What is depression?
Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease your ability to function at work and at home. Depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is a mood disorder that makes you feel constant sadness or lack of interest in life.
Most people feel sad or depressed at times. It’s a normal reaction to loss or life's challenges. But when intense sadness -- including feeling helpless, hopeless, and worthless -- lasts for many days or weeks and keeps you from living your life, it may be something more than sadness. You could have clinical depression, a treatable medical condition. Depression is a common illness worldwide, with more than 264 million people affected. Depression is different from usual mood fluctuations and short-lived emotional responses to challenges in everyday life. Especially when long-lasting and with moderate or severe intensity, depression may become a serious health condition. It can cause the affected person to suffer greatly and function poorly at work, at school and in the family. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide. Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds and depression is the leading cause of suicide.
Types of depression.
Everyone goes through periods of deep sadness and grief. These feelings usually fade away within a few days or weeks, depending on the circumstances. But profound sadness that lasts more than two weeks and affects your ability to function may be a sign of depression.
Depression affects everyone differently, and you might only have some of these symptoms. You may also have other symptoms that aren’t listed here. Keep in mind that it’s also normal to have some of these symptoms from time to time without having depression. But if they start to impact your day-to-day life, they may be the result of depression.
There are many types of depression. While they share some common symptoms, they also have some key differences. Here's a look at nine types of depression and how they affect people.
1. Major depression
Major depression is also known as major depressive disorder, classic depression, or unipolar depression. It’s fairly common that about 16.2 million adults in the U.S. have experienced at least one major depressive episode.
People with major depression experience symptoms most of the day, every day. Like many mental health conditions, it has little to do with what’s happening around you. You can have a loving family, tons of friends, and a dream job. You can have the kind of life that others envy and still have depression.
2. Persistent depression
Persistent depressive disorder is depression that lasts for two years or more. It’s also called dysthymia or chronic depression. Persistent depression might not feel as intense as major depression, but it can still strain relationships and make daily tasks difficult. Though it’s a long-term type of depression, the severity of symptoms can become less intense for months at a time before worsening again.
3. Manic depression, or bipolar disorder
Manic depression consists of periods of mania or hypomania, where you feel very happy, alternating with episodes of depression. Manic depression is an outdated name for bipolar disorder. In order to be diagnosed with bipolar I disorder, you have to experience an episode of mania that lasts for seven days, or less if hospitalization is required. You may experience a depressive episode before or following the manic episode.
4. Depressive psychosis
Some people with major depression also go through periods of losing touch with reality. This is known as psychosis, which can involve hallucinations and delusions. Experiencing both of these together is known clinically as major depressive disorder with psychotic features. However, some providers still refer to this phenomenon as depressive psychosis or psychotic depression.
Hallucinations are when you see, hear, smell, taste, or feel things that aren’t really there. An example of this would be hearing voices or seeing people who aren’t present. A delusion is a closely held belief that’s clearly false or doesn’t make sense. But to someone experiencing psychosis, all of these things are very real and true.
5. Perinatal depression
Perinatal depression, which is clinically known as major depressive disorder with peripartum onset, occurs during pregnancy or within four weeks of childbirth. It’s often called postpartum depression. But that term only applies to depression after giving birth. Perinatal depression can occur while you’re pregnant.
Hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy and childbirth can trigger changes in the brain that lead to mood swings. The lack of sleep and physical discomfort that often accompanies pregnancy and having a newborn doesn’t help, either.
6. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). While PMS symptoms can be both physical and psychological, PMDD symptoms tend to be mostly psychological.
These psychological symptoms are more severe than those associated with PMS. For example, some women might feel more emotional in the days leading up to their period. But someone with PMDD might experience a level of depression and sadness that gets in the way of day-to-day functions.
7. Seasonal depression
Seasonal depression, also called seasonal affective disorder and clinically known as major depressive disorder with seasonal pattern, is depression that’s related to certain seasons. For most people, it tends to happen during the winter months.
Seasonal depression may get worse as the season progresses and can lead to suicidal thoughts. Once spring rolls around, symptoms tend to improve. This might be related to changes in your bodily rhythms in response to the increase in natural light.
8. Situational depression
Situational depression, clinically known as adjustment disorder with depressed mood, looks like major depression in many respects.
Of course, it’s normal to feel sad and anxious during events like these even to withdraw from others for a bit. But situational depression happens when these feelings start to feel out of proportion with the triggering event and interfere with your daily life.
9. Atypical depression
Atypical depression refers to depression that temporarily goes away in response to positive events. Your doctor might refer to it as a major depressive disorder with atypical features.
Despite its name, atypical depression isn’t unusual or rare. It also doesn’t mean that it’s more or less serious than other types of depression.