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Types of Depression
Main Types of Depression
Major depression is a severe form of depression that typically affects a person repeatedly throughout their lifetime, although isolated cases can occur. Symptoms of major depression include:
Dysthymia is a more subtle depressive illness, characterized by chronic low level depression. It is typically less debilitating than major depression, although some people with dysthymia do eventually experience episodes of major depression. Symptoms of dysthymia are the same as those in major depression, though less severe, and often first appear in childhood or early adulthood.
Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, is typified by cycling periods of mania and depression. The changes in mood can be rapid, though the shift is usually gradual. During the depressed phase, a person can display any or all of the symptoms associated with major depression. While in the manic phase, the person often experiences over-activeness, extreme elation, and racing thoughts. These symptoms may affect decision making and judgement.
Other Types of Depression
In addition to the three main classifications of depression, certain sub-types possess their own unique causes or symptoms.
Postpartum depression affects approximately 10-15% of women after they give birth. Fluctuating hormones, coupled with physical and mental stress, are the main cause of depressive symptoms in these women.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) typically triggers depression during the winter months when people have less exposure to natural sunlight. Light therapy helps lessen depressive symptoms for some sufferers of SAD.
Psychotic depression includes severe bouts of depression coupled with signs of psychosis, such as delusions, hallucinations, and false beliefs, which are often associated with the person's depression.
How is Depression Diagnosed and Treated?
Only a trained mental health specialist can diagnose any of the different types of depression. Often, a physical exam is administered to rule out any other medical issue, such as a thyroid disorder, that could be mimicking symptoms of depression. Specific types of depression are diagnosed based on thorough psychological evaluations, which include a detailed history of symptoms. Tests such as the Beck Depression Inventory and Hamilton Depression Scale can assist a specialist in making an accurate diagnosis.
Depression often continues if left untreated. Intervention may include medication to regulate chemicals in the brain, talk therapy, or a combination of the two. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), sometimes referred to as "shock therapy," uses electrical stimulation in the brain to help treat chronic depression that has proven resistant to the more conventional means of treatment.