Identifying the different types of depression is an important step in determining effective treatment. Here are six common forms of depression.
Did you know that diagnosing depression is still being done pretty much the same way it was 150 years ago? In most cases, the sufferer goes to the doctor and describes his or her symptoms. This often results in them receiving a prescription for an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication as well as talk therapy.
However, depression is a mental health condition that’s as multifaceted as its name is vague. In fact, the word “depression” is a loose term for multiple diagnoses. Each with a differing range of symptoms and treatments. And due to a lack of education or awareness, many people don’t know there are different types of depression. Nor that one person’s symptoms might not mirror another’s.
Identifying Different Types of Depressions
As people’s symptoms manifest differently, a one-size-fits-all approach to treating depression is not ideal. Therefore, this means that knowing what type of depression you have is as important as the treatment sought. These are the six most common forms of depression and their more typical treatment options.
1. Major Depressive Disorder
Major Depressive Disorder is also referred to as major depression, clinical depression or unipolar (as opposed to bipolar) depression. It is the most commonly diagnosed form of depression. It’s a condition whose primary symptom is an overwhelming depressed mood for more than two weeks. 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 motivate themselves. As a result, even seeking treatment for this condition can be challenging.
Treatment: Depending on the severity of the symptoms, usually a combination of counselling and antidepressant medication.
2. Persistent Depressive Disorder
Persistent depressive disorder is historically known as dysthymia. This form of depression occurs when depressive symptoms become chronic. Though the symptoms can be very similar to major depressive disorder, those with this persistent variation may have less severe symptoms. However, their symptoms continue for a more extended period – sometimes defined as two years or longer. Doctors have not identified an exact cause of the disorder, but it does seem to run in families.
Treatment: Some medications work for persistent depressive patients. But, notably, they may take longer to work. Or be less effective than in major depressive patients because of how entrenched the symptoms are. Counselling is strongly recommended.
3. Psychotic Depression
Psychotic depression is characterised not only by depressive symptoms but also by hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there) or delusions (irrational thoughts and fears). Often psychotically depressed people become paranoid. Alternatively, they come to believe that their thoughts are not their own or that others can “hear” their thoughts. People with other mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, also experience these symptoms. However, those with psychotic depression are usually aware that these thoughts aren’t true. They may be ashamed or embarrassed and try to hide them, sometimes making this variation difficult to diagnose.
Treatment: Counselling together with combinations of antidepressants and antipsychotic medications have proven to be most effective in easing symptoms. Electroconvulsive therapy has also been shown to be successful. But is generally considered a second line of treatment.
4. Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is thought to be related to the variation in light exposure at different times of the year. It is characterised by mood disturbances (either periods of depression or mania) that begin and end in a particular season. For example, depression that starts in winter and subsides when the season ends is the most common. It is usually diagnosed after the person has had the same symptoms during winter for a couple of years. People with SAD are more likely to experience a lack of energy, sleep too much, overeat, gain weight and crave carbohydrates.
Treatment: A combination of counselling and antidepressants. Light therapy, in which a specialised light box or visor is used for at least 30 minutes daily to replicate natural light, has also proven effective.
5. Bipolar Depression
Depression is also a symptom of other disorders, such as bipolar disorder (sometimes called manic depressive disorder). For those with bipolar disorder, periods of extreme lows are followed by periods of extreme highs. Symptoms may cycle between depression and mania. During where sufferers experience high energy, excitement, racing thoughts and, often, poor judgment a few times a year. Alternatively, the cycles could be shorter and therefore much more rapid. This disorder has one of the highest risks for suicide.
Treatment: Usually, a combination of mood-stabilising drugs and psychological therapy.
6. Postnatal Depression
This type of mood disorder is also called postpartum depression. It occurs in some new mothers in the weeks or months following childbirth. Postnatal depression has long been thought to be triggered by hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. Although, some believe that it may have more to do with an inability to adapt to new circumstances or a lack of social support. Accordingly, pregnant women who are most at risk are those who have little faith in their future abilities to provide effective care for their babies. As are those who generally feel ill-equipped to become mothers.
Treatment: Antidepressant drugs in combination with regular counselling.
Like any mental disorder, depression is best diagnosed by a mental health professional. Therefore, a psychologist or psychiatrist that has specific experience and training in making an accurate diagnosis. However, a family doctor or general practitioner can also make a diagnosis. After which it is unusually recommended that you also obtain a referral to a mental health professional for follow-up care.
Assisting those with Depression
The services of counsellors and psychologists are essential to combatting depression and othermental health epidemics. If you believe you have a role to play in this great struggle, SACAP offers a number of mental health courses that can help prepare you to assist others. To find out more, click here.
1. What is the most common type of depression?
Major Depressive Disorder is the most diagnosed form of depression. It is characterised by at least two weeks of overwhelming depressed mood which negatively impacts all areas of someone’s life.
2. What are the usual symptoms of depression?
The most common symptom of depression is a continuous low mood or sadness. It is also common to feel hopeless, tearful and have little to no motivation or interest in things. Some people feel irritable or battle to make decisions. Suicidal or self-harming thoughts can also occur when someone is depressed.
3. How is depression treated?
Depression, diagnosed by a medical professional, is usually treated with anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication and/or talk therapy or counselling. What approach is used and for how long, depends on which type of depression someone is diagnosed with.