Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the United States.
While many people experience grief or sadness, depression lasts longer. It can cause ongoing sadness, anxiety, helplessness, and hopelessness. It can cause you to lose pleasure in activities you found enjoyable in the past. It can even affect your appetite, sleep, and energy level.
There are several different types of depressive disorders that affect people in different ways.
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What Are the Symptoms of Depression?
The symptoms of the various depressive disorders are similar. What sets the types of depression apart are factors like when symptoms affect people, how severe symptoms are, and how often they occur.
Depressive disorders can affect your mood and your ability to perform everyday tasks. Symptoms include:
- Persistent sadness or irritability
- Feeling of worthlessness
- Loss of interest in activities
- Decreases or increases in sleep
- Decreases or increases in appetite or weight
- Trouble concentrating
- Hallucinations or delusions, in severe cases
If left untreated, major depression can cause serious health impacts. People suffering from depression may have suicidal thoughts or take suicidal actions.
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Types of Depression
Depression affects people in different ways, depending on what type you’re suffering from.
Biological, environmental, genetic, or life factors can cause different types of depression. For some people, depression can result from a specific circumstance in their life. For others, it’s a constant battle.
- Major depression: Also known as clinical depression or major depressive disorder, this is the most known type of depression. About 18 million American adults suffered a major depressive episode in the past year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. To be diagnosed with major depression, you must feel serious symptoms for a period of at least two weeks. Symptoms can last longer than that, or they can come and go.
- Persistent depressive disorder: Also known as dysthymia, persistent depressive disorder can have more minor symptoms than major depression. However, symptoms last for two years or longer, making it a more chronic form of depression. Many people with persistent depressive disorder also suffer a major depressive episode at some point, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
- Postpartum depression: Many women feel sad or empty after giving birth. But if those feelings last beyond a few days, it could be postpartum depression. Women with postpartum depression feel sad, empty, or lonely for two weeks or more after giving birth. It can affect their daily lives and their feelings toward their child; they may not feel connected to their baby. About 1 in 9 women suffer from postpartum depression.
- Perinatal depression: Related to postpartum depression, women experience perinatal depression during pregnancy.
- Seasonal depression: Also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), symptoms come and go with the seasons on a repeating pattern. People experience SAD at a certain time each year, and it goes away when the seasons change. SAD usually appears in the fall and winter months, but people also can experience it in the spring and summer.
- Major depression with psychosis: People with severe depression may also suffer from psychosis. These psychotic features may include hallucinations or delusions.
- Bipolar depression: This is a symptom of bipolar disorder, a mental health condition that can cause extreme mood swings. People with bipolar disorder can go from the extreme lows of depression to extreme highs, a state of mania.
Depression can be effectively managed with treatment. The earlier treatment begins, the more it can help. The most common treatments are medications and psychotherapy, or some combination of the two.
- Medications: Doctors can prescribe antidepressants, mood stabilizers, or antipsychotics, which can help regulate some of the chemicals in your brain. It may take a while for medications to work, and you may need to try a few different types before finding the right one. Use of these medications should be monitored for side effects.
- Psychotherapy: Also known as talk therapy, you meet with a licensed mental health professional to discuss your depression and associated symptoms. Your therapist can help you identify what’s causing your depression and potentially find the right treatment to overcome it. Therapy can be done in individual and group settings.
- Brain stimulation therapy: Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) uses electrical waves to stimulate the parts of your brain that regulate mood. ECT often is used in cases when medication or therapy does not help with depression.
Lifestyle changes like a healthy diet, regular exercise, and good sleep also may help with your mood. However, they should not be considered official treatment for depression.
For more information, call UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital at 1-877-624-4100 or 412-624-1000.
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Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, Major Depression. https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/major-depression-a-to-z
National Alliance on Mental Illness, Understanding Dysthymia. https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/January-2018/Understanding-Dysthymia
National Institute of Mental Health, Depression. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml
National Institute of Mental Health, Psychotherapies. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/psychotherapies/index.shtml
National Institute of Mental Health, Seasonal Affective Disorder. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml
Office on Women's Health, Postpartum Depression. https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/mental-health-conditions/postpartum-depression
UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is a nationally recognized leader in mental health clinical care, research, and education. It is one of the nationâ€™s foremost university-based psychiatric care facilities through its integration with the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. UPMC Western Psychiatric is the hub of UPMC Western Behavioral Health, a network of nearly 60 community-based programs providing specialized mental health and addiction care for children, adolescents, adults, and seniors throughout western Pennsylvania.