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The Many Faces of Depression: The Types & Symptoms


According to MediLexicon, depression is “A mental disorder characterized by sustained depression of mood, anhedonia, sleep and appetite disturbances, and feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and hopelessness.”

It’s hard to get through one day without seeing or hearing the word “depression.” Many people use it incorrectly or as a joke, but for many more people, it’s a deeply painful (and very real) emotional battle. For some, its only lasted a couple of weeks. For others, it’s been an endless battle for many years.

No two people suffer the same depression. That is, no two people experience the same symptoms, feelings, or emotions during their depression. It affects everyone in profoundly different ways.

What many people don’t realize though, is that depression may sound like an all-encompassing term, but the truth is, there isn’t just one type of depression. There are many and they all differ from each other in numerous ways, and while we may disagree on some things, one thing is for certain–depression is a very real and debilitating illness. The statistics don’t lie.

Depression: The Scary Statistics

According to Healthline, diagnoses of depression are growing. As a result, so is the percentage of people hesitant to get the care they need.

  • 1 in every 10 people in the United States suffers from depression at one time or another
  • 80% of those who suffer from the symptoms of clinical depression do not seek out care
  • Every year, the number of people diagnosed with depression increases by 20%
  • People who are unemployed or recently divorced may have a higher likelihood of suffering from depression
  • 60%-80% of depression diagnoses can be taken care of with therapy and/or medications
  • It’s estimated that as many as 121 million people around the world suffer from some form of depression

Types of Depression

Depression is so much more than just a sad mood. While one person may suffer from symptoms that are similar to those of another person, the types of depression these people suffer from can be very different.

Major depression is perhaps the biggest and most prevalent type of depression. It affects as many as 6.9% of adults in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Symptoms generally include feelings of extreme sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness, as well as irritability, a lack of energy, concentration troubles, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, and thoughts of death or suicide.

Major depression is typically diagnosed if these symptoms have lasted longer than two weeks. The good news is that 80%-90% of those diagnosed will respond well to treatments that may include antidepressant medication and therapy.

Dysthymia is a lesser form of major depression, but is still very real and affects approximately 2% of adults across the country. Dysthymia causes a low, sad mood, which generally lasts for more than a year. The symptoms of it include sadness, concentration problems, changes in eating and sleeping habits, and fatigue.

Those who suffer from this type generally have a higher risk for developing major depression, but this risk can be reduced with regular therapy and, if needed, medications.

Pospartum depression may affect as many as 85% of women after childbirth. 16% of women who feel a profound sadness after childbirth have symptoms that are serious enough to warrant a diagnoses of this type of depression. The general symptoms of postpartum depression include extreme sadness, feelings of loneliness, hopelessness, and a disconnect from the child, as well as fatigue, suicidal ideations, and fears of hurting the baby.

Many women may assume these feelings will go away on their own. Postpartum depression is a serious form of depression that should be taken care off right away. Immediate therapy sessions can help, as can medications, if they’re needed.

Seasonal affective disorder is another form of depression that many people seem to ignore. It affects as many as 4%-6% of people in the U.S., and include symptoms of anxiety, weight gain, daytime fatigue, and increased irritability.

Seasonal affective disorder is typically a bigger issue in cold climates and during winter months. According to Everyday Health, it’s more common if you live farther north. A lack of vitamin D may be a cause, as there’s less sun exposure when it’s cold out. Light and regular therapy are ideal for overcoming SAD.

Atypical depression is a newer depression discovery. While it is characterized by many of the same symptoms of major depression, it’s not as well understood. It’s thought though, that atypical depression may be one of the most common types among people today.

Symptoms outside of those in major depression can include overeating, oversleeping, a heavy feeling in the extremities, and relationship troubles. Regular therapy is generally the best treatment form.

Psychotic depression is thought to be the most severe form of depression. As many as 20% of people who suffer from depression experience episodes so sever that they may see or hear things that aren’t really there–a break with reality.

Psychotic depression may occur in about 5% of those who suffer from major depression, and may include symptoms of hallucinations, muteness, catatonic states, and an overwhelming desire to stay in bed. Medication is generally needed to help address this form of depression.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by low periods of depression followed by high periods known as mania. This type affects approximately 2%-3% of Americans, and also has the highest risk for suicide. Bipolar disorder typically has four subtypes, all of which are normally addressed with a blend of therapy and mood stabilizers.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) affects around 5% of women during the second half of their menstrual cycles. PMDD is more sever than regular PMS, and include symptoms like depression, anxiety, and mood swings, in addition to the regular symptoms of PMS, such as bloating and headaches. Typical treatment involves a mix of nutritional changes and regular therapy.

Situational depression is the result of life-changing events, such as the loss of a job or loved one. Symptoms include sadness, worry, and nervousness. It’s three times as common as major depression is, but the good news is that treatment involves no medication. Situational depression typically goes away over time, but if it does not, you may be suffering from another type.

