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Types of Depression

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Presentation: Depression
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Reviewed By: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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Many people may think of depression as just feeling sad or blue. But depression is an illness. And, similar to other illnesses, it can come in several forms.
Three common forms of depression are major depression, bipolar disorder, and dysthymia.
Let's look at each of these in a little more detail.
Major depression is the most serious type of depression. Although it also goes by other names, like clinical depression, unipolar depression, or major depressive disorder, this is the condition that most people refer to as simply depression.
Major depression can be diagnosed when a person suffers a severe depressed mood or loses interest in things that were once pleasurable. For a diagnosis to be made, symptoms must last for at least two weeks and be a significant change from before the illness.
Such a disabling episode of depression may occur only once in a person's lifetime, but it typically occurs several times throughout a person's life.
A person may also suffer depression as part of another condition called bipolar disorder, which may also be called manic-depressive illness. With bipolar disorder, a person has cycling mood changes, which include severe highs, or mania, and severe lows, or major depression. The depression part of bipolar disorder may go by the name bipolar depression.
Dysthymia, or dysthymic disorder, is a condition where a depressed mood may also occur. However, dysthymia differs from major depression in two ways: The symptoms last longer, at least 2 years, and they are less severe. In other words, people with dysthymia have a chronic case of the "blahs," where they often feel pessimistic, tired, and/or indecisive. They can also feel bad about themselves and their lives, have anxiety, and social withdrawal.
Many people with dysthymia also experience major depression at some time in their lives. This is known as "double-depression."
In addition to these three types of depression, there are several other types that exist, although some healthcare providers disagree with how these should be classified. Some of these include:
* Postpartum depression
* Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and
* Seasonal affective disorder.
Postpartum depression is a condition that occurs in some women following childbirth. This is when "baby blues" last longer than two weeks, or are more severe than simple mood swings or mild depression.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a condition in which depression symptoms occur one week before menstruation and disappear after the menstrual period ends.
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a pattern of depression that occurs during fall and winter, and disappears during spring and summer. It is thought that SAD is due to lack of sunlight. It is more common in northern latitudes.
Depression is an illness, and similar to other illnesses, knowing which type of depression a person has is necessary in order to treat it correctly.

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