Nowadays as mental health illnesses become less stigmatized, it’s common to hear things like, “I low-key had an anxiety attack” or “I’m so depressed.” But what IS depression? And how do we differentiate between the multiple types? Rising diagnoses mean it’s more important than ever to be knowledgeable on these topics so that we ourselves are well-informed, but also so that we can understand and be able to help those around us. Hopefully this article will share insight in order to bring about more awareness and challenge the stigmas surrounding the subject.
Please note: This article should not be used for self-diagnosis. While many of us may fall on the spectrum of several disorders, not all of us have the same symptoms. Always seek professional opinion first.
8 Types of Depression
Common overall features of these disorders include: Sadness, emptiness or an irritable mood, loss of interest or pleasure in activities and impairment of normal functions in a person’s day-to-day life.
1. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
I’m sure most of us can easily identify with some symptoms of this disorder (did someone say Cape Town Winter?). But it goes further than shit weather. Dr Helgo Schomer, behavioural psychologist explains that SAD is “a mood disorder subset in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year suddenly exhibit depressive symptoms at the same time each year.”
Most people experience SAD from the fall to winter months but some can also experience it during spring and summer. Read more here on the symptoms that differ between winter and summer months.
Signs: Loss of interest/pleasure in activities, oversleeping, trouble sleeping, appetite and weight changes, low energy, agitation/anxiety.
2. Major depressive disorder
Aka clinical depression. This disorder shouldn’t be confused with the ‘blues’. The main criteria for this kind of depression is that it persists for at least two weeks; so imagine of it as being really, really sad – most days than not.
According to WebMd: “A constant sense of hopelessness and despair is a sign you may have major depression, also known as clinical depression. With major depression, it may be difficult to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy friends and activities.”
Signs: Loss of interest or pleasure in nearly all activities, reduction in energy, pessimistic views of the future, decrease in self- esteem, confidence and concentration.
3. Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder
Most commonly found in children age 6-18, this disorder typically starts before the age of 10, but is known to often develop into other mood disorders when children reach adulthood (often ending in being misdiagnosed as bipolar).
“DMDD symptoms go beyond a being a “moody” child—children with DMDD experience severe impairment that requires clinical attention”, says the National Institute of Medical Health.
Signs: chronic, severe and persistent irritability that manifests in two ways: frequent temper outbursts and persistent, irritable or angry mood in-between temper outbursts.
4. Persistent depressive disorder (Dysthymia)
Known as persistent mild depression, people with this disorder are more susceptible to develop other conditions, like anxiety or substance abuse disorder. It’s not uncommon for people with this disorder to have experienced Major depressive disorder before, or to have had episodes of Major depressive disorder during Dysthymia.
“Dysthymia, sometimes referred to as mild, chronic depression, is less severe and has fewer symptoms than major depression”, explains WebMd. BUT, “with dysthymia, the depression symptoms can linger for a long period of time, often two years or longer.”
Signs: A depressed mood most of the day, for at least two years. Changes in sleeping pattern, low energy, low self-esteem, difficulty concentrating and feelings of hopelessness.
5. Pre-menstual dysphoric disorder
This is NOT your average PMS. WebMd explains that it is characterized by the following symptoms which re-occur exclusively before your period and lessen once it begins.
Signs: Mood changes, irritability, dysphoria (a state of discomfort, apathy) and anxiety.
6. Substance/medication induced depressive disorder
This disorder is when a person experiences symptoms of any depressive disorder like major depressive disorder, however, the disorder is linked to substance abuse. It’s not your usual downer from a night out. It’s much worse and longer.
So how do we tell the difference? VeryWellMind explains that “Generally, the diagnosis isn’t given if the person has a history of depression without substance use, or if the symptoms continue for more than a month after the person becomes abstinent from the alcohol, drugs or medication.”
Signs: Loss of interest/pleasure in activities, reliance on substances, depressive symptoms persist after intoxication and withdrawal. Affects social, occupational and other important areas of functioning.
7. Depressive disorder due to medical condition
How many of you have had injuries or been really sick before? Something as common as the flu can affect the way you interact day to day, your productivity at work and your general mood. People with the above disorder however have it much worse because their medical condition makes their day-to-day living much more difficult.
“For example”, Gulf Bend Center says, “a person with severe arthritis may become depressed just from the pain involved in getting dressed each day.”
8. Other Specified depressive disorders
This is when a person has symptoms that fit any one of the above-mentioned forms of depression, but does not fall under any diagnoses. A professional would be better able to figure this one out – so seek help if you think you need it.
“One of the biggest problems with unspecified depressive disorder is that it does not neatly fit into one of the categories for depressive disorders”, explains GoMentor. “Because of this, diagnosis or even treatment could be affected in a negative way.”
How to help
Depression affects sufferers’ lives immensely- which is why it should be taken seriously. If you have a loved one that is suffering from depression currently or if you identify with any of these symptoms consult a psychiatrist or psychologist. You can also call this 24-hr counselling line: 011-422-4242 or 086-132-2322. – I.I.I
Words: Hani Kutjo Choi
Feature image via edited by Zoya Pon