How does psychology classify the different types of depression? We found out.
It is common to feel a slump from time to time or feel sad about an event that may have happened in your life. Sadness is part of life, an emotion that is not pathological in itself, although we associate it with unpleasure and try to avoid it.
However, it must be borne in mind that not all the ways in which discomfort is experienced are the same, and sometimes what we think is the sadness intrinsic to the “normal” way of living life can be one of several types of depression that exist.
In this article we will focus on precisely that topic: the main types of depression that scientific research in mental health has been shaping.
Depression, a multifactorial disorder
If the suffering is persistent, you are sad most of the time and affects your daily life, you may suffer from depression, a mood disorder that can seriously affect our lives and that also goes hand in hand with the risk of trying to kill ourselves .
Furthermore, depression is a very complex phenomenon, since it is not known exactly what causes it; the most widely accepted hypothesis is that it has a multifactorial origin, so it has both a behavioral component (that is, coming from the way in which we interact with the environment and perceive what happens to us) and a biological component (above all, based on genetic predispositions ).
It is not always easy to know when this phenomenon has taken a toll on us, since there are several types of depression and therefore the ways in which its presence can be identified vary. Let’s see, then, what are the characteristics of these types of depression to know, in each case, what we are facing.
Types of depression and their characteristics
Depression is common in these times, and it is common for people to resort to drugs to relieve the pain that is felt with this pathology. The prozac (fluoxetine), also called the drug of happiness , is consumed regularly in developed societies.
Drug treatment is only advisable in very serious cases, and it is always better to resort to psychological therapy for correct treatment, since the risk of suffering side effects is much lower. It is important to understand that psychologists can also help you overcome depression using their techniques and methods so that you can adopt new habits that weaken the symptoms of this disorder and promote their disappearance, and all this without the need to consume any psychotropic drugs.
Depression is part of mood disorders and affects our well-being, our social interaction, our appetite and sexual desire. Since there are many types of depression and each with its characteristics, below you will see a summary explanation about these different variants.
1. Major depression
The major depression is the most serious type of depression.
It is characterized by the appearance of one or more depressive episodes lasting at least 2 weeks. It usually begins during adolescence or young adulthood. The person suffering from this type of depression may experience phases of normal mood between depressive phases that can last for months or years.
It is classified within the unipolar episodes since there are no phases of mania, and it can cause very serious problems for the patient if it is not treated effectively. In fact, suicidal ideation can lead to death if it translates into effective actions to end one’s life.
Symptoms of Major Depression
These are some of the symptoms of major depression according to the DSM-IV-TR manual :
- Depressed mood most of the day, almost every day (1)
- Loss of interest in activities that were previously rewarding (2)
- Weight gain or loss
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Low self-esteem
- Concentration problems and trouble making decisions
- Feelings of guilt
- Suicidal thoughts
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation almost every day
- Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
According to DSM-IV, there must be five (or more) of the above symptoms during a 2-week period, representing a change from previous activity; one of the symptoms must be (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or the ability to feel pleasure.
Types of major depression
Within major depression, there are different types of major depression :
- Single Episode Depression – Caused by a single life event and depression only has that onset.
- Recurrent depression : Appearance of depressive symptoms in two or more episodes in the patient’s life. The separation between an episode should be at least 2 months without presenting symptoms.
Among the types of depression, the dysthymia is less severe than major depression. It is a type of unipolar depression (does not include manic symptoms) and interferes with the normal functioning and well-being of the individual who suffers from it.
The essential feature of this disorder is that the patient feels depressed for most of the day, most days for at least 2 years. You do not necessarily have to experience a strong sadness, but often the most common is that there is a feeling of lack of purpose and motivation, as if nothing matters.
Many people with dysthymia can also have severe depressive episodes at some point in their life.
Symptoms of dysthymia
The symptoms of dysthymia are:
- Loss or increase of appetite
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Lack of energy or fatigue
- Low self-esteem
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Feelings of hopelessness
3. Manic depression
This type of disorder, also called bipolar disorder, is classified as a type of mood disorder. Although we can include it within the types of depression, it combines depressive states with states of mania, that is, there are extreme ups and downs. Bipolar disorder is a serious condition, and should not be confused with an emotionally unstable state.
Treatment is different from that of a major depression, and requires mood stabilizers (such as lithium), as well as professional support through psychotherapy and care for the patients’ family environment.
Symptoms of manic depression
The symptoms of depression may include:
- Persistent feelings of sadness
- Feeling hopeless or helpless
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling inadequate
- Excessive guilt
- Wishes to die
- Loss of interest in usual or formerly enjoyed activities
- Difficulty in relationships
- Sleep disturbance (eg, insomnia, hypersomnia)
- Appetite or weight changes
- Decreased energy
- Difficult to focus
- Decreased ability to make decisions
- Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts
- Frequent physical ailments (for example, headache, stomach pain, fatigue)
- Attempts or threats to run away
- Hypersensitivity to failure or rejection
- Irritability, hostility, aggression
The manic symptoms may include:
- Exaggerated self-esteem
- Less need for rest and sleep
- Increased distraction and irritability
- Excessive participation in pleasant and high-risk activities that can cause painful consequences, for example provocative, destructive or anti-social behavior (sexual promiscuity, reckless driving, alcohol and drug abuse).
- Increased loquacity (e.g. increased speed of speech, rapid subject changes, intolerance of interruptions)
- Feelings of “arousal” or euphoria
- Marked mood swings, for example unusually happy or silly, strangely angry, agitated, or aggressive
- Increased sexual desire
- Higher energy level
- Poor common sense in sensible people
4. Seasonal depressive disorder (SAD)
This depressive state is called Seasonal Depressive Disorder (SAD) and is characterized by occurring during a certain time of year, usually during winter.
Symptoms generally slowly intensify in late fall and winter months. These symptoms are very similar to those seen in other types of depression:
- Increased appetite with weight gain
- Increased sleep (poor sleep is more common with other forms of depression).
- Less energy and ability to concentrate
- Loss of interest in work and other activities
- Slow movements
- Social isolation
- Sadness and irritability
There is also another variant of SAD that some people suffer from in summer:
- Lack of appetite
- Irritability and anxiety
5. Psychotic depression
Psychotic depression is a subtype of major depression which occurs when a severe depressive illness includes some type of psychosis. Unlike other types of depression, it is characterized by the prescience of psychotic symptoms: hallucinations and / or delusions that qualitatively alter the way reality is perceived.
6. Postpartum depression
Among the types of depression, we can include postpartum depression. It is characterized because it can occur shortly after delivery.
This type of depression can appear up to a year after the woman has given, although it is usual for it to occur within the first three months after giving birth.
Causes of postpartum depression
Some of the causes of postpartum depression are the following:
- Changes at the body level of pregnancy and childbirth (for example, due to hormonal change)
- Changes in labor and social relations
- Have less time and freedom for herself
- Changes in the sleep-wake cycle due to birth
- Concerns about your ability to be a good mother
- American Psychiatric Association (2014). DSM-5. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Madrid: Panamericana.
- Belloch, A .; Sandín, B. and Ramos, F. (2010). Manual of Psychopathology. Volume I and II. Madrid: McGraw-Hill.
- National Collaborating Center for Mental Health. Depression. (2009). The treatment and management of depression in adults (updated edition). National Clinical Practice Guideline Number 90. London: British Psychological Society and Royal College of Psychiatrists.
- Goffman, E. (1998). Stigma. The deteriorated identity. Editorial Amorrortu, Buenos Aires, 1998 (1st edition in English: Stigma. Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Prentice-Hall, Inc.