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What Are the Different Types of Depression?

Affecting tens of millions of Americans each year, depression is one of the most common kinds of mental disorder. Triggers of depression can range from a significant life change or traumatic event, to substance abuse, to an underlying chemical imbalance in the brain — or can be a combination of factors — and the kinds and severity of symptoms experienced by one person with depression can be vastly different from those experienced by another. Below are brief descriptions of the main types of depression.

Major Depression (Clinical Depression)

Those dealing with major depression experience a prolonged emotional state of sadness, hopelessness and, in some cases, guilt, and their symptoms are acute enough as to interfere with their ability to carry out normal everyday activities in their personal and/or professional lives.

Dysthymia (Chronic Depression)

People with dysthymia experience a constant state of depression most or all of every day for a period of two years or longer. Dysthymia is considered a milder form of depression in that its symptoms on any particular day are generally less severe than those that occur during an episode of major depression, but the long-term nature of this condition nevertheless makes it a difficult and draining one to live with. Dysthymia sufferers are also likely to experience one or more bouts of major depression in their lifetime.

Important Resources:

Mood Disorders Society of Canada: Information on depression and other mood disorders, as well as upcoming fundraising and awareness events.

Anxiety Disorders Association of America: Although a separate condition from chronic anxiety, depression often goes hand in hand with an anxiety disorder. This page includes a downloadable brochure on anxiety and depression.

Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression, Manic Depressive Disorder)

While major and other forms or clinical depression are characterized by enduring periods of sadness, bipolar disorder is characterized by its emotional extremes. People who suffer from bipolar disorder, also still sometimes referred to as manic depression or manic depressive disorder, go through mood cycles in which they experience alternating times of euphoric highs and devastating lows, both of which can be equally dangerous to the sufferer’s mental and physical well-being.

Psychotic Depression

Psychotic depression occurs when the symptoms of clinical depression are accompanied by one or more symptoms of psychosis, such as delusions (possessing unreasonable, often unpleasant beliefs, theories or ideas that run contrary to reality) or hallucinations (seeing and/or hearing things that, as far as other people can tell, aren’t there).

Atypical Depression

Depression & Nutrition: B Vitamins

A causal relationship has not yet been definitively proven, but some research has found that people suffering from depression tend to be deficient in vitamin B12 and folate. B12 is found in animal-derived foods and some fortified vegetarian products, and folate has many healthy food sources including corn, lentils, orange juice and leafy green vegetables.

As the name suggests, atypical depression is characterized by a symptom set that differs from that generally associated with major depression. One difference is that people with atypical depression experience fewer depression symptoms. Another significant difference is that atypical depressives are more responsive positive external stimuli than major depressives — if something good happens in the life of someone with atypical depression, it can improve their symptoms because they will, in turn, feel good about it.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Generally believed to be caused by changes in levels of exposure to natural sunlight, seasonal affective disorder is cyclical: in most instances it comes on with the reduced sunlight of winter months, and fades with the return of spring and summer.

Postpartum Depression

Affecting up to one in eight new mothers and thought to be triggered by the significant hormonal changes that occur after the birth of a baby, postpartum depression is highly treatable but, left undiagnosed, can significantly interfere not only with a woman’s mental and physical health but with her ability to bond with and, in severe cases, care for her child.

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