Types of Depression, Their Symptoms and Treatment Options

There are different common forms of depressive disorders and each has its own unique symptoms.

Diagnosing the type of depression from its symptoms is important to the psychiatrist as it helps him or her to chalk out the line of its treatment.

Major Depressive Disorder (Also known as Major Depression or Clinical Depression)

This is the type of depression most often referred to when people talk about depression as a disease.

This form of depression shows a combination of symptoms, which interfere with daily needs such as eating, sleeping, work, study along with an inability to enjoy activities which he or she once enjoyed. Difficulties in sleeping or eating can mean either in excess or insufficient.

This kind of depression can be moderate or severe and typically lasts for about six months if left untreated. Though it is a recurring form of depression, some people may experience only one episode in their lifetime.

Major depression disables the life of the patient and can prevent him or her from carrying on their daily activities.

Treatment options include talk therapy and antidepressants drugs. When these options do not work, your doctor may suggest

  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or
  • Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)

ECT uses electrical impulses and rTMS uses a special kind of magnet that stimulates certain areas of the brain into proper action. This improves the function of the parts of your brain that control mood to work better.

Persistent Depressive Disorder (PAD)

PAD is also referred to as Dysthymia or Chronic Depression and as the name suggests, this type of depression typically shows low-grade chronic depression (less severe than major depression) but which lasts continuous and long-term for two years or more. Though the person feels low, it does not disable the person but does not allow him or her to function at full capacity.

Due to its long time period, it does give the person an impression that this feeling of depression or feeling low is an inbuilt part of his nature and not anything abnormal.

During a lifetime, there may be one or two bouts of major depression along with dysthymia and this combination of two depressions is called double-depression.

The symptoms of Dysthymia often begin to appear early on during childhood or adolescence

They usually come and their intensity can vary. But typically, symptoms are continuous for more than two months at a time.

Symptoms include a depressed mood that lasts most of the day, having a poor appetite or overeating, difficulty in falling asleep and staying asleep, fatigue, low self-esteem, inability to concentrate, or difficulty in taking decisions and a feeling of hopelessness.

Treatment options include psychotherapy or medication, or a combination of both.

Atypical Depression

This form of depression is characterized by moods that improve or become worse depending on events.

Persons with this kind of depression feel better when they receive good news or when they are at a social gathering with friends. However, this mood lift is temporary.

Other symptoms include increased appetite, weight gain, excessive sleep, a nature very sensitive to insults, fatigue and a heavy feeling in the arms or legs.

The first line of treatment for Atypical depression is an antidepressant drug called SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor). But, in some cases, your doctor may prescribe an older type of antidepressant called an MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor).

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Also called seasonal depression, this depression has a direct bearing on the season.  This type of depression starts in winter when the days are overcast and bright sunlight is limited and lasts until spring or early summer.

The seasonal affected disorder is more commonly seen in northern climates. This form of depression is seen to affect about 1% to 2% of the population, particularly women and young people. However, very rarely, SAD may start in spring or early summer and lift in winter. This is referred to as “summer depression”.

Symptoms include an unrelenting low mood, a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities, feeling irritable, feelings of despair and guilt, low self-esteem, feeling stressed or anxious and a reduced sex drive.

Antidepressants can help in patients suffering from SAD. Exercise and outdoor activities in bright daylight are advised.

Light therapy is another option, which helps. You will be required to sit or work in front of a special type of bright light box for about 15 to30 minutes every day. Its bright light mimics natural outdoor light.

Postpartum Depression (PPD)

Postpartum is a medical term for post delivery of a baby. Baby blues is a condition that is seen in 75% of women after they have given birth. Baby blues refers to mild depression, which mothers may experience after giving birth to their baby. Symptoms include despair, sadness, anxiety, and irritability.

Baby blues develops because of the mother’s overwhelming feeling in response to the hormonal and physical changes after delivery and the feeling of responsibility of caring for her newborn child. This lasts only for a few hours or at most a few days.

Postpartum depression refers to a more serious form of depression, which is seen in one out of ten mothers who have given birth.

The National Institute of Mental Health defines postpartum depression as a severe depression, which a new mother develops within one month after giving birth to her baby and possibly even 30 weeks postpartum.

This form of depression can develop after giving birth to any child and not necessarily the first one and it can develop days or even months after childbirth.

It keeps the mother from doing her daily routine work. In untreated cases, the symptoms can get worse and can last for almost a year. Though this condition is serious, it can successfully be treated with medicines and counseling.

Antidepressant drugs used to treat major depression that is unrelated to childbirth, work well in PPD.

Bipolar Disorder or Manic Depression

This is also referred to as manic-depressive illness and is less common than major depression and dysthymia.

This kind of depression or disorder is characterized by a complex mood disorder in which there are cyclic mood changes in which periods of major depression alternate with periods of extreme happiness or mania.

Symptoms of manic episodes can include hyperactivity, sleeplessness, rapid speech, impulsive attitude, sudden changes from extreme joy to being angry and hostile and a strong sex drive.

Each of these episodes of depression and mania lasts typically up to a few weeks. Though the symptoms of depression in bipolar are similar to those of major depression, the treatment varies and antidepressants can worsen the depression of bipolar disorder.

Medication can help manage your mood swings. Whether you’re in a high or a low phase, your doctor may put you on a mood stabilizer, such as lithium.

Psychotherapy is also useful as an additive support both for you and your family.

The FDA has approved three medicines for treating the depressed phase of bipolar depression. They include Seroquel, Latuda and an Olanzapine-fluoxetine combination.

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