The Many Faces of Depression

According to health institutes, approximately 15 million U.S. adults have some form of depression. This condition is second only to heart disease in terms of a leading cause of disability and poor health globally. Some people with depression go for years without receiving therapy, and others do not even know that they have depression, mistaking the symptoms for a physical condition. Also, there is an increased risk of suicide for people with depression.

Major Depressive Disorder

Major depressive disorder causes symptoms that affect a person's ability to eat, sleep, work, study, or enjoy usual activities. This form of depression recurs throughout the lifespan, and the symptoms occur most every day, preventing normal functioning and interfering with daily life. To be diagnosed with this condition, the symptoms must be present daily for longer than two weeks and cannot be due to drug abuse, a medical condition, or loss of a loved one. Common symptoms are:

  • Sadness
  • Loss of interest in usual things
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, and hopelessness
  • Feelings of guilt and pessimism
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Suicide thoughts and/or attempts

Chronic Depression

Often called dysthymia, chronic depression is characterized by a long-standing depressed mood, which persists for longer than two years. Symptoms of this form of depression include sadness, loss of interest, tearfulness, and hopelessness, as with major depressive disorder. However, with chronic depression, the symptoms are not as severe and usually do not interfere with daily life and normal functioning.

Atypical Depression

Atypical depression is marked by pervasive sadness, overeating, oversleeping, fatigue, moods that worsen or improved in response to situations or events, and extreme sensitivity to rejection. This form of depression often causes lost work and school time and is difficult to treat.

Manic Depression

Often called bipolar disorder, manic depression is a complex mood disorder where the person alternates between times of intense elation (mania) and periods of clinical depression. There are two subtypes of manic depression: bipolar I, where the person has one or more manic episodes with or without major depressive episodes, and bipolar II, where the person has a history of one or more major depressive episodes as well as one or more mildly elated episodes (hypomania).

Seasonal Depression

Also called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), seasonal depression occurs at the same time each year. It typically begins in the fall or early winter and ends in the spring or early summer. A person with SAD has more depression than mere "winter blues." Summer depression, a rare form of SAD, begins in the spring or early summer and ends in the fall.

Psychotic Depression

A person with psychotic depression has delusional thoughts, hallucinations, and other symptoms of psychosis, as well as symptoms of depression. Patients with this form of depression often take a break from reality but return to normal in a few days or weeks. Symptoms include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Constipation
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Hypochondria
  • Insomnia
  • Intellectual impairment
  • Physical immobility

Postpartum Depression

It is estimated that around 75 percent of new moms suffer with the "baby blues." Also, around 10 percent of women with new infants develop the more serious condition called postpartum depression. The criteria for diagnosis of postpartum depression involve the development of major depression within one month of the new baby's delivery. Some of the main symptoms are:

  • Anger toward the baby or other family members
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Fear of harming the baby
  • Obsessive thoughts related to the baby
  • Anxiety, irritability, and panic
  • Change in appetite
  • Profound sadness and crying
  • Mood swings