Types of Depression

PerformCare wants to help you learn the different kinds of depression. There are many forms of depression.

  • Major depressive disorder, or major depression, has a few symptoms. Major depression affects a person's ability to work, sleep, study, eat and enjoy life. Major depression can be harmful if not treated. It stops a person from doing his or her usual activities. Major depression may happen only once in a person's life. Sometimes major depression happens more than once.
  • Dysthymic disorder, or dysthymia, is when a person has a depression 2 years or longer. It may not be severe enough to disable a person. Still, it can stop a person from doing activities or from feeling well. People with dysthymia may also get major depression during their lifetimes.
  • Minor depression is when a person has symptoms for 2 weeks or longer. These symptoms are less than major depression. Without treatment, minor depression could become major depression.

Some forms of depression are different. Some depression happens for unusual reasons.

  • Postpartum depression is much more serious than the "baby blues" that many women have after giving birth. Hormone and physical changes occur and the new duties of caring for a baby can be overwhelming. Up to 15 percent of women have postpartum depression.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is when depression happens during the winter months. This could be because there is less natural sunlight in the winter. The depression generally lifts during spring and summer. SAD may be treated with light therapy, but nearly half of those with SAD do not get better with light therapy alone. Antidepressants and psychotherapy can lower SAD symptoms, either by itself or with light therapy.

Bipolar disorder

Sometimes a person will report feelings of sadness to his or her doctor and the doctor will treat him or her for depression. Later, the person may feel very excited and overly happy. The doctor could change that person’s diagnosis and treat him or her for bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is not as common as major depression or dysthymia. It usually takes time for the doctor to find. Bipolar disorder usually appears in the late teens or early adult years. A person could have mood swings. They may feel very good and then feel sad. The doctor will treat this illness with a different medication than what is suggested for depression.