There are several common types of depression, each with unique characteristics. Here are the 5 types of depression and how treatment helps.
5 Types of Depression
If you or someone you know is living with depression, you might see or experience symptoms that don’t look like what you expect. Did you know that there are many different types of depression? Not all of them look the same or have the same causes or symptoms.
Here are 5 types of depression and the treatment that can make a difference.
Major depression is probably the type of depression that comes to mind when you think about this mental health issue. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, major depression affects people most days of the week and most hours of the day. It’s a persistent loss of pleasure and interest in what’s going on around you and activities that you once enjoyed. Each episode lasts at least two weeks, but it could last longer. It will tend to get a bit better and a bit worse at various times throughout the person’s life and will not generally go away, but it can be managed with various treatments.
Depending on the severity and persistence of the depression, medications may or may not be necessary. Some people find that getting exercise daily, along with psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy, is enough to alleviate most symptoms of mild depression. For moderate to severe cases or mild cases where lifestyle changes aren’t working, antidepressants might be used along with therapy. With these treatments, a person with major depression can live a satisfying and happy life.
Persistent Depressive Disorder
Persistent depressive disorder is similar to major depression in that it can affect a person’s entire life, but it differs because it remains at a constant level for two years or more rather than ebbing and flowing over weeks or months. It also tends not to be as severe as major depression; it could be described as a low level of depression that is always there. Sometimes this type of depression is called “high-functioning depression” because the person who has it can hold down a job, parent effectively, maintain relationships, and so on despite feeling depressed most or all of the time.
As with major depression, people with persistent depressive disorder can benefit from a combination of lifestyle changes, antidepressant medications, and therapy. The type of treatment that works for each person is different, so it might take some tinkering with dosages and therapy types to find the right combination for each individual.
Bipolar depression, sometimes referred to as manic depression, is an alternating cycle of depressive periods followed by periods of mania. The type of bipolar disorder will determine how quickly a person cycles. During depressive periods, the individual might be severely affected by sadness, apathy, and a general feeling of not being able to get out of bed. During manic periods, the opposite occurs: The individual might have days, weeks, or months of incredible energy where they talk quickly and engage in high-risk behavior. In some cases, delusions are involved, particularly during the manic periods of the illness.
People with bipolar disorders often need mood stabilizers to help moderate the highs and the lows. In addition, they might take different medications, whether they are in a depressive or manic phase. Psychotherapy is also important in supporting the person affected and one’s family and loved ones.
People who are pregnant or recently postpartum can have depression caused by or associated with their pregnancies. Drastic hormone changes during and after childbirth contribute to this type of depression. This is not necessarily caused solely by hormone fluctuations, though it can be. Other reasons could be if the person is not happy to be pregnant or if they find motherhood much harder than they thought it would be. A combination of antidepressants and therapy can be helpful.
Some people who are menstruating also have depression that is caused by different hormone levels in the premenstrual period. These individuals might feel fine for two to three weeks out of the month but then experience the symptoms of depression after they ovulate or during their menstrual periods (or both). In some cases, oral contraceptives are enough to bring this type of depression under control. Other times, antidepressants are needed.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
People who feel depressed during the winter but not in spring or summer might have seasonal affective disorder. This condition can be caused by various things, but the short periods of daylight seem to be the catalyst. Since the condition might only last for several weeks or, at most, a few months before getting better each spring, people might not realize that they should seek treatment for it.
Treatments include antidepressants, therapy, light therapy, and, in some cases, vitamin D supplementation. The light and vitamin D can help supplement what the person would otherwise be getting from the sun in the spring and summer months. Spending time outdoors, even if the weather is cold, overcast, or snowy, can also help. So can regular exercise, particularly outdoors: Going for a daily walk in the winter, even a short one, can expose you to enough sun rays to help combat this type of depression.
In addition to these five types of depression, there are also types of depression, such as psychotic depression and situational depression. And, of course, there are also depression symptoms that don’t seem to match any one form of depression. This is called atypical depression. Depression can show up with or without anxiety, substance addiction, autism, and other mental health issues. Seeing a well-qualified mental health provider can go a long way toward helping you identify what type of depression you have as well as learning about the different treatments that are most likely to be effective.
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Last medically reviewed October 9, 2022