Depression is a common and serious mood disorder that impacts roughly 19 million Americans a year and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Most people with depression experience improved symptoms with medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes, however only about one-third ever seek treatment.
Depressive disorders include the types described below:
Major depression, or clinical depression, is a serious condition that’s symptoms interfere with all aspects of life, such as sleep, work, school, and eating. People with major depression experience deep sadness, hopelessness, despair, and loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed. It can cause physical and emotional pain, and make sufferers feel like life is not worth living. It is possible to have one major depressive episode, but sufferers have several throughout life.
Persistent depressive disorder, sometimes called dysthymia, is a period of depressed mood that lasts for two years or longer. It is chronic, ongoing depression. This can co-occur with major depressive periods, but is characterized by periods of less severe symptoms.
Bipolar mood disorder is less common than major depression and persistent depressive disorder. It is identified by drastic mood shifts over time — from extreme highs to extreme lows, abrupt changes in energy levels, and distorted decision-making. It most commonly develops in late adolescence or early adulthood, and affects approximately 2.6 percent of Americans.
In addition, these three types of depression can occur in relation to life circumstances: psychotic depression, postpartum depression, and seasonal affective disorder.
Psychotic depression is characterized by major depression alongside a form of psychosis such as hallucinations, delusions, or a break with reality. An episode of psychotic depression makes a person more likely to develop bipolar mood disorder.
Postpartum depression occurs after the birth of a child in 10 to 15 percent of women, and is much more overwhelming and dangerous that the stereotypical “post-baby blues,” which includes mood swings or crying spells that fade very quickly. Postpartum depression is more long-lasting, and can interfere with a mother’s ability to care for her baby. It is characterized be feelings of inadequacy, insomnia, intense anger, or difficulty bonding with the baby.
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that occurs when natural sunlight wanes. It commonly develops in young adulthood. Typically, this form of depression lifts during spring and summer. Its symptoms vary in severity. For some, it means mild feelings of irritability and being out of sorts. For others, symptoms can echo major depression and interfere with daily life. It can be treated with light therapy or the traditional psychotherapy and medication combination. Because it is associated with daylight, it is more common away from the equator.
Who is at Risk?
The exact cause of depression is unknown. It appears to be a brain-based disorder caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. Often an imbalance in certain brain chemicals is tied to depressive symptoms, as are changes in hormones. Depression is more common in people who have relatives with the condition, though researchers have not pinpointed a specific gene responsible. Traumatic life events like the death of a loved one, or a history of childhood trauma, can trigger depressive bouts for some people.
You are more likely to develop depression if you also have certain medical conditions including ADHD, anxiety, and chronic pain. People with substance abuse problems may be more likely to develop depression as well. Major depression is one of the most common mental issues in the United States, affecting 6.7 percent of adults. Women are 70% more likely to experience major depression than are men. The average age at first diagnosis is 32 years old, but 3.3 percent of teens between ages 13 to 18 have experienced major depression.
According to studies, 80 to 90 percent of people suffering from depression experience significant improvement when their depression is treated, and almost all experience some control over symptoms. If you or a loved one is suffering from depression, there is hope.