Depressive disorders come in many different types, but each type has its own unique symptoms and treatments.We’ve compiled a quick guide to the different kinds of depression and the treatment methods that are most effective for each.
Major depression: the most common type of a depressive disorder, is characterized by a combination of symptoms (see symptom list) that interfere with the ability to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy once pleasurable activities. Such a disabling episode of depression may occur only once but more commonly occurs several times in a lifetime.
Mental health professionals use this checklist of specific symptoms to determine whether major depression exists or not. Depression is also rated by your diagnosing physician or mental health professional in terms of its severity — mild, moderate, or severe. Severe depression is the most serious type.
Dysthmia: A less severe type of depression, dysthymia, involves long-term, chronic symptoms that do not disable, but keep one from functioning well or from feeling good. Many people with dysthymia also experience major depressive episodes at some time in their lives.
Bipolar disorder: Also called manic-depressive illness. Not nearly as prevalent as other forms of depressive disorders, bipolar disorder is characterized by cycling mood changes: severe highs (mania) and lows (depression). Sometimes the mood switches are dramatic and rapid, but most often they are gradual. When in the depressed cycle, an individual can have any or all of the symptoms of a depressive disorder.
When in the manic cycle, the individual may be overactive, overtalkative, and have a great deal of energy. Mania often affects thinking, judgment, and social behavior in ways that cause serious problems and embarrassment. For example, the individual in a manic phase may feel elated, full of grand schemes that might range from unwise business decisions to romantic sprees. Mania, left untreated, may worsen to a psychotic state.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): It appears as feelings of sadness or hopelessness most often during the winters when days are short and the sunlight is less. Antidepressants and light therapy can help in the management of SAD. The symptoms of SAD fade away in the spring and summer.
Psychotic Depression: Individuals with psychotic depression tend to have psychotic and major depression symptoms. Being paranoid and having hallucinations and delusions are some of the primary signs of depression.
For the treatment of psychotic depression, a combination of antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs may be used. ECT is an option as well.
Peripartum (Postpartum) Depression: Peripartum depression can be seen in women who have major depression in the weeks and months following childbirth.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD): Women with PMDD may have mood swings symptom, anxiety, fatigue, trouble concentrating, change in appetite or sleep habits at the start of their period.
‘Situational’ Depression: Although it is not considered a technical term in psychiatry, situational depression can occur in people who have trouble coping with a stressful life event, such as losing a job, going through a divorce, or the death of a loved one. Psychotherapy can help people get through their depression associated with a stressful situation.
Atypical Depression: It is a subtype of major depression or dysthymic disorder that appears in a pattern of depression symptoms rather than persistent sadness in typical depression. The symptoms of atypical depression may include – increased appetite, feeling of heaviness in arms and legs, sleeping more than usual, oversensitivity to criticism.
Symptoms of Depression
Not everyone who is depressed or manic experiences every symptom. Some people experience a few symptoms, some many. Severity of symptoms varies with individuals and also varies over time.
• Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
• Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
• Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
• Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
• Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
• Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
• Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
• Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
• Restlessness, irritability
• Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
Symptoms of Mania (for Bipolar Disorder)
• Abnormal or excessive elation
• Unusual irritability
• Decreased need for sleep
• Grandiose notions
• Increased talking
• Racing thoughts
• Increased sexual desire
• Markedly increased energy
• Poor judgment
• Inappropriate social behavior
Causes of depression
Depression can be caused due to several biological and circumstantial factors, such as:
Family history: People are more likely to develop symptoms of depression and anxiety if they have a family history of depression or any other mental health issues.
Childhood trauma: A traumatic event or episode during childhood may affect the way the body reacts to fear and stressful situations and lead to severe depression symptoms.
Brain structure: The chances of getting depression are higher in individuals with an underactive frontal lobe. But, more studies to prove that are yet to be conducted.
Medical conditions: Medical conditions like insomnia, chronic pain, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, chronic illness may put an individual at a higher risk.
Drug use: People with a history of drug or alcohol misuse have a higher chance of experiencing the signs and symptoms of depression.
How is depression diagnosed?
There is no test to diagnose depression, however, your doctor or therapist can figure out the early signs of depression by conducting a physical exam and asking questions about:
- when the depression symptoms started to surface
- the period they have lasted
- the severity of those symptoms
- any family history of mental illness or depression
- history of drug or alcohol abuse
What are the treatment options?
Once your doctor rules out a cause for the symptoms, they can get you on a treatment or refer you to a mental health professional, who may work collaboratively with you and other therapists to decide the best course of treatment. Treatment may include psychotherapy, antidepressants or both.
Electroconvulsive therapy or ECT is another treatment option. It is suggested if symptoms don’t get better with medicine or for people with severe depression that needs immediate treatment.
When should one seek help?
It is important to seek the help of a professional if the symptoms are affecting one’s work, family and relationships, and they don’t seem to have any way out. Talking with a doctor or counselor can help to prevent the situation from getting worse, especially if the symptoms persist.
It is also important to note that depression isn’t the same as feeling depressed. Depression involves changes in mood, sleep, energy, appetite, concentration, and motivation.
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