7 types of Depression

Apr 19, 20248 min
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Depression, a word whispered in hushed tones but experienced by millions worldwide – approximately 280 million people in the world have depression according to the WHO –  is more than just fleeting sadness. It can feel like a storm that might engulf an individual, casting long shadows over their lives and painting the world in shades of grey. Yet, within this seemingly uniform disorder lies an extensive landscape of depressive disorders.

  1. Major Depressive Disorder

Major depressive disorder (MDD), often referred to as clinical depression, is the most diagnosed kind of depression. MDD can be a weakening force, robbing individuals of their energy, motivation, and the very essence of joy. It can feel like a never-ending tide of despair. Its major symptoms are:

  • Persistent Low Mood: Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and emptiness become constant companions, draining your sense of optimism and purpose. 
  • Anhedonia: People suffering from MDD experience a loss of pleasure in activities they once enjoyed. Goals and hobbies lose their appeal, replaced by a sense of apathy and indifference.
  • Suicidal Thoughts: Intrusive thoughts about harming yourself or others may surface, adding another layer of fear and distress to the existing emotional turmoil. These thoughts, however unwanted, can feel overwhelming, making it crucial to seek immediate help.

“Over a period of about two months I fell into a deep hole of depression, when several issues came to a head in my life. It all began when schoolwork started to get difficult. After years of easy grades, I suddenly had to work hard for them, and the requirements became more complex and intense. After a while I gave up trying, as I’d convinced myself that I just couldn't do it. I felt lost and confused, with no idea of what I wanted for the future. I lost all motivation. I thought that by giving up and ignoring the difficult things, life would get easier.”“In February 2021 I checked into a psychiatric ward. The emergency department doctor admitted me after I answered yes to the following questions: Do you have little interest or pleasure in doing things? Do you feel bad about yourself or that you are a failure or have let yourself or your family down? Do you have trouble concentrating on things such as reading the newspaper or watching television? Do you have thoughts that you would be better off dead or of hurting yourself? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. After several weeks of crippling anxiety and depression, I was back in a place I dread more than any other, but I know it’s the safest place for me to be when I feel that low. This wasn’t the first time I’d been there, and unfortunately it probably wouldn’t be the last. That’s the bad news. The good news is that I recovered and expect to recover again.”

Above mentioned are a couple of accounts of two different people’s experiences with depression, showing how the causes and symptoms of MDD differ for each individual and thus require specialised care.

  1. Dysthymia 

Dysthymia is a chronic type of depression. Individuals suffering from this kind of depression face issues for at least two years. It is a dull ache in the soul, depleting motivation and joy without the crippling intensity of MDD.

  • Depressed mood for two years or more: This is the defining characteristic of dysthymia. The sadness isn't always overpowering, but it's a constant hum in the background, colouring your perceptions and weighing down your spirit.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most activities: The things that once brought joy now feel dull and unappealing. Hobbies gather dust, social interactions become draining, and even the act of self-care can feel burdensome.
  • Changes in appetite or sleep: Appetite may increase or decrease, leading to unwanted weight changes. Sleep patterns become erratic, with either insomnia or excessive sleep offering no true rest.
  • Low energy and fatigue: Daily tasks feel monumental, draining your energy reserves like sand slipping through your fingers. Motivation dwindles, even the smallest actions requiring monumental effort.

It is important to keep in mind that dysthymia's long-lasting nature doesn't diminish its pain, nor does it make it "lesser" than MDD. Dysthymia can be longer lasting which is painful in its own way, in comparison to MDD which is shorter and acute. Even in Dysthymia, there can be shorter phases where it gets more intense, just like MDD.

  1. Seasonal Affectivity Disorder:

For some, the changing seasons become omens of depression. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) appears with the shortening days and fading sunlight of winter, leading to symptoms like less energy, carbohydrate cravings, and social withdrawal.

  • Drained and lethargic: Feeling like you're constantly carrying a heavy weight, with even simple tasks requiring immense effort.
  • Struggle to get going: Difficulty waking up in the morning, experiencing chronic fatigue that lingers throughout the day.
  • Reduced motivation: Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, finding it hard to muster the energy to engage in hobbies or work.
  • Carb attack: Increased desire for sugary and comforting foods, leading to weight gain in some cases.
  • Loss of interest in social interactions: Avoiding contact with friends and family, withdrawing from social activities you used to enjoy.

For those grappling with SAD, the winters can be long and difficult. However, these symptoms often recede as spring arrives. Studies suggest that 4.7% of individuals in Kashmir, for instance, deal with SAD symptoms like fatigue, low mood, and sugar addiction during the colder months.

  1. Perinatal Depression

The hormonal fluctuations of pregnancy and childbirth can set off perinatal depression, affecting both expectant mothers and new parents. This form of depression is distinct in its presentation and risk factors, and occurs anytime during pregnancy or the first year after childbirth. The emotional upheaval of perinatal depression can be triggered by a complex interaction of physical, hormonal, and social factors. The ups and downs of hormones during pregnancy and postpartum can leave mothers feeling overwhelmed and vulnerable—sleep deprivation, a constant companion of new parenthood, further chips away at emotional strength. The physical changes to the body, from the pains of pregnancy to the recovery from childbirth, add another layer of stress. Hating how one looks during pregnancy, or after childbirth, contributes to this as well. On top of all this, the immense responsibility of caring for a tiny baby, often with a lack of social support, feels like a hefty weight. Financial worries, pre-existing mental health conditions, and relationship difficulties can add fuel to the fire. It requires sensitive and specialized care to ensure the well-being of both mother and child. 

