Understanding Different Types of Depression
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Diagnosing depression is more complex than you might think. The hallmark symptoms of sadness, hopelessness and low energy can be reasonable responses to bad life experiences or circumstances. The grief we experience after significant losses can come back months and years later, and it can feel a lot like depression, too. 

It’s definitely possible to experience depression symptoms without meeting enough criteria for a diagnosis of major depressive disorder (MDD). But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek treatment. If you’re worried about the intensity of your feelings or experiencing ongoing symptoms, don’t hesitate to talk with a therapist. It can even be beneficial to meet with a therapist when you’re not experiencing symptoms.

When you notice you’re having multiple depression symptoms, or if they follow a specific pattern, you may have a condition that requires treatment by a professional. We’ll go over some of the main types of depression and some next steps you can take in this article.

Are there different types of depression?

In a word, yes, there are several different categories of depression. Each individual client experiences their own unique set of symptoms, and there’s a cluster of symptoms that seem to occur in many cases. Most people with depression experience sadness, emptiness or irritability along with somatic or cognitive symptoms that affect their ability to function. 

So why does it matter if there are different types of depression if they’re all pretty similar? First off, certain patterns of depression are helpful for diagnosing other conditions like bipolar disorder. When certain life events like pregnancy or learning you have a chronic illness happen, doctors can educate you about types of depression that can come along with them.

Finally, recognizing your own patterns of depression symptoms can lead to insights into things that can help you feel better, for example, a full-spectrum UV light for seasonal affective depression. And when you know you have a specific type of depression, you can find community with other people having similar experiences.

There may be some cases when identifying a certain type of depression like perinatal depression can indicate that you’ll be less likely to experience another depressive episode after you recover. Unfortunately, relapses are common in people with depression. 

People with depression will experience several of the below symptoms at once. This list is also used to diagnose other types of depression we’ll get into in the next sections.

  • Sleeping more or less than usual
  • Taking less interest or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Low energy or fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Slowing of physical movements or agitation and restlessness
  • Feeling depressed

Depressive disorders in the DSM-5

The DSM-5 is the most up-to-date and authoritative manual on clinical mental health conditions and their symptoms. It lists five main types of depression. While many different depressive phenomena can fall under MDD, the other four distinct types occur with specific patterns or co-occurring conditions.

Here are five types of depressive disorders listed in the DSM-5:

  • Major depressive disorder — Known as “clinical depression,” MDD can occur in distinct episodes or as part of an ongoing condition.
  • Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia) — People who experience a consistently low mood or lack of joy regardless of what’s going on in their lives are diagnosed with dysthymia.
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)— This type of depression occurs in people who menstruate. It involves significant anxiety or depression symptoms in the days before menstruation.
  • Depressive disorder due to another medical condition — Chronic illness, disability or terminal illness can bring on depression symptoms.
  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder — This diagnosis is used for children and adolescents who show consistently bad moods, temper tantrums, irritability and anger.

Other types of depression 

Subtypes of MDD are categorized based on prominent symptom presentation, timing, and the individual’s circumstances. Understanding the different types of depression can help you stay prepared for symptoms and recognize them when they show up. 

These types of depression either fall under MDD or another diagnostic category:

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — People with SAD notice worsening symptoms in the fall and early winter, with colder temperatures and reduced sunlight.
  • Perinatal or postpartum depression — People who give birth can experience depression symptoms during pregnancy and up to a year afterward.
  • Psychotic depression — Some instances of depression occur with delusions or hallucinations such as auditory hallucinations (hearing voices) or paranoia.
  • Bipolar depression — People with bipolar disorder experience patterns of both depressive episodes and manic or hypomanic episodes.

What to do if you have depression symptoms

Depression treatment typically involves a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy and supportive therapy are all safe and effective treatment options for depression. Your first steps may be to talk to your doctor about depression or book an assessment with a therapist.

There are a few different levels of treatment between weekly outpatient therapy sessions and inpatient treatment. Structured outpatient programs provide hours of different treatments during the day so you don’t have to stay at a treatment center. At Lightfully, we offer a virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP) that you can do from anywhere, as long as you’re a resident of California.

People with depression choose Lightfully for higher levels of treatment because we focus on people and processes, not conditions and symptoms. Our process-based therapy model puts you at the center of your treatment process with evidence-based modalities hand-picked for you. We work alongside our clients so they can understand their treatment options and make well-informed decisions.

If you’re looking for treatment now, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’re here to help you get back to living your brightest and best life.

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