Unless you’re a healthcare professional who specializes in mood disorders, you may not even realize there are different types of depression that affect people.
It can be important to at least know some of the general classifications of the most common types of depression so that you can recognize key symptoms in yourself or others. It can also be useful if you are diagnosed with depression, and you want to be empowered in the event that you think you need a second opinion.
The type of depression you have is important to understand because it plays a tremendous role in the treatment you receive. For example, someone with seasonal affect disorder is going to receive different treatment than someone with medication-resistant major depression, who may be referred to a TMS center after going through several medicines.
The following aren’t all of the types of depression but are some of the most commonly diagnosed.
Major depression has the symptoms you often think of with depression in general, such as sleep problems, weight gain or loss, lacking energy, feeling guilty or worthless, decision-making problems, and loss of interest in activities, relationships and other aspects of your life.
With major depression, thoughts of death or suicide may be present, and for most people, as was touched on above, the treatments include a combination of psychotherapy and medication. If these treatments don’t work, there may be other options like transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
Persistent Depressive Disorder
With persistent depressive disorder, there is consistency in how long someone experiences a low mood, and it’s defined as having lasted for at least two years, but it’s not as intense as what’s experienced with major depression.
There’s some level of functionality with persistent depressive disorder, but patients tend to feel like they’re lacking happiness or have symptoms such as low energy and sleep problems.
The concept of postpartum depression is relatively well-known, but not entirely understood. It’s normal for moms to feel a level of sadness or emotional ups and downs after the birth of their child, but for some women, it goes beyond this.
Postpartum depression includes symptoms such as intense sadness, feelings of loneliness or hopelessness, thoughts of hurting oneself or the new baby, and a general disconnection from the baby.
The timeframe for postpartum can vary but usually occurs within about a year after giving birth.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Lots of people get the winter blues, but this isn’t the same as seasonal affective disorder, also called SAD. SAD includes symptoms such as withdrawing or being less social during winter, irritability, anxiety, fatigue and in many cases, weight gain.
It’s believed that SAD is related to the reduction of sunlight in the winter, and it can be particularly prevalent in climates that get lower amounts of natural sunlight for extended periods of time.
Sometimes with bipolar disorder, there is a misdiagnosis and it’s instead diagnosed as major depression, which makes treatment difficult because there are certain medicines used in the treatment of bipolar that aren’t useful for just depression.
Bipolar disorder includes periods where someone will experience high energy and a feeling of being extremely up that alternate with depressive periods, where symptoms are similar to major depression.
The above aren’t the only forms of depression, but they are some of the most common, and in some cases, the symptoms may be confused with one another or misdiagnosed altogether as something other than depression, so it’s good to have a general overview of some distinctions.