Bringing Awareness to Mental Illnesses: Types of Depression

First things first, depression is NOT just sadness, and it is not a sign of weakness, either. It is completely normal to feel sad once in a while, however it becomes a concern when that low feeling persists and begins to negatively affect the quality of your daily life.

Many people don’t even know that there are different types of depression— some that are caused by events in your life, and others caused by chemical changes in the brain— but each type and the symptoms that correspond are extremely unique to the individual, and the causes can vary vastly.  Below I have compiled a list of different types of depression in hopes that it will bring more awareness to mental illnesses. Also, if you are concerned about yourself or someone you know, contact your doctor or another professional.


Major Depressive Disorder

This is the most commonly known type of depression, and very commonly diagnosed. Usually lasting for several weeks to several months, this persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest can lead to a range of behavioral and physical symptoms, which may include changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, concentration, daily behavior, or self-esteem, and can also be associated with thoughts of suicide. As depression is the “mother” of mental illnesses, it may be a cause, an effect, or may simply coexist with many other mental disorders.


Persistent Depressive Disorder

When the symptoms of depression last for two years or longer, it becomes known as Persistent Depressive Disorder. PDD is not as severe as major depression, however its persistence can make it just as disruptive to an individual’s life. It is also sometimes referred to as dysthymia (low-grade persistent depression) or chronic major depression. People affected by this type of depression may be seen as having a gloomy personality, constantly complaining, may have low self-esteem, and may avoid social activities. However, of course, it is important to reiterate that this isn’t true for everyone with this disorder. Persistent depressive disorder symptoms usually come and go over a period of years, and their intensity can change over time.


Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is pretty well known, however that doesn’t mean that it is understood. Although bipolar is classified as its own disorder, it is also considered a type of depression. Sometimes called “manic depression,” Someone with this condition will experience periods of extremely high energy followed by periods of depression.


Seasonal Affective Disorder

This type of depression is another pretty common one. It is defined as a “period of major depression that most often happens during the winter months, when the days grow short and you get less and less sunlight.” It typically goes away in the spring and summer. It is also known as the “winter blues” but it may also coinciding with summer months. Risk factors for SAD include being female, young age, living far north or south from the equator, family history or a personal history of depression. Treatment include medication, light therapy or psychotherapy. Vitamin D is not considered an effective treatment however “some studies suggest vitamin D supplementation may be as effective as light therapy, others found vitamin D had no effect.”


Psychotic Depression

People with this type of depression have symptoms of major depression as well as "psychotic" symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia. This is referred to as psychosis. The combination of hallucinations and delusional thinking “can cause severe distress and a change in behaviour.” It may sound similar to schizophrenia, but schizophrenia is a mental illness that causes psychosis, it is not the only symptom of the disorder. Hallucinations are sensations that are not real, and they can be experiences with any sense: hearing, sight, smell, taste, or touch. Delusions are strong beliefs that can’t possibly be true, like that someone is following or monitoring you or that you have special powers. For psychotic depression, The delusions and hallucinations almost always reflect the person's deeply depressed mood. Other symptoms include difficulties concentrating, completing tasks, or making decisions, and some people have a hard time following conversations or speaking clearly. Psychosis can even affect the way people move or express their emotions.


Premenstrual Dysphoric Depression

Sometimes it’s not just PMS, but PMDD. While premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is completely normal for women, those who suffer from PMDD find their symptoms debilitating, and often interfere with their daily lives, including work, school, social life, and relationships. The cause isn’t clear, however many researchers believe it may be “an abnormal reaction to hormone changes related to your menstrual cycle”.


“Situational” Depression

Although not a technical term, this type of depression occurs during or after a stressful event in your life such as a death in your family, a divorce, or losing your job. Typically short term and often referred to as adjustment disorder, the symptoms may be more or less identical to that of clinical depression, with some key differences. People with clinical depression have “forms of these symptoms that are severe enough to seriously degrade their ability to participate in their normal routines”, and in many cases of situational depression, it can be treated if not completely cured just by taking certain steps to limit their effects, such as regular exercise and maintaining a healthy diet and sleep schedule.


Atypical Depression

This type of depression is different than the persistent sadness of typical depression, and is considered to be a "specifier" that describes a pattern of depressive symptoms. If you have atypical depression, a positive event can temporarily improve your mood. There are specific symptoms linked to atypical depression, including “increased appetite or weight gain, sleepiness or excessive sleep, marked fatigue or weakness, moods that are strongly reactive to environmental circumstances, and feeling extremely sensitive to rejection.”



**DISCLAIMER: Not intended to be used for diagnosis


Sources: Mayo Clinic