As we’ve written before, no two people have the same experience of a mental illness. What people don’t realize is that illnesses such as depression may appear in many different forms, many of which have similar symptoms.
If you feel sad or empty, have trouble concentrating or sleeping, and symptoms last for two weeks or more, you may have depression, and should talk to your doctor about your symptoms and what treatment options are open to you.
Here are 12 unique forms depression may take, as well as preferred treatment options.
Major Depressive Disorder
Major depressive disorder, sometimes called clinical depression, is the most common form of depression. More than 16 million adults have experienced it at least once in their lives.
Major depressive disorder can involve:
- Loss of interest and enjoyment in once-loved activities
- Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
- Difficulty in making decisions
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
Treatment options can include antidepressants and talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.
Persistent Depressive Disorder
Also known as dysthymic disorder or dysthymia, persistent depressive disorder involves depression symptoms that persist for two years or more. Generally, the symptoms are not as severe as major depressive disorder, but they can be mild, moderate or severe. Persistent depressive disorder can begin in childhood. For a childhood diagnosis, only one year is required.
Treatment options are similar to those for major depressive disorder.
While bipolar disorder is not actually a type of depression, it shares some symptoms of depression. People with bipolar disorder experience manic highs which are associated with euphoric feelings and high energy levels and depressed lows, in which they feel exhausted and depressed. They can also experience suicidal thoughts. Highs and lows can last for days, or longer.
People with bipolar disorder aren’t always moving between two poles. In between episodes, they may not experience any emotional symptoms at all.
Treatments include medication and talk therapy. Personal management strategies include setting up a schedule for yourself, building relationships with friends, journaling and keeping track of your mood, and eating healthy while cutting out alcohol consumption or recreational drug use.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
To read our article on seasonal affective disorder, click here.
Sometimes, symptoms of depression can be associated with the shorter days and reduced sunlight of autumn and winter. More rarely, seasonal affective disorder can occur in the spring or summer.
Treatments may be similar to those for major depressive disorder, or they may include modification of sleeping schedules and use of a light box to simulate sunlight. Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder may ease on their own when spring arrives, but if they affect your quality of life, you should still talk to your doctor.
Psychosis is a loss of contact with reality, associated with delusions or hallucinations. Psychotic depression, more properly known as major depressive disorder with psychotic features, is a serious condition that requires attention from a medical professional and even may involve a short hospital stay. People with psychotic depression may be at a higher risk for self-harm or suicide.
Treatments may include the use of antidepressants and antipsychotics.
It’s normal for new mothers to feel a little blue after their baby’s birth. However, if those feelings persist, they may constitute postpartum depression.
Symptoms may appear up to a year after birth and include:
- Mood swings
- Changes in thoughts or behavior
- Difficulty bonding with the baby
- Worry about one’s ability to be a mother
If these symptoms persist, consult your doctor.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
Premenstrual syndrome, with cramping and moodiness, is well-known. However, if the symptoms are severe enough to affect your job and relationships, you may have premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Symptoms begin 7 to 10 days before your period and go away a few days after it starts. Make sure to talk to your doctor, as irregular periods can be symptoms of serious health problems.
Treatments may include:
- Lifestyle changes, like diet and exercise
- Oral contraceptives
“Change is rough.” It’s a truism for a reason. However, if moving forward is difficult and you have symptoms of depression, anxiety, or both, you may have an adjustment disorder. Symptoms frequently start within 3 months of a major life change and are usually gone within 6 months. However, depending on the situation, symptoms may last longer. Talk therapy is the most common treatment.
If your depression symptoms seem to lift after a good day or a positive event, you may have atypical depression.
Atypical depression is not rare, but its symptoms are slightly different. If you have atypical depression, you may:
- Have a bigger appetite than is usual for depression
- Sleep more than 10 hours per night
- Be unusually sensitive to criticism
- Experience a sensation of heaviness in your limbs
For some people with depression, medication and therapy are the boost they need to go on with their lives. However, some people don’t see improvement, even with treatment.
It can take around six to 12 weeks for medication to take effect, so it may take time to know if your depression is treatment-resistant.
Everyone’s experience of depression is different. There are also more options for treatment than just medication and therapy—for example, transcranial magnetic stimulation or electroconvulsive therapy. If one form of treatment doesn’t work, your doctor will recommend another, until he or she finds a treatment method that works for you.
If you have subsyndromal depression, you may exhibit multiple symptoms of depression, though not the five required for a diagnosis for major depressive disorder. As with major depressive disorder, the symptoms must affect your quality of life for at least two weeks.
Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder
Formerly known as pediatric bipolar disorder, children with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder are unusually irritable and have temper tantrums that are disproportionate to the occasion or more extreme than normal. Due to the fact that disruptive mood dysregulation disorder occurs in children, parent training and psychotherapy are preferred treatment options.
If you think you may have depression, talk to your doctor. Even if your symptoms are actually pointing to a different health problem, he or she can help. With proper treatment, your symptoms can be reduced and your overall quality of life can improve.