Unique Symptoms of Perinatal Depression:

  • Intense worry about the baby: A constant fear for the baby's well-being, even with no logical basis. Imagine a protective blanket around the baby that you constantly fear you're failing to maintain.
  • Difficulty bonding with the baby: Despite wanting a connection, it feels out of reach and impossible.
  • Withdrawal from social interactions: Isolating yourself from loved ones to deal with overwhelming emotions, and feeling like a burden to others.
Symptoms Of Perinatal Depression - Therapy Club
  1. Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression specifically refers to depression that occurs after childbirth, typically within the first few weeks or months. This distinct kind deserves individual attention due to its specific challenges and the cultural context surrounding motherhood in India.

  • Persistent sadness and emptiness: A melancholic cloak drapes over everyday moments, draining their joy and colour.
  • Guilt and worthlessness: Self-blame becomes a relentless inner critic, passing judgments and reducing your self-esteem, making you feel like a failure as a mother.
  • Appetite's unpredictable dance: Food loses its appeal, leading to weight loss, or cravings take over, causing unhealthy weight gain.
  • Suicidal thoughts: Intrusive thoughts of harming yourself or your baby may creep in, terrifying and unwanted.

In India, facing perinatal and postpartum depression can be extra tough because of deeply rooted cultural beliefs. Many mothers who are battling sadness and anxiety stay quiet due to the shame attached to mental health issues. They feel pressure to act like the perfect mothers society expects, even though they're hurting inside. Finding professional help can be tricky, especially in villages where there may not be enough doctors or affordable treatment options. The focus on family traditions and heavy workloads at home adds to the stress, making them feel guilty, like they're not good enough. These cultural layers mix with the already big changes mothers go through during pregnancy and childbirth, making things even harder. That's why it's crucial to have caring support that understands both the cultural background and the specific challenges of these forms of depression, so both mothers and their families can thrive.

  1. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

Similarly, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) has symptoms like irritability, mood swings, and depression occurring in the days leading up to menstruation.

  • Severe irritability and anger: Outbursts of rage, difficulty controlling frustration, increased sensitivity to criticism.
  • Marked mood swings: Rapid shifts between feeling sad, hopeless, and anxious, followed by periods of extreme happiness or anger.
  • Clinically significant depression: Feeling down, worthless, or hopeless, lack of interest in activities once enjoyed, changes in appetite and sleep, suicidal thoughts in severe cases.
  • Anxiety and feelings of tension: Difficulty relaxing, racing thoughts, physical symptoms like muscle tension, headaches, or stomachaches.
  • Social withdrawal and isolation: Avoiding social interactions due to overwhelming emotional symptoms.

Recognising and managing PMDD can significantly improve the quality of life for individuals experiencing these cyclical emotional fluctuations.

  1. Bipolar Disorder:

On the other end of the spectrum lies bipolar disorder, which is more than just mood swings. Individuals with bipolar I experience manic episodes characterised by extreme highs, euphoria, and hyperactivity, followed by crushing lows of depression. Bipolar I's manic episodes are more than just feeling happy or energetic; they're a mixture of hyperactive energy and emotions that can distort reality. People feel like they have boundless energy, and sleep becomes unnecessary, causing them to push their bodies to the limit. Individuals may feel invincible as if they have infinite self-esteem. This leads them to possess a godlike confidence that blinds them to the potential consequences of their actions. It's important to remember that manic episodes are not just about feeling happy or energetic. They represent a state of extreme dysregulation, where judgment and rational thinking become compromised. These manic episodes are followed by periods of despair and sadness. Hopelessness and guilt take hold, draining motivation and joy. The world transforms into a dark landscape, leaving individuals struggling to function. This cycling between joy and despair can be disorienting and challenging, leaving people grappling with the aftershocks of each emotional extreme.

It's crucial to remember that these are just broad differentiations. Within each type exists a range of severity. Moreover, individual experiences can vary greatly. Some people may battle momentary depressive episodes, while others wage long wars against prolonged despair. There is no fully fashioned, ‘overall’ make of depression. Therefore, understanding this diversity is very important for effective support and treatment. 

Depression may hide the world in darkness, but it’s important to remember that solutions exist. Effective treatments, from psychotherapy and medication to lifestyle changes and social support, can uncover the path to recovery. Early recognition and intervention are crucial, and reaching out for help is vital to reclaiming joy and purpose. Remember, you are not alone in this journey. Numerous resources and support networks exist to guide you through the shadows and back into the light. If you feel like you are suffering from any of these symptoms, consult a specialist– a psychiatrist or a psychologist. Apart from professional help, exercising, healthy sleep patterns, a balanced diet, etc., help in reducing stress and can significantly improve mood and well-being. Moreover, connecting with loved ones, joining support groups, and building a strong social network can combat isolation and provide invaluable encouragement.

Depression is not a character flaw or a sign of weakness; it is a medical disorder deserving of compassion and understanding. By recognising the diverse kinds and experiences of depression, we can build a more supportive world. By breaking the stigma, challenging misconceptions, and extending a helping hand to those battling this invisible storm, we can collectively illuminate the dark road towards hope and healing.

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Psychologist | Mental Health | Gender & Sexuality