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How to Distinguish the Different Types of Depression

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  • If you’re suffering from depression but have an improvement in your mood whenever pleasurable events arise, then you may be diagnosed with “atypical depression” or “depression with atypical features”
  • It’s said that women are two times more prone to be diagnosed with depression than men

Depression can occur in any person, and can vary in intensity and triggers. While an overall low mood is the hallmark sign of this mental ailment, this disorder can have varying symptoms as well.

Be Familiar With These Classifications of Depression

The term “depression” is actually just an umbrella term for a number of disorders. For example, if you’re suffering from depression but have an improvement in your mood whenever pleasurable events arise, then you may be diagnosed with “atypical depression” or “depression with atypical features.”1 Here are other different classifications of depression and their hallmark characteristics:2,3

Major Depression — When people talk about depression in general, this is usually the type they are referring to. Also known as major depressive disorder (MDD), unipolar depression or clinical depression, this condition involves having a low mood, losing interest in once-enjoyable activities and other symptoms. It can last for at least two weeks or longer, and can be classified as mild, moderate or severe. MDD can also interfere with a person’s eating and sleeping patterns.

Psychotic Depression — When a depressed individual loses touch with reality, this can be defined as psychotic depression or simply psychosis. Common signs of this disorder include having hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that are nonexistent) or delusions (false beliefs), and paranoia. They sometimes believe that they are bad, or that they are being followed or watched. They may also feel as if everyone is against them or that they are responsible for misfortune around them.

Catatonic Depression — This type is characterized by the inability to move normally. Someone who suffers from this type usually remains motionless and speechless for a long period of time. However, they may also have sporadic episodes of fast or jerky movements.4

Melancholic Depression — When a person has this specific type of depression, he or she tends to move more slowly. They also suffer from low mood and sadness, and often lose pleasure in everything (or almost everything).

Dysthymia — Although less severe than clinical depression, dysthymia is just as debilitating. Also known as persistent depressive disorder, this is characterized by having a low mood over a long period of time. People suffering from dysthymia are able to move and work adequately but not optimally. Fatigue, sadness, concentration difficulties and changes in eating and sleep habits are some typical symptoms of this type.

Bipolar Disorder Unlike other forms of depression, which are characterized by long continuous periods of sadness or low mood, those with bipolar disorder generally alternate from extremely low moods to periods of extreme highs. This condition is also known as manic depressive disorder, since the symptoms usually alternate from depression to mania.

Common symptoms of bipolar disorder include excitement, poor judgment, racing thoughts and high energy. These bouts of highs and lows may cycle a few times per year or, sometimes, much more rapidly. There are four subtypes under this disorder:

Bipolar I — People who have at least one manic episode

Bipolar II — This is characterized by milder hypomanic episodes as well as depression

Cyclothymic disorder — Having chronic fluctuating moods in a period of at least two years or more

Specified bipolar and related disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)Known as the “winter blues,” this type of depression is linked to lack of natural sunlight or variations in light exposure in changing seasons. At least 4 to 6 percent of Americans are said to suffer from SAD, which is characterized by increased irritability, daytime fatigue, anxiety and weight gain. Usually, the depression starts during winter and disappears when the season ends. Light therapy is effective in alleviating this disorder.

Agitated depression — As its name implies, agitation is prominent if you have this type of disorder, and it is generally severe and may be driven by hypomania. Agitated depression is also known as mixed mania, and occurs more among middle aged and elderly people than children and teens.5

Situational Depression — This short-term type of depression, also known as adjustment disorder, manifests after a traumatic change in a person’s life, such as retirement, divorce, losing a job or death of a loved one. The symptoms of this condition usually manifest within 90 days after the traumatic event.6

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Some Forms of Depression Occur Specifically in Women

It’s said that women are two times more prone to be diagnosed with depression than men.7 In fact, there are certain types of depression that manifest only in women, mainly because they are linked to hormonal changes in the body. These include:

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) — This form of depression affects females in the second half of their menstrual cycles. It’s different from premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and is actually much more severe. Symptoms of this disorder include anxiety and mood swings, and may interfere with a woman’s relationships and ability to function normally.8

Antenatal/prenatal depression — At least 14 to 23 percent of women struggle with depression during their pregnancy.9 Since pregnancy often comes with fluctuating hormones, this is not uncommon. Typical signs of this disorder include having persistent sadness, insufficient or excessive sleep and lack of interest in once-enjoyable activities. Prenatal depression may also have repercussions on a woman’s unborn child.

Postpartum depressionAlso known as postnatal depression, this condition occurs in new mothers weeks or months after they’ve given birth, and is usually associated with hormonal changes. The symptoms are similar to that of antenatal depression, although some mothers also experience difficulty bonding with their baby, and succumb to excessive crying or fears that they’re not a good parent.


Depression: Introduction

What is Depression?

Depression in Men and Women

Childhood Depression

Depression During Pregnancy

Depression Duration

Depression Causes

Types of Depression

Depression Symptoms

Depression Effects

Depression Treatment

Depression Prevention

Depression Diet

Postpartum Depression

Manic Bipolar Depression

Major Depressive Disorder

Depression Test

Chronic Depression

Seasonal Depression

Psychotic Depression

Depression FAQ


Depression Causes


Depression Symptoms

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