This page is for informational purposes only — if you need help for depression, please contact Vertava Health to connect with a professional and receive individualized treatment and support today.

Overview Of Depression

The CDC reports that depression, which may also be referred to as “clinical depression” or “major depressive disorder,” will affect approximately 1 in 6 people at some point in their lives.

Most people who have depression will experience persistent feelings of sadness along with other symptoms, such as a loss of interest in hobbies or activities that were once enjoyed.

The severity of depression varies from person to person, but most people with this condition will notice an impact on their quality of life. In the worst cases, untreated depression can lead to more serious consequences, such as suicidal thoughts or attempts.

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Types Of Depression

A few different types of depression exist, each with different symptoms and causes. Here is an overview of the different types of depression and how they can affect daily life:

Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)

People with persistent depressive disorder may experience a depressed mood that lasts for two years or more. The severity of symptoms may fluctuate over time, with periods of minor symptoms alternating with major depressive episodes.

During major depressive episodes, patients may experience more severe symptoms that disrupt their life considerably.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is a specific type of depression that can appear after giving birth. It is more serious than the milder anxiety and depression commonly experienced by women in the postpartum period.

True postpartum depression usually continues for more than two weeks after the delivery and can cause extreme feelings of sadness, as well as exhaustion and/or anxiety.

Psychotic Depression

Psychotic depression is a severe form of depression accompanied by psychosis, which is a condition that can cause an individual to experience hallucinations and/or delusions.

Hallucinations involve seeing or hearing things others cannot. Delusions, on the other hand, are false beliefs that are usually disturbing in nature.

Symptoms Of Depression

The symptoms of depression vary from one person to another. For the majority of people who struggle with depressive disorders, symptoms may impact their ability to function on a daily basis. True depressive episodes usually last for at least two weeks, whether symptoms are mild or severe.

Some of the most common symptoms of depression include:

  • feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness
  • changes in sleep patterns, including insomnia or sleeping more
  • changes to appetite, which may lead to weight fluctuations
  • loss of interest
  • feelings of guilt
  • lack of energy
  • irritability or angry outbursts
  • inability to concentrate
  • physical symptoms, such as unexplained pain
  • thoughts of suicide

Causes And Risk Factors

Researchers believe that depression is caused by a combination of different factors. Some of the potential causes or risk factors for developing depression include:

  • Genetics — Having family members who suffer from depression may increase the risk of developing this condition.
  • Differences in brain chemistry or structure — Studies have shown that changes in the way neurotransmitters function, as well as structural differences in the brain, may contribute to depression.
  • Life circumstances — Difficult circumstances, such as financial instability or the loss of an important relationship, may trigger episodes of depression.
  • Trauma — A history of trauma, especially at an early age, is recognized as a risk factor for depression.
  • Substance misuse — Misuse of alcohol or drugs can increase the likelihood of developing depression.
  • Physical illness/Medications — Depression may be more likely in the presence of certain physical illnesses, as well as a side-effect of some medications.

How Is Depression Diagnosed?

To be formally diagnosed with a depressive disorder, the individual must meet specific criteria. In general, the individual must have experienced a depressive episode that lasted for at least two weeks. Symptoms of a depressive episode may include:

  • loss of pleasure and/or interest in activities
  • difficulty concentrating
  • feelings of guilt or low self-worth
  • fatigue
  • changes in sleep patterns
  • changes in weight or appetite

Depending on the individual’s symptoms and life circumstances, a specific subtype of depression may be diagnosed to improve the effectiveness of treatment.

Treating Depression

Depression responds best when addressed with a specific treatment plan based on a thorough assessment of the patient’s needs. Some of the methods used to treat depression include:

  • Psychotherapy — Different types of psychotherapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy, may be effective.
  • Medication — Antidepressants and other medications may improve the symptoms of depression within a few weeks.
  • Brain stimulation therapy — Brain stimulation therapy may be recommended in cases where medication is not effective.
  • Light therapy — Light therapy works by exposing the patient to the full spectrum of light, which can regulate melatonin and improve depression symptoms.
  • Exercise — Regular exercise may reduce symptoms of depression for some patients.

Some patients may also benefit from alternative therapies or even residential treatment. In many cases, a combination of treatment will be recommended to improve patient outcomes.