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Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn, LMFT, MA
What is Depression?
Depression is a mental health condition that affects the way people think and act in a negative way. Some of the mental health diagnosis that include symptoms of depression include bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and cyclothymic disorder. Some symptoms of depression include loss of interest and trouble making decisions. Other symptoms may include, loss of interest in everyday activities, sleeping too little or too much, suicidal thoughts, and loss of appetite. Depression is treatable with the right care, and a therapist can support you to get the help you need and start feeling better. They can help you learn about how depression affects your body and mind, and find ways to cope with your mental health condition.
What causes depression?
Depression is a disorder that has biological, psychological, and social causes that can all effect each other. Any one of those three areas can begin a period of depression that is then influenced by the other two. Some of the risk factors for depressive disorders include chronic physical health conditions or a history of mental health conditions in the patient's family history. People who have major depressive or depressive disorder react to their mental health diagnosis very differently. Some people view the diagnosis as an answer to their questions. Other people may view it as a negative label that has been put on them.
Types of depression
There are many different types of depression, including:
Clinical depression - Each year, over 3 million people are diagnosed with clinical depression in The United States. Symptoms of clinical depression include persistent low mood, thoughts of suicide, changes in appetite including eating too much or too little, oversleeping or not sleeping enough, withdrawal from friends and family members, irritability, and body aches. It's important to know that depression does not just impact your mental state but also your body.
Dysthymia - Dysthymia is a condition otherwise known as persistent depressive disorder. An individual who has dysthymia experiences a constant low mood that lasts for a minimum of two years. The difference between clinical depression (or Major Depressive Disorder) and dysthymia is that MDD can be debilitating, while dysthymia may fool people. A person who has persistent depressive disorder may appear "normal" to their friends, family, or co-workers. They might even be an overachiever. However, on the inside, they are suffering from depression.
Bipolar disorder - Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by extreme highs and lows, mania, and depression. When they're manic, a person experiences lots of energy, a decreased need for sleep, and can feel out of touch with reality. They also feel over-confident, and act grandiose. Whereas, when someone with bipolar is experiencing a depressive episode they have low energy and are disinterested in daily activities. Depression can be especially difficult for people who have bipolar disorder. They will crash into a depressed mood after feeling manic. As with any form of mental illness, it's essential to seek treatment for bipolar disorder by talking to a mental health professional.
Situational depression - Situational depression impacts people when they're experiencing a difficult life transition. It's also referred to as an adjustment disorder. Situational depression could be due to having a death in the family, moving, divorce, or grieving the loss of a pet.
Additional types of depression include:
Postpartum Depression, where a new parent experiences persistent depressed mood after giving birth.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, where an individual struggles with depression during extreme temperatures or seasons of the year.
Depressive Psychosis, where a person feels depressed as an after-effect feeling out of touch with reality.
Can you have another mental health condition on top of depression?
It is possible to have more than one mental health condition. Nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is a common comorbid condition to have with depression, and there are many others. Mental health conditions often pair with one another. Some people who live with depression have anxiety or panic attacks. Others have conditions such as PTSD or bipolar disorder. Despite whether another mental illness accompanies your depression, it's crucial to get help.
Get help for depression.
It can be troubling to experience the symptoms of depression. Most depression symptoms can be treated through medication and talk therapy. That doesn’t necessarily cure the cause however. Depending on the cause of your depression, a doctor might prescribe medication, but also recommend talk therapy. It's crucial to follow the advice of your mental health provider. Listening to a therapist can help ease the symptoms of depression. Major Depressive Disorder is a severe condition, but with the right mental health support, it can get easier.
Taking care of your mental health is essential. If you have depression or think that you might be experiencing depression, it is crucial to reach out to a mental health provider that can help you. It can be scary to make the first move, and going to counseling might be overwhelming if you're experiencing symptoms of depression, but it is worth it. Again, depression is a highly treatable mental health condition, and with help, your mental health can improve dramatically. An online counselor or therapist will keep your information confidential and will give you a safe space to talk about your symptoms from the privacy of your own home. Reach out to a mental health provider at ReGain.Us today and get the support that you need.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the 4 types of depression?
Depression is one of the more common mental health topics or mood disorders that people experience nowadays. While it is possible to categorize depression into more than just four concrete categories, four of the main types of depression are:
- Clinical depression: Clinical depression is also known as major depression. This means that even when circumstances change and the stimuli in a person’s life trend toward the positive, the person is still exhibiting signs of depression. Some of the signs and symptoms of clinical or major depression include constant low mood or feeling “down,” suicidal thoughts, disruptions in appetite, disruptions in sleeping patterns, pulling away from friends and family member, being irritable, and aches and pains in the body. If you have been experiencing any suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Like most forms of depression, people suffering from a major depression may also pull away from hobbies or activities that would spark their interest or pleasure.
