Types of Depression & Available Treatments

Although people with depression may exhibit many of the same symptoms, thoughts and feelings, there are actually several different types of depression. Your doctor can evaluate your symptoms to make a proper diagnosis. Each type of depression has different patterns, triggers, diagnostic criteria and treatment methods.

Major Depression, which affects about 25% of people at least once in their lifetime, interferes with one’s ability to work, study, sleep, eat and enjoy once pleasurable activities. Many common life changes can trigger major depression, such as losing a loved one (death, divorce, break-ups), fighting with someone, moving, graduating, changing careers, and retiring. Abuse (physical, mental or sexual) and social isolation are also common causes. Antidepressant medication and talk therapy are common treatments for this form of depression.

Chronic Depression, also called dysthymia, is a relatively mild but chronic form of depression that affects over 10 million Americans. People with chronic depression are able to function in their daily lives, but have extreme difficulty finding pleasure in normal activities, and experience feelings of sadness and emptiness that may persist for years. Some people with chronic depression find talk therapy alone to be effective, but antidepressant medications can also help.

Double Depression describes the condition of a person who experiences both major depression and chronic depression at the same time. Typically, people with double depression experience a bout of major depression for a while, followed by the milder chronic depression.

Seasonal Depression, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, typically occurs during the colder, darker months (but can rarely occur during the summer). People with SAD experience depressive symptoms at the same time each year. Treatment can involve talk therapy, antidepressants, and light therapy. Lifestyle changes can also prevent the onset of SAD.

Other serious forms of depression that are less common include manic depression (bipolar disorder), psychotic depression (depression accompanied by hallucinations and delusions), and postpartum depression.

No matter what form your depression takes, talk with your health care provider to find the best treatment plan for you.

Treatment Options for Depression

Your doctor will likely try a combination of methods to treat your depression. Discuss the following treatment options with your doctor to find out what will work best for you. A combination of medication and therapy is the most common treatment method.

There are several different types of antidepressant medications, and they all work a little differently. It will take a few weeks for a medication to take effect and for your doctor to find the best dosage for you—to maximize benefits and minimize side effects. Whatever medication you use, be sure to follow the directions closely. Some require dietary changes to avoid food-drug interaction, for example. Once you start feeling better, you may think you no longer need your medication. But you should never change your dosage or discontinue using antidepressants until your doctor explains how to do so safely while also preventing a recurrence of symptoms.

Psychotherapy, or "talk therapy," is one of the most common treatment methods for depression. By talking with a qualified mental health professional, you'll learn about the behaviors, events, situations, and problems that contribute to your depression, find ways to cope with these factors, and regain control over your life and happiness. Several different types of psychotherapy exist, from one-on-one to group therapy. Just as you may try a few types of medication before you find the best fit for you, the same is true of psychotherapies (and therapists).

Alternative Therapies
While alternative therapies show promise, they are most effective when combined with medication and psychotherapy. Your doctor may also suggest the following options, in conjunction with your medication or therapy plan.  *Please note that even though alternatives may seem safe and "natural," they too can have negative side effects. Always discuss alternative therapies with your doctor before trying them on your own:
  • Herbal supplements, such as St. John's Wort
  • Acupuncture, acupressure, or aromatherapy
  • Dietary changes or nutritional supplements
  • Exercise, such as walking or yoga
  • Electroconvulsive therapy, a last resort for severe depression that doesn't respond to conventional treatment
Remember that depression is a serious medical condition, not a sign of weakness. Most people cannot overcome depression without medical intervention. Luckily, more treatment options (with fewer side effects) are available today than ever before. Because depression is complex, the first treatment you try might not do the trick. Be persistent and continue visiting your doctor until you find the best form of treatment to help you live a fulfilling, productive life.
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Member Comments

Good need-to-know information, thanks! Report
Good article. Report
good article thanks Report
As someone who works in mental health/social work, hopefully this article will be updated soon. Either way, hopefully it’ll help someone (on a basic level) who needs it. Report
I am on medication, and I've found coming here to SparkPeople and encouraging others is another way to assist me on my journey. Thanks for the article. Report
I suffer from chronic depression and for a while about 15 years ago suffered from major depression. I was on Prozac for about 5 years and gradually weened off them. I found my government funded (I live in Canada so some psychiatrists are covered by our health plan) therapist completely useless. I have heard of friends saying they found better results with private doctors and you need to find the best fit for you. Not every therapist will connect with you. Unfortunately I couldn’t afford it. The drugs worked, and now I no longer need help, but I still get blue days. I have changed my brain chemistry though so now if I get blue the therapy I use is to just get up and do something. Usually I can get over it by the next day. Often it comes around my period which is a form of depression on its own similar to post partum. Hormonally triggered. I have learned how to recognize the signs and use nutrition and exercise to combat it most of the time. It doesn’t mean that I will never need medicine or therapy in the future just that I’m finding holistic ways to deal with it by myself Report
Please update article to reflect TMS ( trans cranial magnetic stimulation) as a therapy. I had it over a year ago,and haven't used anti depressants for over 8 months. Report
Sorry that I asked a question. Didn't read above first Report
most of these are old. I'm Bi Polar Was told July 2000 but I know that some was wrong in my teens. I've got the help I needed and I'm still going some of the meds I take the side effect is weight gain. Which sometimes I think of not taking, but I know better I just have to try harder but sometimes I feel like it's a battle I'll never will win. Want group would be good for me? Need Help Report
I want to reiterate that if you think you could have depression, please get help. I thought I was fine for years & had "normal" troubles - until I started having hallucinations, losing control of my body, and majorly hurting myself (biting my arms, pulling out my hair, hitting myself, etc). It turns out I had Borderline Personality Disorder, which is a marriage of PTSD and depression. It's half genetic, so it's really nothing that someone can control.

If I would have gotten help sooner, I wouldn't have had to go through all of the self-harm that I did. It really hurt my entire family & scared my children to see their mom like that.

I have a family member that has similar symptoms (no self harm) and refuses to get help because she's too proud & worried about the stigma associated with it. No one has to know if you're worried about it (medical records are confidential), and my loved one will continue to liver life sub-par because of that pride. Please, just try to catch it early before things get worse. You're always better safe than sorry. Report
I am bi-polar. I was not diagnosed until I was 53. I spent a lot of years medicating myself with alcohol and other drugs. I feel so stable now and marvel still how good life is. Good talk and good drugs have made me "normal" like everyone else. Don't be afraid to reach out for help even though your mind set at the time makes everything seem hopeless. P.S. I am also epileptic. Report
My depression comes and goes. Growing up being 'depressed' was a bad word being that my Grandmother was often hospitalized for her depression.
I attempt to read positive things and exercise to overcome it, but today at work it I am not able to. Report
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You did not mention "reactive depression" which results from having many stresses thrown at you all at the same time. My Dr. told me I had that when I was a newlywed many years ago. Report
I'm surprised this article doesn't address so-called "atypical depression." It's probably the most common type of depression; it's just called "atypical" because it doesn't tend to respond to the same medications people were coming up with for major depression.

Some of things that distinguish atypical depression are constantly overeating, sleeping too much, and feeling like the limbs are far too heavy for exercise. Seems like it'd be worth mentioning on a site for people who've been having trouble eating well and getting fit. Report


About The Author

Nicole Nichols
Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.