Health And Wellness

There Are 2 Different Types Of Depression — How Each Sneaks Up On You

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depressed woman

Depression is a mood disorder that affects over 16 million Americans. It can happen to anyone because life hits us hard sometimes; it hurts and can be overwhelming.

The two most common types of depression are Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Persistent Depression Disorder (PDD).

Depressive disorders commonly occur due to a chemical imbalance in the brain, which affects a person's mood. Typically, a reduction in levels of certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, is the physiological cause of depression. 

Individuals, who often dwell in negative and self-defeating thoughts and beliefs, greatly increase the risk of ending up in a depressive state.  

RELATED: 5 Ways To Keep Your Relationship Strong When Battling Depression

Here are the two different types of depression and how each sneaks up on you:

1. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

A person can also become depressed due to a stressful life event or change, such as the death of a loved one, going through a divorce or relationship breakup, relationship or job dissatisfaction, a job loss, dealing with chronic physical pain or a grown child leaving the nest, etc.

These life events or changes, along with an individual's negative perception, self-defeating thinking, and beliefs that can arise from events, will alter the chemical balance in the brain. To a lesser degree, genetics (i.e. family history), can also contribute to depression.

RELATED: How To Cope When Your Partner Is Struggling With Depression

However, a person's negative perception, pervasive negative thinking, and self-defeating beliefs have the biggest impact on generating a depressed mood.

Having a prolonged, negative perception, thinking, and beliefs will, unfortunately, put a person in victim energy, creating poor coping and problem-solving ability.  

Common symptoms of depression include:

  • Loss of pleasure
  • Motivation and energy in most if not all activities
  • Excessive sleep or inability to sleep (insomnia)
  • Loss of appetite (weight loss) or increased desire to eat (weight gain)
  • Low self-esteem and sense of unworthiness
  • Restlessness or anxiety and irritation or agitation
  • Difficulty with focus, concentration, and making decisions
  • Crying spells for no real reason and flat or sad facial expression
  • Increase in worry or paranoia

You need to have at least 5 of these symptoms, daily, for a period of at least 2 weeks or more, to be clinically depressed. Many people experience some of these symptoms from time to time, resulting in a mild form of depression.

Depression that occurs due to a stressful life event or change is commonly called situational depression or adjustment disorder. The person becomes depressed due to a recent stressful situation, which requires the person to adapt or adjust to the change caused by a particular event.  

Situational or adjustment depression is usually short-lived, perhaps 6 months to a year. Clinical or major depression is more severe and long-lasting.

RELATED: 10 Agonizing Truths Depressed People Never Talk About

There are several different subtypes under the heading of major depressive disorder. For example, seasonal affective disorder (SAD). A condition in which a person begins to get more depressed in the fall and winter months, due to the lack of sunlight (shorter periods of daylight). Increased sunlight helps produce the brain's chemical serotonin.

Another subtype is a major depressive disorder with peripartum onset (commonly known as postpartum depression). This disorder affects pregnant women prior to delivery and more commonly within 4 weeks after giving birth.

2. Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD) 

Often called, dysthymia, this type of depression has milder depressive symptoms, so the depression is not as severe as major depression. However, PDD is characterized by a depressed mood most of the time for at least two years.

This type of depression is like a lingering dark cloud of sadness/unhappiness over a person, which never seems to go away. Depression can get more or less intense, yet it always seems to be there.

How Depression Can Sneak Up On You

Being exposed to a traumatic or stressful life-changing event can easily trigger depressive symptoms, especially if a person has poor coping skills and little to no support system.

Unfortunately, depression, like much of mental health, carries a stigma. So many people develop defensive skills to keep their struggles and emotional pain hidden and avoided.

Depression will surface if we are resistant, avoidant, in denial, non-accepting of a situation, or blaming ourselves or others. 

These defensive coping behaviors are common ways people, unintentionally promote and feed depression. These emotional defenses often come about, due to a perception of fear, and negative and self-defeating thinking.

A part of the mind can be the "deceiver", by avoiding, denying, or minimizing the emotional intensity of a difficult life experience. As part of the mind deceives, other brain regions and the body, hold and store the trauma and pain.

In due time, the mind will struggle with functioning and the person will find it more difficult in taking care of normal daily responsibilities and activities in healthy ways. Depression now has its paralyzing grip on the person in mind and body.

The symptoms of depression, like any medical condition of the mind or body, are the body and mind's innate way of alerting us that something needs to be addressed, and tended to within, for reconciliation and healing.

To change your perception and thoughts is to change your world.

Depression is treatable. Those who seek treatment with therapy, learning mindfulness practices like meditation, yoga, taking certain herbs, or if needed perhaps medication.

Also offering oneself, greater self-care and self-love; assists in realizing improvements in depressive symptoms. More importantly, these modalities can create the opportunity, in time to realize the higher meaning and perspective from a difficult experience or situation.

RELATED: 9 Subtle Signs Of Depression (That I Was Too Depressed To Notice)

David Schroeder, LMSW, CPC from Grand Rapids, MI., is a licensed social worker, certified life coach, and author of Just Be Love: Messages on the Spiritual and Human Journey.