- Dysthymia: This condition is also known as persistent depressive disorder. The biggest difference between dysthymia, or persistent depressive disorder, and clinical depression is that people who suffer from dysthymia often appear “normal” to the people around them; they are able to mitigate the signs and symptoms of their depression, at least on the outside. In many cases, they may even be overachievers.
- Bipolar disorder: This is sometimes referred to as bipolar depression. It is one of the mental disorders that features severe mood swings and extreme “highs” and “lows.” Mania and major depression are also indicators of these mental disorders. During periods of mania, sometimes called the “high,” a person usually feels an increase in energy, no need to sleep, and often feels out of touch with reality. During a “low” time, the person might feel aches and pains on their body, sleep much more than is usually necessary, have difficulty concentrating, have feelings of hopelessness, and feel unexplainably sad or upset all or most of the time, despite their circumstances.
- Situational depression: This is a depression that is brought on by circumstances. It is also referred to as “adjustment disorder” in many cases. Postpartum depression and seasonal affective disorder SAD both fall into this category, since they are triggered by a clear stressor or major life change that lead to depression.
The risks and symptoms of these different types of depression vary from case to case. So, in order to find effective treatments for each case of depression, there is a wide variety of treatment options available. These treatment options for depressive disorders include cognitive behavioral therapy CBT, vagus nerve stimulation, transcranial magnetic stimulation, electroconvulsive therapy etc. For all guidance regarding treatment, please consult a licensed medical professional.
What is the number one cause of depression?
The number one cause of depression is a problem in the way that your brain regulates (or fails to regulate) your emotions and mood. This inability of the brain to regulate emotion and mood can be triggered by a number of causes. For example, some medical conditions, stressful life situations or major life changes, medications or other controlled substances such as drugs and alcohol, and even family history of mental health topics. Depression has also been linked to other mental health topics; in fact, depression and anxiety disorders often go hand in hand. So, all of these risk factors often lead to problems for the brain when it comes to regulating emotions and mood, which then leads to depression.
What is a simple definition of depression?
In short, depression is a mood disorder. It can cause prolonged feelings of sadness, and is categorized by a loss of interest and general sadness. It is also called major depressive disorder, major depression, or clinical depression. It affects the way a person feels, thinks, and behaves. There are emotional and physical signs and symptoms that arise as a result of depression including aches and pains, lack of appetite, and disruptions to sleep schedule.
Major depression is different from just feeling down or sad, because with major depression, it feels like there is no way to get out of the low feelings. Major depression is often categorized as a chronic illness. This is why treatment for depression usually requires long term and evidence based effective treatment such as cognitive behavioral therapy, vagus nerve stimulation, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, electroconvulsive therapy etc. For all guidance regarding treatment, please consult a licensed medical professional.
What are the levels of depression?
Research suggests that there are nine levels or types of depression that have been pinpointed and defined by research conducted by health care professionals. Here are the main signs and symptoms of the levels and types of depression according to health care professionals.
- Major Depression: This is also known as classic depression or unipolar depression major depressive disorder. Depression is a common affliction: in fact, it’s more common than you might think: more than 16 million people in the US have lived through at least one major depressive episode in their lifetime. The signs and symptoms of major depression overview include despondency, gloom, disrupted sleeping patterns, a lack of energy or general fatigue, a loss of appetite or rapid weight gain from overeating, aches and pains throughout the body, a loss of interest in activities or hobbies, inability to concentrate, memory problems, or difficulty problem solving. Major depression is also including symptoms such as feeling anxious or empty.
- Persistent Depression: This level of depression is characterized by the fact that it lasts for at least two years. It is also called dysthymia or chronic depression. Persistent depression doesn’t usually feel as intense or might not be as noticeable from the outside as major depression, but it has side effects that make daily life more difficult. Some of the main signs and symptoms of persistent depression include low self-esteem, deep and unshakeable feelings of sadness or hopelessness, a loss of interest in hobbies or activities that were previously enjoyable, changes in sleep and appetite patterns, difficulty or inability to feel happy even in joyful or positive events or circumstances, and social withdrawal. These signs and symptoms, as well as the risk factors, of persistent depression usually cycle through phases of intensity. The symptoms will be in check for a few weeks or months at a time, and then become intense again, before waning and fading a bit.
