Forms of Depression
Major Depressive DisorderMajor depressive disorder, also known as clinical depression, is a serious illness that affects millions of people each year. (The term "clinical" is used to indicate that the condition is serious enough to require clinical intervention.) But clinical depression is far more than the just feeling "depressed," "down," or "blue.") Depression can cause feelings of numbness or emptiness. It can cause a number of physical symptoms, like muscle aches and back pain. In fact, major depressive disorder is a whole-body illness that causes a surprising range of emotional and physical symptoms. Major depressive disorder alters how you think, how you feel, and how you behave. READ MORE
Why are the symptoms of depression so varied? Why does one person brush off an incident as a mere nuisance, and another respond to it by becoming clinically depressed? Scientists are studying depression, its causes, and different ways of alleviating and curing it. But we have a long way to go before we fully understand the disorder. LESS
DysthymiaDysthymia is related to depression but is less severe: it is a mild, but chronic, form of depression. Symptoms of dysthymia can include, in addition to depressed mood, poor appetite or overeating, insomnia or sleeping too much, low energy or fatigue, low self-esteem, poor concentration or difficulty making decisions, and feelings of hopelessness. For a diagnosis of dysthymia, these symptoms must last for a minimum of 2 years, and during this period the person is never without the symptoms for more than 2 months. READ MORE
People who have dysthymia are prone to sink into episodes of major depressive disorder. If an episode of major depressive disorder becomes superimposed on top of an ongoing dysthymia, the person is said to have “double depression.” Often people who have dysthymia report they have been depressed all of their lives, although many people with the disorder do recover. But that’s not necessarily the end of it: another period of dysthymia or major depressive disorder is likely to occur for over 70% of those who recover.
Some scientists view major depressive disorder, dysthymia, and double depression, as well as some other related disorders, as all manifestations of the same disease process. This view is supported by the overlap in symptoms among these variations. LESS
Seasonal Affective DisorderSeasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that generally occurs as the days grow shorter in the autumn and winter. It’s thought that decreasing amounts of sunlight and colder temperatures bring on the symptoms of SAD, which can include excessive eating and craving sugary or starchy foods, sleeping too much or poor sleep, tiredness, fatigue, irritability, crying spells, trouble concentrating, body aches, loss of sex drive, and decreased activity level. People who have SAD that occurs in the fall and winter often (but not always) have full remission of their symptoms in the spring or summer. READ MORE
It’s possible that melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland, may play a role in SAD. Melatonin is produced when light is absent; levels rise at night and decline at dawn.
Less commonly, SAD may occur in the spring and summer. When SAD occurs during these months, the symptoms can include irritability or depression, difficulty concentrating, crying spells, poor sleep, and lack of appetite.
In the US, about 5% of adults are thought to have SAD. Up to 20% of adults have some symptoms of the condition but not enough to meet diagnostic criteria. The condition is about four times as common in women as in men. LESS
Postpartum depressionPostpartum depression is moderate-to-severe depression that begins after a woman has given birth. Usually it starts within the first 3 months after delivery, but it can occur up to a year later. Hormonal changes after birth are normal, and many women experience the “baby blues”—anxiety, irritation, crying spells, and restlessness—soon after their child is born. Normally these symptoms quickly fade. In cases of postpartum depression, however, depressive symptoms don’t disappear after 2 weeks or so and may grow worse over time. READ MORE
Symptoms of postpartum depression are similar to depression symptoms that occur at other times of life. They may include undereating or overeating, feelings of worthlessness, poor sleeping, feeling disconnected, loss of interest in activities, poor concentration, tiredness, having problems accomplishing tasks, anxiety, and thoughts of death or suicide, as well as negative feelings toward the baby. LESS
Comorbidities of DepressionA comorbidity is a medical condition that often accompanies another disorder.
Anxiety disorder. Depression is frequently comorbid with anxiety disorder, in which the person feels an excessive and persistent sense of apprehension. Anxiety disorder includes physical symptoms like sweating, palpitations, and feelings of stress. READ MORE
Bipolar disorder. In bipolar disorder, an individual experiences severe mood swings from periods of extreme depression to periods of exaggerated happiness.
Substance abuse. Depression is also associated with drug (including cocaine and opiates) abuse and alcohol abuse. LESS