Depression comes in many forms and its symptoms, duration and causes are varied. Below is a simplified list of the most common types of depression.
Anaclitic depression is commonly seen in infants whose caregivers have had a difficult time attaching to the infant and providing the necessary relational experiences basic for development. Symptoms may include apprehension, sadness, weeping, withdraw and refusal to eat. Anaclitic depression is often noticed in infants around 9 months of age.
Major depression, also known as clinical depression and unipolar depression, is a diagnosable condition experienced at any life stage. Symptoms may include sadness, loss of interest in pleasure, social withdraw, irritability, feelings of low self-worth, appetite changes and fatigue. Additionally, persons with major depression often experience depressive episodes that can last anywhere from two weeks to several months followed by periods of average mood. Treatment for major depression can include psychotherapy, counseling, group therapy and/or medication. Major depression is one of the most common mental health disorders treated in the United States.
Dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder is a milder form of depression that is present for at least two years. Individuals experiencing dysthymia typically feel down and depressed most of the time with little or no relief. Treatment often includes psychotherapy and medication.
Reactive depression can occur in anyone and is a reaction to a specific event. Typically, persons may experience reactive depression as a result of the loss of a loved one, job loss, marital and relationship conflict, etc. Because reactive depression is considered a normal reaction to difficult situations, it is not a diagnosable disorder and not typically covered by insurance. For individuals who struggle to get through their reactive depression, psychotherapy and counseling can be very effective by allowing the individual to discuss and process their experience. Medication can be helpful in some cases but is not typically the first step when treating reactive depression.
Bipolar depression is experienced by individuals who have bipolar disorder. The main difference between major depression and bipolar depression is identified during the periods when the depression is absent. Instead of the individual experiencing an “average” mood, the individual experiences either hypomanic or manic episodes which are characterized by expansive moods that may include impulsivity, risky behavior, elated mood and little insight into behavior. Individuals with bipolar disorder tend to have extreme mood swings where they go from one extreme to another. Bipolar disorder is treated with medication (mood stabilizers) and psychotherapy. It is recommended individuals with bipolar disorder do not take typical antidepressants as the medications can cause rapid cycling of moods.
David Kearby is a Board Certified Clinical Social Worker with a psychotherapy practice in downtown Indianapolis. David specializes in mood disorders, LGBTQ concerns and men's issues.