- Manic Depression: This level of depression is a more severe form, and it is also known as bipolar disorder. Some of the most common signs and symptoms as well as side effects of manic depression include bouts of mania and/or hypomania. This means that in order to be diagnosed with manic depression or bipolar disorder, a person must exhibit an episode of mania that lasts for at least a week. In many cases, hospitalization is required during the course of the manic episode. The patient is likely to experience a depressive mood right before and/or right after the manic episode, which is one of the main signs and symptoms of manic depression. In addition to these side effects, people who are suffering from manic depression or bipolar disorder will also exhibit the main signs and symptoms of a major depressive disorder. However, these signs and symptoms will come in contrasting pairs: one set of side effects – which includes high energy, a lack of sleep, and risky behavior – will come during the manic phase. The opposite side effects – such as lethargy, loss of appetite, and general disinterest in the surroundings – will manifest during the hypomanic phase. The patient will often swing back and forth between these two phases, and exhibit both extremes of the signs and symptoms in due time.
- Depressive Psychosis: This is one of the more severe depression types, as it causes the patient to lose touch with reality for a period of time. In depressive psychosis, the patient will exhibit many of the signs of major depression including decreased energy and an overall gloomy mood, as well as hallucinations and/or delusions. There are also physical symptoms of depressive psychosis, such as an inability to remain still, or slowed movements. Taken together, all of these signs and symptoms point to psychotic depression.
- Perinatal Depression or Postpartum Depression: This is sometimes referred to as the “baby blues.” It’s called the “baby blues” because it is basically depression that occurs during pregnancy and/or immediately following childbirth. The onset of depression is brought on by depression during pregnancy or the birth of a child. Postpartum depression shows most of the signs of depression major, along with some symptoms that are pretty specific to postpartum depression. The symptoms that are specific to postpartum such as difficulty caring for herself or the new baby, unexplainable feelings of anger or rage, thoughts of harming herself or the baby, sadness or feelings of guilt, and constant worry about their baby which leads to anxiety. Many new mothers suffer from postpartum depression, but time usually serves to reduce the symptoms.
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder: This is a more severe form of premenstrual syndrome, except many of the symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder tend to be psychological rather than only physical. Some specific symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric depression include food cravings, extreme mood swings, unexplained anger and irritability, and panic attacks. All of these are usually in addition to the physical symptoms – such bloating and cramping – that usually accompany premenstrual syndrome. These signs and symptoms are thought to be caused by the hormonal changes that a woman experiences in the time after ovulating each month, and leading up to her period.
- Seasonal Depression: This is also known as seasonal affective disorder. Seasonal affective disorder is usually not categorized as a severe depression, as it is often associated with and experienced in only one season of the year; this type of depression occurs in winter for most people. The most common symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are withdrawal from social activities, the need for more sleep, weight gain, low self-esteem, and feeling sad or hopeless often. It can also lead to suicidal thoughts in more pronounced cases. If you have been experiencing any suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Both men and women experience this type of depression. While children and adolescents may be prone to seasonal affective disorder, it is known to more strongly affect older adults.
- Situational Depression: This type of depression is also known as adjustment disorder, and it is usually triggered by stressful situations and specific events in a person’s life. It is experienced by teen depression, adult depression, and young adults and older adults depression alike. Some of the most common triggers for situational depression include grief at the loss of a loved one, severe illness or life-threatening circumstances, divorce and other family issues, being in an abusive relationship, facing money problems or unemployment, or having big legal or social problems. Some of the most recognizable symptoms of situational depression include uncontrollable crying or outbursts of emotion, anxiety, disrupted patterns of eating and sleeping, aches and pains, and social withdrawal.
- Atypical Depression: This type of depression refers to a depression that seems to disappear in the face of temporary positive life circumstances. This isn’t a rare form of depression, despite its name. A person suffering from atypical depression might not always “seem” depressed on the outside: they might be lighthearted and happy when they are around other people or when they’re not directly confronted with triggers. However, underneath it all, they’re struggling through a persistent or major depressive episode. This type of depression is characterized by low self-esteem, anxiety, fear of rejection, being sensitive to input or criticism, and poor or warped body image.
These levels and types of depression can be seen in children and adolescents as well as in older adults and adults depression. The National Institute of Mental Health recommends seeking help and treatment for depression if you exhibit these signs and symptoms. Great places to start looking for treatment for depression include a local community resource center, your local department of health and human services provider, or the National Institute of Mental Health website. There, you can find out more about the symptoms and risk factors associated with depression, and you’ll be able to start exploring the treatment for depression options. However, before you just jump into a treatment, you should make sure that the method is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and do some extra research about the related health information.
Is depression a genetic disease?
There is definitely a strong link between a person’s family history of depression and the likelihood that they themselves will experience depression. Based on recent research, scientists have discovered that a family’s health information can point to the probability that a relative will suffer from depression, much like in the case of heart disease, diabetes, or other health problems that “run in the family.”
