, or depressive periods. During the low phase of bipolar disorder, patients experience a major depressive episode, which includes the symptoms of major depressive disorder (see above). Many people with bipolar disorder take mood-stabilizing medications, such as lithium, but there are also medications specifically used for the treatment of depressive symptoms that are experienced during the low phase of bipolar disorder. These medications include Latuda, Seroquel, and a combination of olanzapine and fluoxetine. People with bipolar disorder cannot have their depression treated by traditional antidepressants, as these medications are not proven to be effective and can sometimes speed up the frequency of manic and depressive phases. Talk therapy can also help provide support for people dealing with bipolar disorder.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder, sometimes called seasonal depression, is depression that occurs primarily during certain seasons. The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are the same as those experienced with major depressive disorder, but they occur on a seasonal basis. For most people, seasonal affective disorder symptoms tend to begin as the days get shorter in the fall and then continue through the winter months, when sunlight is limited. Symptoms commonly associated with seasonal affective disorder include:
- Social withdrawal
- Weight gain
- Increased need for sleep
- Feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and hopelessness occurring on a daily basis
It is believed that seasonal affective disorder is caused or influenced partly by the lack of sunlight that we receive during the fall and winter, so light therapy can help. Sitting in front of a bright light box designed to mimic the sun’s rays for 15 to 30 minutes a day can provide relief, as can antidepressant medication that is used throughout the season in which your depression occurs.
Psychotic depression is a little known type of depression that is often mistaken for other disorders. This type of depression includes the symptoms of major depressive disorder along with other symptoms that are associated with psychosis, including seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations), delusions, and paranoia. Psychotic depression is most effectively treated using a combination of antidepressant and antipsychotic medication. When this treatment is not effective, electroconvulsive therapy is another option.
Peripartum depression, sometimes referred to as perinatal depression, postpartum depression, or the “baby blues,” is a type of depression that occurs during pregnancy or within four weeks of giving birth. Although many people believe that this type of depression only occurs after giving birth, it can also occur during pregnancy. It is believed that peripartum depression occurs as a result of hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and following childbirth which can cause changes to the brain chemistry. It may also be influenced by the physical discomfort and lack of sleep that many women experience during pregnancy and the newborn phase. Peripartum depression symptoms can be as severe as those associated with major depressive disorder and include:
- Anger or rage
- Extreme worry or anxiety about the safety and health of the baby
- Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby
- Difficulty caring for yourself or the baby
Women without a strong support network or who have experienced depression before are at increased risk of experiencing peripartum depression, but any woman can be affected. Antidepressant drugs are the most common form of treatment for peripartum depression.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD, can be thought of as an especially severe form of premenstrual syndrome, or PMS. PMS symptoms, however, are both physical and psychological, while PMDD symptoms are primarily psychological. While many women feel more emotional in the days leading up to their periods, women with PMDD might experience feelings of depression so severe that it impacts their ability to perform daily functions and tasks. Like peripartum depression, PMDD is linked to hormonal changes in the body leading up to a woman’s period. Symptoms associated with PMDD include:
- Cramps, breast tenderness, and bloating
- Joint and muscle pain
- Irritability and anger
- Food cravings
- Binge eating
- Low energy
- Difficulty sleeping
- Sadness and despair
- Severe mood swings
- Panic attacks or anxiety
- Difficulty focusing
- Thoughts of suicide
The most common treatments for PMDD include antidepressant medication and some oral contraceptives.
Situational depression, which is sometimes referred to as adjustment disorder with a depressed mood, has similar symptoms to major depressive disorder, but it is brought on by a specific event. Tragic events such as the death of a loved one, divorce, experiencing an abusive relationship, facing legal trouble, facing a serious illness, or dealing with unemployment can all cause a depressive episode, as can other events. It is expected that people will feel sad, anxious, and withdrawn during times like these, but situational depression is diagnosed when the depression affects responsibilities and activities within your daily life. Most of the time, situational depression sets in within three months of the specific event. Medication is usually not needed to deal with situational depression, but psychotherapy may help you get through a difficult time.
With most types of depression, feelings of persistent sadness are constant for several weeks or months, with little to no change in mood even during happy events. With atypical depression, a person’s mood may temporarily improve as a result of a positive event or happy experience. People with atypical depression experience symptoms that are somewhat different from other types of depression, including:
- Increased appetite
- Heavy feeling in the arms and legs
- Sleeping more than usual
- Being overly sensitive to criticism
Atypical depression is often treated by antidepressant medication, specifically using SSRIs. MAOIs are also popular for the treatment of atypical depression, although they are more likely to interact with other medications and food.
Whichever form of depression you may have, know that you are not alone. Taking the first step to receiving help is the best step you can take, and it’s easiest to take that step with a little help.
YANA is an online mental health clinic with a staff of dedicated mental health professionals who can help you figure out what you need and what can help you with it. YANA offers a fast, easy, and, most importantly, affordable way for you to get the expert help you deserve, all from the comfort of your own home.
With online consultations and check-ups paired with the option to have prescription medications shipped right to your home, YANA has made it easy to get access to long-term mental wellness, so get started with YANA today and take the first step toward getting back to your usual self and doing what you love.