Depression is prolific in our society, but those suffering from it come along a broad spectrum. Clinical depression is diagnosed and can be crippling and life-altering. However, other forms of depression can be transitory and relatively mundane. Because the word “depression” can refer to both a clinical condition and an emotional episode, it can easily be misunderstood. Medically speaking, depression is a mood disorder causing persistent feelings of sadness. It is often accompanied by an intense apathy towards people and activities that typically provide joy and meaning. Depression impacts how the individual feels, thinks, and behaves – and often significantly inhibits one’s ability to function effectively daily. There are many types of depression disorders, and many different things cause depressive emotions. Here are five of the most common forms of depression we see in society.
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): The term “clinical depression” refers to major depressive disorders (MDD). Those with major depressive disorder exhibit several key traits: depressed mood, apathy, weight changes, sleep changes, fatigue, emotions involving worthlessness and guilt, lack of focus, and suicidal tendencies. If these symptoms are present for longer than two weeks, they will often receive a diagnosis of MDD.
Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD): In recent years, a condition called dysthymia has been renamed persistent depressive disorder. PDD is a form of chronic depression that manifests most of the time over two years. PDD symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe. There may be short periods of depression lifting, but this relief typically only lasts several weeks. While not considered as serious as major depressive disorder, symptoms are evasive and enduring. These symptoms may include sadness, loss of pleasure, anger, irritability, guilt, low self-esteem, insomnia, oversleeping, loss of appetite, hopelessness, and loss of focus.
Bipolar Disorder: Bipolar disorder is characterized by periods of mania, an abnormally elevated mood. These periods of mania may be mild, or they can be so severe as to cause significant life impairment, necessitate hospitalization, or influence the perception of reality. Most individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder also experience major depressive episodes. Bipolar individuals exhibit all the signs of depression mentioned above, as well as lethargy, unexplained pain, Indecision, and disorganization. In extreme cases, psychosis and hallucination may occur, and the risk of suicide is high.
Postpartum Depression (PPD): Pregnancy often causes hormonal swings that affect mood. This type of depression can first manifest during pregnancy or following the child’s birth. More than just “baby blues”, PPD causes mood swings, anxiety, and irritability. PPD typically lasts about two weeks, but severe cases have been known to persist much longer. In addition to the intense mood swings, symptoms may include sadness, social isolation, trouble bonding with the infant, loss of appetite, hopelessness, feeling inadequate, experiencing panic or anxiety attacks, and thoughts of self–harm (or harm to the baby.) Left untreated, PPD may last as long as a year – however, antidepressants, counseling, and hormone therapy have proven to be effective treatments.
Atypical Depression: As its name indicates, this disorder does not follow the standard progression and presentation of other common forms of depression. People with atypical depression may experience excessive eating or weight gain, excessive sleep, fatigue or weakness, sensitivity to rejection, and disproportionate adverse reactions. However, these individuals typically “bounce back” quickly when circumstances change, they get good news, or a problem resolves.
To adequately treat depression, you must determine exactly what you are faced with. If your medical doctor cannot isolate a physical reason for your symptoms, call a certified mental health counselor to get the help you need.
Denise Schonwald is a nationally certified mental health counselor and coach dedicated to helping those struggling with depression disorders day to day.