- What is depression?
- What are the different forms of depression?
- What are the basic signs and symptoms of depression?
- What causes depression in women?
- What illnesses often coexist with depression in women?
- How does depression affect adolescent girls?
- How does depression affect older women?
- How is depression diagnosed and treated?
- What efforts are underway to improve treatment?
- How can I help a friend or relative who is depressed?
- How can I help myself if I am depressed?
- Where can I go for help?
- What if I or someone I know is in crisis?
What are the different forms of depression?
There are several forms of depressive disorders that occur in both women and men. The most common are major depressive disorder and dysthymic disorder. Minor depression is also common.
Major depressive disorder, also called major depression, is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person's ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities. Major depression is disabling and prevents a person from functioning normally. An episode of major depression may occur only once in a person's lifetime, but more often, it recurs throughout a person's life.
Dysthymic disorder, also called dysthymia, is characterized by depressive symptoms that are long-term (e.g., two years or longer) but less severe than those of major depression. Dysthymia may not disable a person, but it prevents one from functioning normally or feeling well. People with dysthymia may also experience one or more episodes of major depression during their lifetimes.
Minor depression may also occur. Symptoms of minor depression are similar to major depression and dysthymia, but they are less severe and/or are usually shorter term.
Some forms of depressive disorder have slightly different characteristics than those described above, or they may develop under unique circumstances. However, not all scientists agree on how to characterize and define these forms of depression. They include the following:
- Psychotic depression occurs when a severe depressive illness is accompanied by some form of psychosis, such as a break with reality; seeing, hearing, smelling or feeling things that others can't detect (hallucinations); and having strong beliefs that are false, such as believing you are the president (delusions).
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is characterized by a depressive illness during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. The depression generally lifts during spring and summer. SAD may be effectively treated with light therapy, but nearly half of those with SAD do not respond to light therapy alone. Antidepressant medication and psychotherapy also can reduce SAD symptoms, either alone or in combination with light therapy.2