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Harvard Commentaries
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Types Of Depression


September 25, 2014

Depression
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Learn The Basics
Types Of Depression
Types Of Depression
htmTypesOfDepression
Some mood disorders that include depression as part of the picture include major depression, dysthymia, bipolar disorder, cyclothymia and seasonal affective disorder.
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2011-09-27
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InteliHealth/Harvard Medical Content
2014-09-27

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Types Of Depression
 
Depression usually involves a low mood that feels more painful than sadness or ordinary unhappiness. Depressed people stop taking pleasure in everyday activities. They also have other symptoms, such as changes in appetite, sleep or energy. (Some medical conditions can also cause some of these symptoms, so be sure to work with your health-care provider to evaluate the problem.)
 
The different types of depression are defined according to a few typical patterns and each pattern has a name. Here are some of the most common ones:

 

Major Depression
 
The key features of major depression are very low mood and decreased interest and enjoyment in activities that used to be enjoyable. To be called major depression, the symptoms should last at least two weeks. Other symptoms include weight gain or weight loss, insomnia or too much sleep, fatigue, poor concentration and feelings of worthlessness or guilt. The most worrisome symptom that needs prompt medical attention is recurring thoughts of death or suicide.

 

Dysthymia
 
Dysthymia, also called dysthymic disorder, shares the same features of major depression. However, in dysthymia, the low mood and other symptoms are less intense than those in a major depressive episode, and they last longer — at least two years in adults and one year in children and teenagers.

 

Bipolar Disorder
 
A person with bipolar disorder has had at least one manic episode. Mania is the polar opposite of depression (thus the name). It is an extended period (at least one week) of high, expansive or elated mood. A person in a manic state feels energetic and active, has little need for sleep, be overly optimistic and may behave recklessly. In some individuals, depressive symptoms may overlap with manic ones, rather than occurring at distinct times.

 

Cyclothymia
 
Just as dysthymia is a less severe version of major depression, cyclothymia, or cyclothymic disorder, is a less severe but often longer lasting version of bipolar disorder. A person with cyclothymia has periods of both high and low mood — never as severe as either major depression or mania — over a period of at least two years.

 

Seasonal Affective Disorder
 
Seasonal affective disorder is characterized by moods that shift with the seasons. The most common pattern is a decrease in mood in the fall or winter (as days get shorter) and an improvement in mood in the spring. However, a few people have the opposite pattern, with depression in the summer.

 

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