Types of Depression
- Major depression also called major depressive disorder, clinical depression or just ‘depression’ is the form of depression people are most familiar with. It is characterised by an ongoing feeling of sadness and a loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyable.
- Bipolar disorder, previously called manic depression, is a condition where a person feels periods of both depression and mania whilst also feeling normal in between. Mania is often described as the opposite of depression. A person experiencing mania may feel great, have lots of energy, talk really quickly, not feel the need for sleep or have racing thoughts.
- Melancholia is a severe form of depression where more of the physical symptoms are present alongside a mood that is more likely to find no pleasure in anything.
- Dysthymia is often described as a less severe more long term form of depressive disorder. A person will have milder symptoms typically for more than two years.
- Cyclothymic disorder is typically seen as a milder form of bipolar where short periods of mania and depression are present over a period of two years but more often a normal mood is experienced.
- Antenatal and postnatal depression is depression experienced during pregnancy or in the year following childbirth. It presents very similarly to major depression.
- Psychotic depression is depression where hallucinations or delusions are also present.
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder affected by seasonal changes. It may be diagnosed if either mania or depressive moods have been noticed to begin and end in a specific season.
Symptoms of Depression
Depending on the type of depression, different symptoms are experienced. If you are feeling a combination of the below and they are affecting your ability to complete daily activities, you may have a form of depression. Symptoms include:
- Feeling sad, miserable, overwhelmed, guilty, frustrated, unhappy, disappointed, indecisive or lacking in confidence
- Thinking negative thoughts such as “I’m a failure”, “I’m worthless”, “Life is not worth living”, “People will be better off without me” or “There is nothing good in my life”
- Behaviours such as not going out more, withdrawing from friends and family, no longer partaking in activities that used to be enjoyable, inability to concentrate, relying on sedatives such as alcohol or being less productive at work or school
- Physical symptoms such as feeling tired all the time, feeling unwell and rundown, getting frequent headaches or stomach aches, loss of appetite or a change to sleep schedule
Causes of Depression
Lots of different factors can affect whether or not a person will develop depression. Everyone’s situation is unique but sometimes understanding the factors that may have led to depression can help develop a more effective treatment plan.
Some factors that can increase a person's likelihood of developing depression are:
- Life events. Long term, ongoing challenges such as long term unemployment, living in an abusive relationship, experiencing long term isolation, can increase the risk of depression.
- Family history. Not everyone who has a parent or sibling with depression will develop this mental health condition themself but there is a potential genetic link that makes depression more common within families.
- Personality. People with personality traits such as perfectionism, low self-esteem or a tendency to worry are more likely to develop depression at some point in their lives.
- Drug and alcohol use. Substance abuse can put a person at greater risk of depression but may also be used as a form of self-medication once symptoms of depression start to develop.
- Serious physical illness. This can lead to depression directly or the ongoing stress and worry of treatment or dealing with chronic pain can trigger depressive disorder.
Diagnosis of Depression
Only a GP or mental health professional is able to diagnose depression. To diagnose a doctor will typically conduct both a physical and mental examination to understand all potential symptoms. The mental health assessment may be a discussion or questionnaire which may ask questions about how you feel and think, if and how often you are experiencing any symptoms, if you or your family have any history of mental illness or if you have ever been exposed to any events that are considered risk factors for depression.
Treatment of Depression
Depending on the severity and type of depression you are experiencing a doctor will work with you to find the combination of treatments that are right for you. Typically multiple treatments are recommended to be used together.
- Psychological treatments. These are also sometimes called talking therapies and use methods such as cognitive behavioural therapy or mindfulness to train your brain into healthier patterns of thinking. These can be self conducted using online tools but it is often recommended you be supported through depression counselling in the case of medium to severe depression.
- Medical treatments. Antidepressants are the most commonly used medication in the treatment of depression but other medicines such as mood stabilisers and anti-psychotic drugs may also be used by themselves or in conjunction in order to treat more severe or complex cases of depression. Not all antidepressants work the same way and it can take a bit of time to find the right medicine for you.
- Lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes can be effective in managing symptoms of depression. Commonly recommended changes are a reduction of substance use (e.g. alcohol or drugs), improvement of sleep schedules, healthier diets and exercising regularly.