Depression Symptoms

Some depression symptoms are common in many depression disorders, but there are also differences among types of depression. This article gives an overview of various depression symptoms that characterize some of the different types of depression to help clarify.

There are some symptoms that are generally associated with depression, but in truth, depression symptoms may vary with the type of depression a person has. Depending on the type of depression, the symptoms may seem quite different or even contradictory.

Major Depressive Disorder Symptoms

Also known as clinical depression or unipolar depression or simply major depression, the symptoms of this disorder are the ones that usually come to mind when depression is mentioned. Major depression is an episodic disease. This means that when it appears, it lasts for a time, but eventually goes away.

While it is present, however, its symptoms can be severe. They include a depressed mood that does not react to the events of life or people; a pervasive tone of sadness; a bleak outlook about the future, both in general and personally; loss of appetite and weight loss; insomnia; and loss of interest in activities and maybe even life in general. These symptoms may be attended by aches and pains that do not respond to treatment, and in extreme cases, with a complete withdrawal from life, thoughts of suicide, or suicide attempts.

Non-Pathological Depression Symptoms

All the symptoms mentioned above except the extreme ones may characterize non-pathological depression, which is not a mental disorder, but a normal reaction to the exigencies of life. Non-pathological depression is an expected response after a painful or unhappy event. It is distinguished from mental disorders by resolving without intervention after several weeks and in being clearly related to a life event that would make most people depressed.

Dysthymic Disorder Symptoms

Dysthymic disorder, also called dysthymia, minor depression, and mild depression, may be far from minor to the person who experiences it. It shares symptoms with major depression, except for the more extreme ones. But while it does not drive people to the extremes of major depression, it is also not episodic, but chronic, lasting two years or more. The length of time it lasts can make it more debilitating than major depression. The sad, pessimistic thoughts of depression, experienced over such a long period, create mental pathways and become ingrained, making them more difficult to get rid of, even when other symptoms have abated. See the article “Mild Depression” or “Chronic Depression” for more information.

Atypical Depression Symptoms

People with atypical depression have symptoms that differ from the symptoms describe for depression so far in significant ways. First, they do not have the flattening of emotional response that is typical in depression: they retain some responsiveness to the events of life. Second, they have a propensity for increased appetite and weight gain rather than decreased appetite and weight loss. Third, they have a tendency for hypersomnia or oversleeping, in contrast to the typical depressed person who cannot get sufficient sleep. There are other differences, including the typical age of onset, the most effective treatment, etc. See the article “Atypical Depression” for more information.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms

A person with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) leads a normal life except during a specific time of year - usually, but not always, the late fall and winter. At this time of year consistently, and only at this time, the person experiences depressive symptoms, which are linked to the time of year at which the person feels depressed. While all those with SAD may feel fatigue and lack of energy as well as anxiety and irritability, those who feel depressed in winter are likely to crave sweet/starchy foods, gain weight, and oversleep, while those who experience SAD in the summer are likely to experience loss of appetite, loss of weight, and insomnia. Because of its distinctive cause, the treatment for SAD is somewhat different than for other depressive disorders. See the article “Seasonal Depression” for more information.

Postpartum Depression Symptoms

The symptoms of postpartum depression are similar to those of major depression with a few differences due to it being the response to a unique circumstance: the birth of a child. First, a mother experiencing postpartum depression may have an overlay of guilt for feeling bad when she “should” be happy about the birth of her child. Second, in addition to symptoms that are shared with major depressive disorder and dysthymia, such as loss of appetite, difficulty in carrying out tasks, insomnia, fatigue, feelings of hopelessness, and mood swings, a mother with postpartum depression may also have thoughts of harming her baby or manifestations of psychosis, such as hallucinations or delusions. See the article “Postpartum Depression” for more information.


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