Depression Disorders – Types, Symptoms, And Treatments

Updated August 28, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC

Depression is a severe condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Yet, if two depressed people compare their symptoms, they often find that they’re quite different from each other. One reason for that is that you may not have the same depressive disorder. You may be wondering if you have depression at all, or if so, what type you have. Learning about the various disorders may help you make sense of the subject and give you the confidence to get the treatment you need.

General Symptoms

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Although the various types of depression are different, you might find it useful to start with a brief overview of the most common symptoms of depression. In making a diagnosis, the doctor will consider all the symptoms you’ve had for two weeks or more. They might use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) to determine whether your condition meets the criteria for one of the types of depression.

Many people recognize lingering sadness as a sign of depression. The DSM-5 lists several other symptoms associated with depression as well:

  • Depressed mood
  • Changes in sleep, appetite, and weight
  • Less activity or more agitation
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Low energy
  • Feeling hopeless or guilty
  • Physical aches and pains without a clear physical cause
  • Suicidal thoughts

Types Of Depression

Although the above symptoms may appear in any type of depressive disorder, each type has a unique blend, triggers, and presentation of them. Here are brief descriptions of various kinds of depression and what makes them unique.

Major Depressive Disorder

Major symptoms of MDD are lack of interest in things once enjoyed and a sad or depressed mood. To receive this diagnosis, one or both must be present, as well as three or four of the others, for a total of five of the symptoms above. The signs must be severe enough to interfere with daily life. Also, they must not be due to grief, substance abuse, a medication or another medical condition, a psychotic disorder, or a schizophrenic disorder. Finally, if you’ve had a manic or hypomanic episode, the diagnosis probably won’t be MDD.

Persistent Depressive Disorder

Persistent depression, sometimes called dysthymia, is a type of depression that lasts at least two years or longer. Within those two years, the symptoms may get better or more severe, but they’re present at some level throughout that time.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a condition in which depressive symptoms alternate with manic or hypomanic symptoms. During the depressive phases, you may have any of the general depression symptoms. While you’re in the manic phase, you might have symptoms like rapid speech, grandiose ideas, elevated mood, and others. Hypomania is similar to mania, but it’s less extreme. If you have bipolar disorder, you may also have times when you are neither depressed nor manic or hypomanic.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder is a depressive disorder that begins in the winter months and lifts in the spring. It may be related to the amount of natural light available during the day. Seasonal depression usually has symptoms like social isolation, weight gain, and oversleeping. SAD comes back every winter, year after year.

Perinatal Depression

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Perinatal depression happens when a woman is pregnant. It can also occur after birth, in which it is sometimes called postpartum depression. This condition has the symptoms of major depression, and the most common for this disorder are anxiety, sadness, and fatigue. The symptoms may be severe enough to interfere with the mother’s ability to take care of her infant correctly.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

Some women experience cyclic depressions that correspond to their menstrual cycles. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a hormone-related moor disorder. It is a more severe condition than PMS, and it typically interferes with life for several days before the woman’s period. This disorder has physical symptoms, along with the usual symptoms of depression. Irritability is common.

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Syndrome (DMDD)

Another recently identified type of depression is disruptive mood dysregulation syndrome. DMDD’s most common symptoms are irritability and temper outbursts. It’s primarily diagnosed in children. Unlike the episodes of irritability in bipolar depression, the irritability in DMDD is persistent and severe.

Atypical Depression

Atypical depression is a subtype of major depression characterized by specific symptoms such as oversleeping, overeating, and irritability. If you have this type, you may also feel extraordinarily sensitive to rejection, have a feeling of heaviness in your arms and legs, or have difficulty with your close relationships.

Reactive Depression

Reactive depression goes by many names, the most common being situational depression. Reactive depression comes as a reaction to a traumatic event or major life change. Your symptoms might be similar to the general symptoms of depression, but they typically subside within a relatively short time as you adapt to a loss or change.

Major Depression With Psychotic Features

Also known as psychotic depression, this type of depression is severe enough that you begin to have psychotic symptoms in addition to the general depression symptoms. These symptoms might include disorganized thinking, delusions, and hallucinations. The psychotic symptoms might be sad or upsetting, corresponding with the depressed mood, or they might include grandiose ideas, feel exciting, and seem incongruent with the depressed mood.

Treatments For Depression

Treatment is important in managing depression. The most effective treatment depends on the type of depression, as well as factors that are unique to you as an individual. The following are some of the treatments your doctor or therapist might recommend.

Medications

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A wide assortment of medications is available for depression treatment. The first-line medications for many types of depression are antidepressants. These include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac, Paxil, or Lexapro
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) like Cymbalta or Effexor XR
  • Tricyclic antidepressants like Tofranil or Pamelor
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) such as Parnate or Nardil
  • Atypical antidepressants, such as Wellbutrin SR

For those with manic depression, your doctor might prescribe a mood stabilizer, and possibly an antidepressant and other medications, too.

Light Therapy

Those with seasonal depression may improve with light therapy. Getting enough sunlight can be a great help. However, there may not be enough light available during the winter months to lift your mood. So, some people with SAD choose light therapy, in which you sit near a special box that has very bright lights. The treatment lasts for a specific amount of time each day. The type of SAD light is also important, and narrow bandwidth blue light with a specific wavelength has been found the most helpful in alleviating symptoms of seasonal depression.

Brain Stimulation Therapies

Because depression is a disorder of the brain, some therapies address the problem directly by stimulating the brain. One of these therapies is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which involves sending electrical stimulation through your brain in a very controlled way while you are under anesthesia. Another is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which is a noninvasive procedure that stimulates the brain’s nerve cells using a magnetic force. Both these types of therapy are usually reserved for people with severe or persistent depression when other methods have not been successful.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy can be helpful for nearly any mental disorders you might have. The best therapy for you depends on factors like specific type and severity of your disorder as well as your personal preferences. Regardless of the type of therapy you choose, your counselor may adapt it to suit you as an individual. Both cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy have been shown effective in many research studies and clinical practice.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

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Many psychologists recommend CBT to patients with various depression disorders. This type of therapy involves learning to recognize negative thoughts and behaviors. The next step is to change negative or inaccurate thoughts and behaviors that might be contributing to the depression. Your therapist acts as your guide and encourager during this process, while you are the one who learns and practices these techniques.

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

Interpersonal therapy is another suitable type of therapy for people with depression. During IPT, your therapist helps you learn how to express your feelings and solve problems in healthier ways. One of the goals is to build better relationships with others in your life. Also, this therapy is designed to teach you how to adapt to life’s problems, increase your social skills, and get support from those around you.

Seeking Help For Depression

No matter what depressive disorder you might have, a doctor or counselor can help you in your quest to relieve the symptoms and get back to a happier life. You can talk to a psychiatrist or doctor in your local community to get started with diagnosis and medications.

Or, you might prefer to begin by talking to a therapist in your area or online. Online therapy at BetterHelp gives you the privacy you may want as well as all the psychological tools available during in-person treatment. The most important thing is that you start somewhere – whether with a psychiatrist or a counselor – so you can feel better faster and build a better life.


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