Four Types of Depression

Depression is an emotional illness that affects as many as 14 million adults in the United States. It is a serious problem, but can be treated with an appropriate plan. There are several types of depression. The most common are major depression, dysthymia, adjustment disorder and manic depression, also called bipolar disorder.

Major depressive disorder is the most common type of depression. Symptoms include feelings of hopelessness and despair, fatigue, lack of concentration, weight gain or loss, guilt feelings, a sense of worthlessness and thoughts of death. Additionally, depressed people also have sleeping problems. They may experience insomnia, or they may want to sleep all the time. To warrant the diagnosis of clinical depression, these symptoms must be experienced nearly every day. The National Institute of Mental Health says as many as 25 percent of the adult population in the United States suffer from major depression at least once in their lives.

Major depression is usually treated by therapy and medication. Antidepressants commonly used are SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) such as Prozac, Lexapro, Paxil and Zoloft or tricyclic antidepressants such as Elavil or Tofranil.

Dysthymic disorder is another type of depression. It appears as a chronic, low-grade form of clinical depression. Unlike major depression, people with dysthymia are able to work, play and carry on with their lives, but they seem consistently down and never happy. Besides persistent unhappiness, symptoms include difficulty with sleeping either too much for too little, a loss of interest in pleasurable activities, sluggishness, low energy, and lack of concentration. It is a common form of depression. There are almost 11 million adults suffering from dysthymia in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Dysthymia is a very treatable disorder. Doctors will often use a combination of counseling and medication. As with major depression, SSRIs and tricyclic antidepressants are the most common medications used.

Another type of depression is known as an adjustment disorder. Once called reactive depression, it is caused by stressful events, such as the death of a close family member or friend, divorce, relationship problems, abuse and life changes, such as moving or retirement. People with adjustment disorder have an unusually strong reaction to life stressors. Although the symptoms are the same as those for major depression, the differentiating factor is that the problem follows a specific event. Additionally, adjustment disorder is almost always a short-term illness, where major depression can last a long time.

Doctors treat adjustment disorder with counseling and the medications used for major depression and dysthymia.  If the patient also experiences anxiety along with the adjustment disorder, the doctor may suggest a short course of anti-anxiety medications to help relieve some of the immediate discomfort.

Manic depression, more commonly known as bipolar disorder, is an extremely serious type of depression. It causes dramatic shifts in mood, activity and energy levels. There are several different types of bipolar disorder, but manic depression always includes one or more major depressive episodes that are accompanied by at least one manic episode. Manic depression causes major distress and impairment in the patient’s daily life.

Scientists say there does appear to be a genetic factor in manic depression. It often begins in the teenage years. Although it is a serious illness,  patients can lead a fairly normal life with therapy and the correct medications. Common manic depression medications include Lithium, Depakote, Lamictal and Topamax. It is important to get an accurate diagnosis, because manic depression can easily be confused with other types of depression.


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