What are the types of depression and their symptoms?

Depressive disorders come in different forms, just as do other illnesses, such as heart disease and diabetes. Three of the most common types of depressive disorders are discussed below. However, remember that within each of these types, there are variations in the number, timing, severity, and persistence of symptoms.

Major depression

Major depression is characterized by a combination of symptoms that last for at least two weeks in a row, including sad and/or irritable mood (see symptom list), that interfere with the ability to work, sleep, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities. Disabling episodes of depression can occur once, twice, or several times in a lifetime.

Dysthymia

Dysthymia is a less severe but usually more long-lasting type of depression compared to major depression. It involves long-term (chronic) symptoms that do not disable but yet prevent the affected person from functioning at “full steam” or from feeling good. Sometimes, people with dysthymia also experience episodes of major depression. This combination of the two types of depression is referred to as double-depression.

Bipolar disorder (manic depression)

Another type of depression is bipolar disorder, which encompasses a group of mood disorders that were formerly called manic-depressive illness or manic depression. These conditions show a particular pattern of inheritance. Not nearly as common as the other types of depressive disorders, bipolar disorders involve cycles of mood that include at least one episode of mania and may include episodes of depression as well. Bipolar disorders are often chronic and recurring. Sometimes, the mood switches are dramatic and rapid, but most often they are gradual.

When in the depressed cycle, the person can experience any or all of the symptoms of a depressive disorder. When in the manic cycle, any or all of the symptoms listed later in this article under mania may be experienced. Mania often affects thinking, judgment, and social behavior in ways that cause serious problems and embarrassment. For example, indiscriminant or otherwise unsafe sexual practices or unwise business or financial decisions may be made when an individual is in a manic phase.

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