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What types of Depression are there?

Clinical depression is general term used to describe a range of depression conditions. There are a number of different types of depression that have been identified based on the triggers, symptoms, severity and duration of the condition. It is important to note that one person's experience of depression may be very different for someone else. Depression can be triggered and exacerbated by a number of different factors, circumstances and events and may not always fit into a particular category of depression. It is only through medical diagnosis that the appropriate treatment and management plans can be identified.

The Depression Alliance (2007) provides definitions of the five common types of depression:

Type 1. Reactive Depression
This type of depression is triggered by a traumatic, difficult or stressful event, and people affected will feel low, anxious, irritable, an even angry. Reactive depression can also follow prolonged period of stress and can begin even after the stress is over.

It is important to identify when a stressful situation has become so stressful that it causes depression. Like all types of depression, this condition can lead to serious mental and physical health symptoms. If these stress reactions and responses continue over an extended period of time, more serious depression emotions can result.

Type 2. Endogenous Depression
Endogenous depression is not always triggered by an upsetting or stressful event. Those affected by this common form of depression will experience physical symptoms such as weight change, tiredness, sleeping problems and low mood, as well as poor concentration and low self-esteem.

It may not always be possible to identify the trigger of depression, so it is important to be able to recognise the continuing symptoms of this type of depression. This form of depression can occur over a long period of time, causing serious health problems if left untreated. Sometimes upsetting or stressful events may contribute to the seriousness of this condition.

Type 3. Manic Depression (Bipolar Depression)
People with manic depression experience mood swings, with 'highs' of excessive energy and elation, to 'lows' of utter despair and lethargy. Delusions or hallucinations can also occur. Most people with this condition have their first episode in their late teens or early twenties.

Manic depression is a particularly serious form of depression that can sometimes be hard to recognise and diagnose. Everyone experiences ups and downs in their life, however it is when these moods become so extreme that they can cause serious harm. Specialist treatment and care is essential for sufferers of manic depression.

Type 4. Seasonal Affective Disorder
This type of depression generally coincides with the approach of winter. It is often linked to shortening of daylight hours and lack of sunlight. Symptoms will include wanting to sleep excessively and cravings for carbohydrates or sweet foods. Special 'light boxes' can be used to treat this kind of depression.

People who live in particularly cold seasonal climates are most likely to be affected by this disorder. If these negative emotions, feelings and moods continue for an extended period of time they can develop into other forms of depression.

Type 5. Post-Natal Depression
Many new mothers will experience baby blues; mood swings, crying spells and feelings of loneliness three or four days after giving birth. Post-natal depression will however last for much longer and will include symptoms such as panic attacks, sleeping difficulties, having overwhelming fears about dying, and feelings of inadequacy and being unable to cope. Post-natal depression is a common condition, affecting between 10% and 20% of new mothers. Starting two or three weeks after delivery, it often develops slowly, making it more difficult to diagnose. Often it goes unrecognised by the woman herself, or by her family.

It is important to be able to recognise the symptoms of post-natal depression to accurately identify the condition. Child birth is a very emotional experience in itself; however if negative emotions continue to dominate a mother's life in the weeks to come, medical assistance should be sought.

Definitions of depression based on the severity of the depression are also provided by medical professionals. The Depression.com (2009) website, highlights the differences between major depression and a milder type of depression call dysthymia:

  • Major Depression is commonly referred to as depression and is where a person feels the negative emotions of depression on a constant and continuous basis to point where it affects every part of a person's life. Physical and mental symptoms and illness are commonly associated with major depression.
  • Dysthymia is a mood disorder where people may feel mildly depressed on most days over a period of at least two years. They have many symptoms resembling major depression, but with less severity. Despite being less severe, dysthymia can still have a significant, long-lasting affect on a person's daily life.

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