The Bottom Line About Depression

Depression is a very real and very serious illness. Getting the proper care and medication is important for recovery. If you’re not a fan of traditional anti-depressants, there are natural products that may be able to helps you get your depression under control.

Have you suffered from any of these types of depression? How are you seeking help? We’d love to hear your stories. Please leave a comment below!

Featured Image Credit: spinster cardigan via Flickr


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5 Responses to The Many Faces of Depression: The Types & Symptoms

  1. Jen October 13, 2014 at 11:22 am #


    Well written post. Too often the natural health world dismisses the seriousness of mental illness. Not everything can be solved with dietary changes etc so it’s nice to see you acknowledge mental illness as an actual disease, like it is. This blog (not yours, but in general) is guilty of a lot of quack “science” writing. Thank you for actually taking time to research and form an educated article. Natural Healtjy Concepts could stand to do more of that!!! Nice to see you acknowledge the use of traditional medication as a great option for depression treatment.


    • Theresa Groskopp, CN October 14, 2014 at 4:06 pm #

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Jen. It’s possible that we could do better at presenting both sides of an issue and we’ll work on that. We do take exception to your comment that those of us in the natural health world dismiss the seriousness of mental illnesses and that we are guilty of “quack science”.

      On the contrary, we care deeply about this subject. Many of us have friends and family who’ve been diagnosed with a mental health disorder of some sort and we’ve seen what they’ve gone through. Some of them have experienced debilitating side effects from the drugs and for others it was a total misdiagnosis. As you’ll see in our recent post on PANDAS/PANS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcus) there are physiological reasons some people have psychological problems and we don’t want people to suffer needlessly.
      As to the “quack science”, we’re very careful to link to reputable sources in our posts. The types of depression listed in Kerri’s post come from the DSM IV (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), and as noted in this article from Psychology Today, many reputable clinicians have called it into question. It seems European psychologists and psychiatrists have taken it to task for over diagnosing:

      “The credibility of DSM 5 has been irrevocably compromised by the recklessness its decisions; the weak scientific support; and the poor reliabilities in the failed DSM 5 Field Trials. I doubt DSM 5 will remain the international standard for research journals; it will almost certainly not gain any clinical following outside the US; and it will also probably lose its role as the lingua franca of American psychiatry.”

      The final paragraph in the article, written by Allen Frances,MD, chair of the DSM-IV Task Force and of the department of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, NC, sums up the DSM IV dilemma here:
      “We must protect against the real danger that all of psychiatry will be tainted by the folly of DSM 5. This would be unfair to clinicians and dangerous for patients. Psychiatry is an essential and successful profession when it it sticks to what it does well. DSM 5 was an aberration- not a true reflection of the field.

      There is only one possible good that can come from this unfortunate episode. Perhaps the concern over DSM 5 will generate a serious discussion on how best to correct over-diagnosis, over-medication, and the excessive authority that has been given to psychiatric diagnosis in school decisions, disability determinations, benefit eligibility, and in forensics. Psychiatric diagnosis has become too important for its own good.”

      Also, in this article from NPR on PMDD, the article expresses concern “….that PMDD could be overdiagnosed, pathologizing healthy women who were experiencing normal hormonal shifts. After all, she says, there’s a lot of money to be made from it.”

      A disorder in the DSM means drugs can be prescribed – expensive drugs that often don’t work, with well documented side effects. In a perfect world, all physiological causes for any mental health diagnoses should be thoroughly eliminated before a person is labeled and medications are prescribed.

      So we’ll do a better to present both sides of an issue where appropriate, but it seems the other side could use a little work too, don’t you think?

  2. Jen October 17, 2014 at 11:01 am #


    Absolutely I think the two sides need to do better at complimenting each other…imagine what could be done if natural health and traditional medicine worked together instead of against each other? It would be pretty incredible!

    That’s really what I was trying to point out that I enjoyed about this article. That the author didn’t dismiss traditional medicine entirely. She acknowledged it and its benefits and also highlighted natural options as well.

    I’m not saying natural medicine isn’t beneficial. I absolutely believe it is. I just really enjoyed Kerri’s approach to this article. It didn’t have the judgment that some other articles (especially the ADD ones) have. I’d love to see you dig deeper into both sides of the argument and look for ways that natural and traditional medicine can improve the health of our population on a variety of diseases. I believe natural options are better in some situations but when it’s written as an attack ok traditional medicine I don’t think it supports or benefits the natural health movement.

    Traditional medicine needs to acknowledge that natural medicine works and is beneficial, but it’s also nice to read when natural health supports traditional medicine as well.

    Looking forward to continuing to read this blog.


    • Theresa Groskopp, CN October 20, 2014 at 3:52 pm #

      Thanks Jen. You are correct! Our nation’s healthcare would be in a much better state if natural health and traditional medicine were complementary, rather than antagonistic. Let’s hope we can get there someday soon!

  3. How To Handle Depression June 7, 2019 at 6:06 am #

    Fantastic article, I have bookmarked this excellent website and may learn more later. keep up the great work!

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