There are different types of depression. Events in your life cause some, and chemical changes in your brain cause others. Symptoms can range from relatively minor (but still disabling) through to very severe, so it is helpful to be aware of the range of conditions and their specific symptoms. Like any mental disorder, depression is best diagnosed by a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, who has specific experience and training in making an accurate diagnosis.
Major Depressive Disorder:
The most commonly diagnosed form of depression is Major Depressive Disorder, which is characterized by a depressed mood for more than two weeks, among other symptoms. The depressed mood affects all facets of the person’s life, including work, home life, relationships and friendships. A person with this kind of depression often finds it difficult to do much of anything or get motivated, so even going to seek treatment for this condition can be challenging.
Someone with bipolar disorder, which used to be called “manic depression,” has mood episodes that range from extremes of high energy with an “up” mood to low “depressive” periods.
When you’re in the low phase, you’ll have the symptoms of major depression.
Another type of depression is called Dysthymia. Dysthymia is similar to Major Depressive Disorder, but the symptoms occur over a much longer period of time – more than 2 years. This is considered a chronic form of depression, and treatment can be challenging as an individual with Dysthymia has often already tried all manner of treatment. Individuals diagnosed with this condition can also suffer from occasional bouts of Major Depressive Disorder.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Seasonal affective disorder is a period of major depression that most often happens during the winter months, when the days grow short and you get less and less sunlight. People with SAD are more likely to experience lack of energy, sleep too much, overeat, gain weight and crave for carbohydrates. SAD is very rare in Australia and more likely to be found in countries with shorter days and longer periods of darkness, such as in the cold climate areas of the Northern Hemisphere.
People with psychotic depression have the symptoms of major depression along with “psychotic” symptoms, such as:
- Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
- Delusions (false beliefs)
- Paranoia (wrongly believing that others are trying to harm you)
Women who have major depression in the weeks and months after childbirth may have postpartum depression. It is critical to identify this danger and treat it early. During pregnancy, the amount of two female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, in a woman’s body increases greatly. In the first 24 hours after childbirth, the amount of these hormones rapidly drops back down to their normal non-pregnant levels. Researchers think the fast change in hormone levels may lead to depression, just as smaller changes in hormones can affect a woman’s moods before she gets her menstrual period.
This type is different than the persistent sadness of typical depression. If you have atypical depression, a positive event can temporarily improve your mood.
Other symptoms of atypical depression include:
- Increased appetite
- Sleeping more than usual
- Feeling of heaviness in your arms and legs
- Oversensitive to criticism