It’s common to feel down from time to time or to feel sad about some event that may have happened in your life. In fact, as we discussed in the article “Personal Development: 5 reasons for self-reflection”, suffering can make you grow as a person.

However, it should be noted that not all forms of distress are the same, and sometimes what we believe to be the sadness intrinsic to the “normal” way of living life can be one of several types of depression.

Depression, a multifactorial disorder

If the suffering is persistent, you are sad most of the time and it affects your daily life, you may suffer from depression , a mood disorder that can seriously affect our life.

It is not always easy to know when this phenomenon has made its mark on us, as there are several types of depression and therefore the ways in which its presence can be identified vary. Let’s see, then, what the characteristics of these types of depression are in order to know, in each case, what we are facing.

Types of depression and their characteristics

Depression is common these days, and it is common for people to turn to drugs to relieve the pain felt with this condition. prozac (fluoxetine), also called the drug of happiness , is commonly used in developed societies.

Treatment with drugs is only advisable in very serious cases, and it is always better to resort to psychological therapy for proper treatment. It is important to understand that psychologists can also help you overcome depression by using their techniques and methods, which do not have to include any psychotropic drugs.

Depression is part of mood disorders and affects our well-being , our social interaction, our appetite and sexual desire. As there are many types of depression and each one has its own characteristics, here are the different types of depression

1. Major depression

Major depression is the most serious type of depression.

It is characterized by the appearance of one or more depressive episodes lasting at least 2 weeks. It usually begins during adolescence or young adulthood. The person suffering from this type of depression may experience phases of normal mood between depressive phases that may last months or years.

It is classified within the unipolar episodes since there are no phases of mania, and it can produce very serious problems for the patient if it is not treated effectively. In fact, suicidal ideation can lead to death if it is translated into effective actions to end one’s life.

Symptoms of major depression

These are some of the symptoms of major depression according to the manual DSM-IV-TR :

  • Depressed mood most of the day, almost every day (1)
  • Loss of interest in previously rewarding activities (2)
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Low self-esteem
  • Concentration and decision making problems
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Psychomotor agitation or delay almost every day
  • Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day

According to the DSM-IV, there should be five (or more) of the above symptoms over a 2-week period , which represent a change from previous activity; one of the symptoms should be (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or ability to feel pleasure.

Types of major depression

Within major depression, there are different types of major depression :

  1. Depression with single episode : caused by a single event in life and depression has only that appearance.
  2. Recurrent depression : Appearance of depressive symptoms in two or more episodes in the patient’s life. The separation between an episode should be at least 2 months without symptoms.

2. Dysthymia

Among the types of depression, dysthymia is less severe than major depression . It is a type of unipolar depression (does not include manic symptoms) and interferes with the normal functioning and well-being of the individual suffering from it.

The essential characteristic of this disorder is that the patient feels depressed for most of the day, most days for at least 2 years. There is not necessarily a need for strong sadness, but often there is a feeling of lack of purpose and motivation, as if nothing matters.

Many people with dysthymia may also have severe depressive episodes at some point in their lives.

Symptoms of Dysthymia

The symptoms of dysthymia are:

  • Loss or increase of appetite
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Lack of energy or fatigue
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Feelings of hopelessness

3. Manic depression

This type of disorder, also called bipolar disorder, is classified as a type of mood disorder . Although we can include it among the types of depression, it combines depressive states with manic states, that is, there are extreme ups and downs. Bipolar disorder is a serious pathology, and should not be confused with a state of emotional instability.

The treatment is different from that of major depression, and requires mood stabilizers (such as lithium), as well as professional accompaniment through psychotherapy and attention to the patient’s family environment.

Symptoms of Manic Depression

The depressive symptoms may include

  • Persistent feelings of sadness
  • Feeling of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling of inadequacy
  • Excessive guilt
  • Death wish
  • Loss of interest in usual or previously enjoyed activities
  • Difficulty in relationships
  • Sleep disturbance (e.g., insomnia, hypersomnia)
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Decreased decision-making ability
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Frequent physical complaints (e.g., headache, stomachache, fatigue)
  • Attempts or threats to run away from home
  • Hypersensitivity to failure or rejection
  • Irritability, hostility, aggression

The manic symptoms may include

  • Exaggerated self-esteem
  • Less need for rest and sleep
  • Increased distraction and irritability
  • Excessive participation in pleasurable, high-risk activities that can lead to painful consequences, e.g. provocative, destructive or anti-social behaviour (sexual promiscuity, reckless driving, alcohol and drug abuse)
  • Increased loquacity (e.g., increased speed of speech, rapid changes in topic, intolerance to interruptions)
  • Feelings of “excitement” or euphoria
  • Marked mood changes, such as unusually happy or silly, strangely angry, agitated or aggressive
  • Increased sex drive
  • Higher energy level
  • Little Common Sense in Sensible People

4. Seasonal depressive disorder (SAD)

This depressive state is called seasonal depressive disorder (SAD) and is characterized by occurring during a certain time of the year, usually during the winter .

Symptoms usually intensify slowly in the late fall and winter months. These symptoms are very similar to those of other types of depression:

  • Hopelessness
  • Increased appetite with weight gain
  • Increased sleep (poor sleep is more common with other forms of depression)
  • Less energy and ability to concentrate
  • Loss of interest in work and other activities
  • Slow movements
  • Social isolation
  • Sadness and irritability

There is also another variant of SAD that some people suffer from in the summer:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Restlessness

5. Psychotic depression

Psychotic depression is a subtype of major depression which occurs when a severe depressive illness includes some kind of psychosis . Unlike the other types of depression, it is characterised by the presence of psychotic symptoms: hallucinations and/or delusions that qualitatively alter the way in which reality is perceived.

6. Postpartum depression

Among the types of depression, we can include postpartum depression. It is characterised by the fact that can occur shortly after childbirth .

This type of depression can occur up to a year after a woman has given birth, although it is common to occur within the first three months after delivery.

Causes of postpartum depression

Some of the causes of postpartum depression are as follows:

  • Body-wide changes in pregnancy and childbirth (e.g., due to hormonal change)
  • Changes in labour and social relations
  • Having less time and freedom for herself
  • Changes in sleep-wake cycle due to birth
  • Concerns about her ability to be a good mother

Bibliographic references:

  • National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health. Depression. (2009). The treatment and management of depression in adults (updated edition). National Clinical Practice Guideline Number 90. London: British Psychological Society and Royal College of Psychiatrists.
  • Goffman, E. (1998). Stigma. Deteriorated identity. Editorial Amorrortu, Buenos Aires, 1998 (1st edition in English: Stigma. Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Prentice-Hall, Inc.