Depression Might Be Different. Most Common Types Explained

When people think of depression, they may not realize there are different types of depression. Each type occurs under specific circumstances, with some requiring specific factors or events to develop. In general, depression is more prevalent in women who are at a greater risk for developing depression symptoms in their lifetime.

Key takeaways:
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    In general, depression is more prevalent in women who are at a greater risk for developing depression symptoms in their lifetime.
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    To be diagnosed with depression, your symptoms must remain for two weeks or more.
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    Major depression is the most common type of depression, affecting approximately 6% of the population.
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    Perinatal depression and PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) are two types of depression unique to women.

What is depression?

Depression is defined in the medical community as a “common but serious mood disorder that causes severe symptoms, affecting how you feel, think, and handle daily activities." Although feeling down sometimes is natural for everyone, depression persists. To be diagnosed with depression, your symptoms must remain for two weeks or more.

Overview of common depressive disorders

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists several types of depression, with six being more prevalent across all demographics in the United States.

Major depression

Major depression is the "type" most people think of when talking about depression. Major depression is characterized by a low mood that overshadows all aspects of one’s life. They will experience various symptoms, including appetite change, loss of energy, difficulties with sleep, and feelings of worthlessness. Other common symptoms include losing interest in hobbies and activities and avoiding time spent with family or social groups. Major depression is the most common type of depression, affecting approximately 6% of the population.

Persistent depressive disorder

Persistent depressive disorder is characterized by depressed moods that are less severe than major depression. However, they are generally longer lasting. Someone with persistent depressive disorder, formerly called chronic depression or dysthymic disorder, experiences many of the same symptoms as major depression, yet their systems are less disruptive. Statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health suggest persistent depressive disorder affects approximately 1.5% of U.S adults.

Seasonal affective disorder

Seasonal affective disorder or seasonal depression is a depressive state that occurs with seasonal change as the days get shorter and fall turns into winter. Several factors may contribute to seasonal depression, including a change in the body's natural rhythm and reduced light exposure. The seasonal affective disorder occurs in between up to 3%of the general population. It is also more common in people with major depression (10-20%) and bipolar disorder (approximately 25%).

Bipolar disorder

People with bipolar disorder, once called manic-depressive disorder, experience episodes of depression opposite manic or hypomanic phases. The severity of manic and depressive symptoms one experiences will vary based on several factors, including the type of bipolar disorder they have. Recent research suggests up to 2.8% of adults in the United States have bipolar disorder.

Perinatal depression

Perinatal depression is a type of depression specific to pregnant women. It is characterized by major and minor depressive episodes that occur only during pregnancy or during the 12 months after delivery. This type of depression is also called post-partum depression, although it can also occur during pregnancy. Perinatal depression affects approximately one out of every seven women who give birth.

PMDD

PMDD, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder, is a severe and sometimes debilitating type of premenstrual syndrome. PMDD causes extreme changes in mood well beyond those generally linked with traditional PMS. Depression accompanying PMDD can be so overwhelming that it affects daily life and one’s ability to maintain relationships. PMDD is believed to affect between 3% and 8% of women.

Persistent depressive disorder vs. major depression-is there a difference?

Both major depressive disorder (MDD) and persistent depressive disorder (PDD) can have a severe and sometimes detrimental impact on a person's life. Both diagnoses share many common symptoms. The key difference between the two conditions is the duration of symptoms. For a medical or mental health provider to diagnose PDD in an adult, your symptoms must have persisted for a minimum of two years. A diagnosis of MDD requires symptoms lasting for at least two months.

Another difference between MDD and PDD is the potential root cause of the illness. Although research into the causes of both MDD and PDD remains ongoing, scientists believe factors such as genetics, biology, and environment all contribute. Both conditions also affect the structure of the brain and the production of neurotransmitters in the brain. However, the specific brain regions and impacted neurotransmitters differ between MDD and PDD.

MDD and PDD treatment

Treatment for MDD and PDD follows the same general plan. The most appropriate treatment plan is one that is designed based on your specific needs and symptoms. Most therapy programs include a combination of therapy (psychotherapy) and medications.

Conclusion

Major depressive disorder and persistent depressive disorder are two types of depression that share many symptoms, causes, and treatment methods. The critical difference between the two diagnoses is the duration of depressive symptoms. The most effective treatment programs incorporate a multifaceted approach uniquely designed around one’s specific symptoms and symptoms severity.

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