Let’s Talk Types of Depression

Depression’s depression and the type doesn’t matter, right?

Well, not exactly. Different types of depression are different. There’s the type of depression that is largely situational and probably shouldn’t be called depression at all. Then there’s Dysthymia, Major Depressive Episode, Major Depressive Disorder, single episode or recurrent, mild, moderate or severe and Bipolar Disorder, most recent episode depressed. I could go on.

Different types of depression present, well, differently. And some are treated differently. So it’s worth taking a look.

SITUATIONAL DEPRESSION is sadness. It might last for awhile–a week, maybe more. But situational depression is not really a type of depression, it’s more a state of being. And unless it continues on, it’s not a psychiatric disorder. It’s a response to life’s stressors. Say your aunt dies. Or your dog. Or your best friend leaves town. Or turns against you.

What do people do for situational depression? Usually nothing. They feel sad for awhile and then it goes away. All by its lonesome.

DYSTHYMIC DISORDER is one of the types of depression that causes you to have a depressed mood, most of the day, for more days than not, for at least two years. To be diagnosed with dysthymia, you also need to have two of the following: low energy or tiredness a lot of the time, majorly decreased or increased appetite, poor self-esteem, lousy concentration or problems making decisions, altered sleep (you’re sleeping way too little or way too much,) and feelings of hopelessness. If you are a child or teenager with Dysthymia, however, the mood can be more irritable than depressed and the time period can be for just a year.

MAJOR DEPRESSIVE EPISODE means that you have five or more depressive symptoms for at least a two week period. During this time, your mood and behavior must differ, significantly, from your normal functioning. One of the five symptoms has to be either a depressed mood, most of the day, nearly every day, or a very noticable loss of interest or enjoyment in things that used to be a lot of fun. Also, four or more of the following symptoms must exist: significant weight loss or weight gain; low energy or tiredness much of the time; insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping much too much;) feelings of worthless or unreasonable guilt; difficulty thinking, concentrating and making decisions and repeated thoughts of death that are more than a fear of dying. These thoughts of death often include repetitive suicidal ideas with or without a suicidal plan. It is also possible that you have already made a suicide attempt.

MAJOR DEPRESSIVE DISORDER (which can be mild, moderate or severe) means you have had one or more Major Depressive Episodes, with one episode lasting at least two months, or several episodes occurring within a two-month period. The symptoms of depression are the same as in a Major Depressive Episode.

BIPOLAR 1 DISORDER, MOST RECENT EPISODE, DEPRESSED means you are having a Major Depressive Episode currently or have had one recently, and that you also have had a Manic or Mixed Episode recently.

While I’ve already described what a Major Depressive Episode is like, here are the symptoms for a Manic Episode: You must be in an elevated (better than good) or irritable mood for at least one week and this mood is different from your typical functioning. Also, you must have at least three of the following: decreased sleep (two or three hours of sleep ‘feels o.k.’;) pressured speech (you talk nonstop;) inflated self-esteem or grandiosity (you are sure you can run the country better than the president, fly to the moon better than any astronaut or design a skyscraper better than the best architect…;) flight of ideas (your thoughts jump from one idea to the next with little connection;) distraction; increase in goal-directed activities (you take on lots of projects and work on them tirelessly;) excessive involvement in activities that are risky (unprotected sex, buying sprees…)

With Bipolar Disorder, Depressed, it is also possible for your manic episode to be more of a mixed episode. In this mixed episode, your moods alternate rapidly. One minute you might be sad, another euphoric, another rageful. Whatever mood state you are in, though, you do it with manic energy.