Depression usually involves a low mood that feels more painful than sadness or ordinary unhappiness. Depressed people stop taking pleasure in everyday activities. They also have symptoms other symptoms, such as changes in appetite, sleep or energy. (Some medical conditions can also lead to these changes, so it is important that you work with your health-care provider to identify the problem.)
The different types of depression are defined according to a few typical patterns and each pattern has a name. Here are some of the most common ones:
- Major Depression
- Bipolar Disorder
- Seasonal Affective Disorder
The key features of major depression are very low mood and decreased interest and enjoyment in activities that used to be enjoyable. To be called major depression, the symptoms should last at least two weeks. Other symptoms include weight gain or weight loss, insomnia or too much sleep, fatigue, poor concentration and feelings of worthlessness or guilt. The most worrisome symptom that needs prompt medical attention is recurring thoughts of death or suicide.
Dysthymia, also called dysthymic disorder, shares the same features of major depression. However, in dysthymia, the low mood and other symptoms are less intense than those in a major depressive episode, and they last longer — at least two years in adults and one year in children and teenagers.
A person with bipolar disorder has had at least one manic or mixed episode — an extended period (at least one week) of high, expansive or elated mood — the opposite of major depression. A person in a manic state feels energetic and active, has little need for sleep, be overly optimistic and may behave recklessly. A person in a mixed state has symptoms of both depression and mania. These symptoms can occur alternately, or may overlap in confusing ways.
Just as dysthymia is a less severe version of major depression, cyclothymia, or cyclothymic disorder, is a less severe but often longer lasting version of bipolar disorder. A person with cyclothymia has periods of both high and low mood — never as severe as either major depression or mania — over a period of at least two years.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder is characterized by moods that shift with the seasons. The most common pattern is a decrease in mood in the fall or winter (as days get shorter) and an improvement in mood in the spring. However, a few people have the opposite pattern, with depression in the summer.