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Types of depression

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Types of depression

Mental health professionals have identified several types of depression.

Major depression is profound depression. The person with major depression usually experiences a complete loss of pleasure in nearly everything that once brought them happiness. These episodes usually are not triggered by any specific event. During a depressive episode, even a positive event does not lift the person’s mood much. Major depression often interferes with a person’s ability to work or go to school, sleep, study, or eat. At least half of the people who suffer from one depressive episode will experience a second within 10 years.

But other types of depression have been also identified, including dysthymia, postpartum depression, bipolar disorder (formerly called “manic depression”) and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

What is dysthymia?

Dysthymia is similar to major depression, but its symptoms are less severe and it usually last two years or longer. Dysthymia is not minor depression; it is one of the two primary forms of clinical depression that affects about 3% of Americans each year. And, similar to major depression, dysthymia is more frequent in women than in men. It usually appears before the age of 20 in up to 75% of those who experience it.

Dysthymia does not disable those who experience it, but it does interfere with normal functioning. Since people with dysthymia have felt low most of their lives, people sometimes mistake it for having a sad temperament. It is, however, a mood disorder that is just as responsive to treatment as major depression.

Dysthymia symptoms:

  • Depressed or “down” mood
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Low energy
  • Poor concentration
  • Appetite changes
  • Hopelessness
  • Excessive guilt

Early life trauma or other difficult family situations (such as loss of a parent during childhood; sexual, physical, and/or verbal abuse; neglect; overprotection) is more evident in those with dysthymia. And more than half of those with dysthymia later develop major depression.

Postpartum mood disorders

Some fears, feelings of being overwhelmed, and moodiness are normal after childbirth. These normal ups and downs are the so-called “baby blues.” They may arise two to five days after delivery and are likely linked to natural hormonal fluctuations. When these feelings become moderate or intense and continue longer than a couple of weeks, they can be signs of postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression and other postpartum mood disorders can afflict any new mother regardless of age, race, income, national origin, or education level. Estimates range from 1-in-7 to 1-in-10 mothers who experience postpartum depression within a year of giving birth. Fathers, too, can experience moderate to severe postpartum depression. Their depression may show itself as anger or an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Without treatment, postpartum depression can last several months to a year or longer.

Signs of postpartum depression:

  • Feelings of sadness or feeling down
  • Crying easily
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Trouble sleeping, including falling asleep and staying asleep
  • Decreased energy
  • Loss of interest in things that were previously enjoyable
  • Feeling less or more hungry than usual
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Feelings of guilt and/or shame
  • Low self-esteem
  • Frequent and intrusive thoughts of harming your baby
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself

It’s natural to experience mood changes after having a baby. But if the crying, feeling down, irritability, or other symptoms of postpartum depression or other postpartum mood disorders last longer than a few weeks, it’s time to talk to a healthcare provider.

Seasonal affective disorder

Feeling blue when winter sets in is common. But for many, the winter blues become nearly incapacitating. This could be major depression with a seasonal pattern, better known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. Its signs and symptoms arise in the late fall or early winter and dissipate during the brighter days of spring and summer. Symptoms of SAD, including lethargy and fatigue, can start out mild but become more severe during the course of the season.

Symptoms of the fall/winter onset of SAD:

  • Depression, hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of energy, oversleeping
  • Social withdrawal, loss of interest in normally pleasurable activities
  • Craving for high-carb foods, weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating

In some people, the light and warmth of spring and summer can trigger summer depression.

Symptoms of spring/summer SAD:

  • Anxiety
  • Inability to sleep
  • Irritability and/or agitation
  • Decreased appetite, weight loss
  • Increased sex drive

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