What are the types of depression?

Mental Health

Seven common types of depression are:

Major depressive disorder

a woman looking sad because she is experiencing one of the Types of depressionShare on Pinterest
A person with major depressive disorder may feel guilty, worthless, and hopeless.

Major depressive disorder is the classic form of depression. People with major depression experience symptoms that may include:

  • sadness
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and hopelessness
  • difficulty sleeping
  • changes in appetite
  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • feeling “empty”
  • thoughts of suicide

Depression can also cause physical symptoms, such as aches and pains. It can affect thoughts and concentration and lead to difficulties in making decisions and remembering things.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 17.3 million adults in the U.S. experienced at least one episode of major depression in 2017. This number equates to 7.1% of all U.S. adults.

Major depressive disorder appears to be more common among women and in those between the ages of 18 and 25 years.

Persistent depressive disorder

People with persistent depressive disorder have symptoms of depression that last for 2 years or more. Other names for this condition include dysthymia and dysthymic disorder.

The severity of the low mood is not as intense as with major depression or other types of depression, but it tends to last longer.

Even though people with persistent depressive disorder can function in their daily lives, they may feel as though they rarely or never experience joy.

As with major depression, persistent depressive disorder can affect sleep, appetite, energy levels, and self-esteem.

The NIMH estimate that 1.3% of U.S. adults experience persistent depressive disorder at some point during their lives. It also appears to be almost twice as common in women as in men.

Postpartum and perinatal depression

Postpartum depression refers to depression that develops within the first year of giving birth. It differs from the “baby blues,” which is a phenomenon that affects up to 80% of mothers after giving birth.

People with the baby blues experience relatively mild anxiety, fatigue, and sadness that typically persist for a few days before going away without treatment. Postpartum depression, on the other hand, causes more extreme symptoms of depression.

Postpartum depression affects almost 15% of births, with symptoms most commonly appearing within 1 week to 1 month of the delivery. Treatment is usually necessary for those with postpartum depression.

People can also experience depression throughout pregnancy. Doctors use the revised term perinatal depression to describe depression that occurs both during pregnancy and after the birth of the baby.

Major depressive disorder with psychotic features

Psychotic depression occurs when an individual has severe depression alongside psychosis. The revisions to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) have changed the name of this condition to “major depressive disorder” with the specifier “with psychotic features.”

People with psychosis may have false beliefs (delusions) or hear or see things that are not happening (hallucinations).

The symptoms of psychotic depression usually have a “theme,” such as delusions of guilt, illness, or poverty.

The findings of a 2018 study suggest that the lifetime prevalence of psychotic depression ranges from 0.35–1%, with higher rates in older adults.

Major depressive disorder with seasonal pattern

Previously known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), major depressive disorder with seasonal pattern is a type of depression that occurs in the winter months. It is more common in areas that are farther away from the equator.

SAD causes symptoms similar to those of other forms of depression, including anxiety, fatigue, and weight gain.

The American Psychiatric Association report that SAD affects approximately 5% of people in the U.S.

Experts believe that SAD occurs in some people due to the lack of natural light. However, they do not know why it affects some people and not others. Symptoms typically last from early winter to spring.

A less common form of SAD, which is called summer-onset seasonal affective disorder, occurs in the spring and summer months.

Situational depression

Situational depression, or adjustment disorder, occurs in some people who experience a traumatic or life-altering event. Doctors diagnose it more often in children and adolescents.

Examples of such events include:

  • divorce
  • being the victim of a violent crime
  • job loss
  • bereavement
  • chronic illness

In children, stressful events may also include a family move, the birth of a sibling, and the separation of parents.

To receive a diagnosis of situational depression, the person must show symptoms of depression that a mental health professional would consider unhealthy or excessive, given the situation.

While symptoms may resolve on their own, treatment is sometimes necessary to prevent the depression from getting worse or becoming chronic.

Major depressive disorder with atypical features

Atypical depression is a form of depression in which the symptoms differ from the usual symptoms of depression.

Doctors do not understand this form of depression as well as they do other types. They may diagnose it as “major depressive disorder with atypical features.”

One key feature of atypical depression is that the person’s mood temporarily lifts when something positive happens. Doctors call this “mood reactivity.”

Researchers state that a person must have two or more of the following symptoms in addition to mood reactivity to receive a diagnosis of atypical depression:

  • significant weight gain
  • increase in appetite
  • hypersomnia, or sleeping too much
  • leaden paralysis, or a feeling of heaviness in the limbs and body
  • sensitivity to rejection from others that results in significant social problems or issues at work

Older research indicates that atypical depression typically has a high prevalence rate, starts when a person is younger, and lasts longer than other types of depression. It is more common in those with bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders.

Medication, therapy, and a combination of both are the most common treatments for most types of depression.

However, some types of depression may respond well to other forms of treatment. For example, light therapy can be effective for those with SAD.

Medication

Several types of antidepressant medications are available. People vary in their response to different drugs, and there is often a period of trial and error before they find the right medication or combination of medications.

Types of antidepressants include:

  • selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • tricyclic antidepressants
  • monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • atypical antidepressants

Other medications that can be helpful include anti-anxiety drugs, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers.

Individuals should discuss the benefits and potential risks of antidepressant use with their doctor.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, can be an effective treatment for depression. One form of psychotherapy that may be helpful for those with depression is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Other forms may also be beneficial.

Therapy is most effective when people find the most suitable style of therapy and the right therapist for them.

Psychotherapy can help people adjust to their life circumstances, challenge negative thoughts, and learn healthy ways to deal with stress.

It can also give people the awareness to identify issues that contribute to their depression and the space to set life goals.

Other treatments

In severe cases of depression, a doctor may recommend a form of brain stimulation therapy, such as electroconvulsive therapy or transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Light therapy can help people with SAD.

A doctor can recommend lifestyle changes to support depression treatment. These can include:

  • eating a healthful diet
  • exercising regularly
  • developing stress-management techniques

They may also provide people with information about local or online depression support groups.

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