Based on this recent research, scientists claim that about 40% of people who suffer from depression received their proclivity for the condition from their family, while the remaining 60% can point to environmental factors as the cause or trigger for their depression.
The strong link between serotonin and depression also points to the relevance of a family’s history of depression. Because serotonin plays such a huge role in helping the brain understand and regulate emotions and mood, the history and health information passed down through the family genes also play a role in depression. This is because the health information and health history of a family can impact how effectively the brain produces, absorbs, and processes serotonin.
So, while there is no specific gene or genetic defect that can be passed down that causes depression, there are many genetic factors encoded in a family’s health information that can lead to an increased risk for depression.
Who is at the greatest risk for depression?
Factors such as age, family history of depression, and environmental input all contribute to a person’s risk of suffering from depression. In general, people are especially prone to depression during periods of change in their life. So, it’s not uncommon for teens and adolescents to experience depression. Furthermore, adults in middle age are at the top risk group for depression, as a general rule. Environmental factors such as life circumstances, major life changes, or things that cause chronic anxiety can also lead to depression. For example, those who live paycheck to paycheck, people who have recently lost a loved one, or mothers who are pregnant or have recently given birth are particularly susceptible to depression.
What happens in the brain during depression?
When a person is experiencing depression, the brain is struggling to properly read and react to the signals that are transmitted to neurons in emotional centers of the brain such as the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex. Usually, these signals come in the form of hormones, often serotonin, that attach to these neural receptors. When the serotonin cannot properly attach and be read by these neural receptors, the brain cannot effectively control emotion and mood. This is what causes the intense emotions and mood swings that are so often symptomatic of depression.
How does depression affect synapse?
Depression doesn’t affect synapse as much as synapse affects depression. Basically, depression is often caused or triggered by interrupted synapse in the brain (that is, the brain’s process of reading and reacting to serotonin and other mood-regulating hormones). This means that the health information that is transmitted to neurons that react to the serotonin and other mood-regulating hormones are either lacking or not working properly; this lapse in effectiveness of the neurons very often leads to depression.
There are several ways that doctors and mental health specialists try to boost the neural activity in the brain regions that regulate mood. These methods are usually reserved for depression patients who have not responded positively to CBT or other more commonplace treatments. These treatments, such as electroconvulsive therapy, seek to physically stimulate the neurons in the brain and improve synapse. Electroconvulsive therapy involves zapping the brain with electrical stimulation while the patient is under anesthesia. The goal of electroconvulsive therapy is to target synapse processes in the patient’s brain so as to improve the effectiveness of synapse. With electroconvulsive therapy, as synapse in the brain improves, the brain becomes more effective at absorbing and processing serotonin and other mood-stabilizing hormones, so that the patient can see reduced symptoms of depression. For all guidance regarding treatment, please consult a licensed medical professional.
What happens during a depression?
During a depressive episode, a person feels very low. They may be upset or sad for what seems like no real reason; even though things are going well in their life, they still feel depressed. This is the most common and general way to describe depression.
People will have varied experiences when it comes to what happens during their own depression. Every person is different and there are many different kinds and levels of depression. So, while someone can expect to experience the same general emotions and symptoms during a depression, exactly how, how long, and how intensely these symptoms manifest will depend on the person going through the depression.
What are the different types of depression?
Health care officials, including experts at the National Center for Depressions and Anxiety and the National Institute of Mental Health, have identified countless numbers of different types of depression. Many different local and international departments of health and human services studies have also revealed the different levels and types of depression through their depression studies.
These depression studies have revealed that there are about nine distinct types of depression. These different types of depression are:
- Major depression.
- Persistent depression.
- Manic depression.
- Depressive psychosis.
- Perinatal depression or postpartum depression.
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.
- Seasonal depression.
- Situational depression
- Atypical depression.
Furthermore, the National Institute of Mental Health also delineates between treatable depression and treatment resistant depression. Most cases of depression, whether it’s a case of depression in an adolescent or a case of depression in older adults, will be handled by a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. The treatment usually involves cognitive behavioral therapy as a baseline, coupled with any other treatment (as approved by the US Food and Drug Administration FDA) that the mental health professional may deem appropriate or necessary. In less severe cases of depression, remedies such as taking more Omega 3 fatty acids can help to reduce the effects of depression. For all guidance regarding treatment, please consult a licensed medical professional.
In the case of treatment resistant depression, the road to recovery is often much longer. With treatment resistant depression, the mental health specialist must first uncover and solve underlying issues that may be making the patient resistant to depression treatment. This could include therapy sessions every day nearly every day. Another popular treatment option for treatment resistant depression is electroconvulsive therapy. In short, a much more rigorous regimen is needed to start making progress on treatment resistant depression. For all guidance regarding treatment, please consult a licensed medical professional.