It’s normal to experience a range of emotions in our lives. There are times when we feel happy, and there are times when we feel down. But depression is more than just “feeling sad”. It is a medical condition that affects the way you think, feel and go about your daily life. It’s estimated that 6.3% of Singaporean population is affected by depression. But what causes depression, what are some symptoms, and how can you fight depression? 

In this article, we’ll look at the 5 types of depression and how you can seek help if you suffer from any of them. 

What is depression?

Depression is more than just sadness. It’s a prolonged feeling of sadness which affects your daily life. Depression affects the way you think, behave and respond to different situations. 

Those who suffer from depression often find themselves dwelling in depressive thoughts, and that often keeps them from performing at work, at home and in school. 

Depression is an illness that can be treated. If left untreated, the symptoms can worsen, leading to dire consequences. 

Many who suffer from initial depression do not realise that they are suffering from it. They may write it off as having a bad day. As such, it’s important to identify these symptoms early on, and seek help to learn how to fight depression as soon as possible.

Read here to find out more about the warning signs to look out for.

What are the 5 types of depression?

Infographics on the types of depression
Knowing the types of depression can help you learn how to fight depression.

1. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

MDD is known as the classic form of depression and characterised by persistent feelings of sadness. Those who suffer from MDD may experience some of these symptoms:

  • Loss of interest in activities you enjoy doing
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Feeling restless or agitated 
  • Problems concentrating
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Low energy

In general, sufferers of MDD consistently experience these symptoms for a prolonged period. 

It can be difficult to tell if you’re simply feeling sad or suffering from MDD. If you’re experiencing any five of the above symptoms for more than two weeks, there’s a chance you could be experiencing depression. Seek help or talk to someone you trust if you think you need help.

2. Persistent Depressive Disorder

Persistent Depressive Disorder is also known as dysthymia. Its symptoms are quite similar to that of MDD but are not as severe. Those who suffer from this form of depression could experience a combination of depressive symptoms for two years or even more. 

Symptoms of dysthymia include loss of interest in daily activities, feelings of hopelessness, and having low self-esteem and an overall feeling of inadequacy. If dysthymia is left untreated over a period of time, it could interfere with your relationships, work, school, and how you perform daily activities. 

Sufferers find it difficult to be cheerful even on happy occasions and those around them might find them “gloomy” and incapable of having fun. 

As sufferers of dysthymia have experienced this form of depression for a prolonged period, they might have accepted it as a part of their lives and may not even know that they’re depressed. 

If you suspect that you’re suffering from dysthymia, it’s important to seek professional help as soon as possible. Reach out to your doctor or a loved one for help and learn how to fight depression. 

3. Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression. It’s characterised by extreme feelings of euphoria and downswings of low depressive periods. Those who suffer from bipolar disorder experience frequent mood swings. This can range from as often as every week, to as sporadically as a few times a year. 

It can be difficult to identify someone who suffers from bipolar disorder because it manifests itself in varying ways.  Symptoms can cause unpredictable changes in mood and behaviour, resulting in significant distress and difficulty in life. In general, there are three types of bipolar disorder — Bipolar I Disorder, Bipolar II Disorder, and Cyclothymic Disorder. 

Bipolar I Disorder

For Bipolar I Disorder, sufferers go into manic episodes that last at least a week. A manic episode is when the sufferer is extremely lively or irritable most of the day for most days, and experiences a significant change in behaviour, including at least three of the following:

  • Exaggerated self-esteem or grandiosity
  • Less need for sleep
  • Talking more than usual, loudly and quickly
  • Easily distracted
  • Doing many activities at once, scheduling more events in a day than can be accomplished
  • Increased risky behaviour (e.g. reckless driving, spending sprees)
  • Uncontrollable racing thoughts or quickly changing ideas or topics

Sometimes, these episodes are so severe that sufferers need immediate hospital care. Depressive episodes also tend to occur with these manic episodes, which typically lasts around two weeks. 

Bipolar II Disorder

Woman crying as she struggles with depression
Depression can negatively affect how you feel, the way you think and how you act.

For Bipolar II Disorder, sufferers go through a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes. Bipolar II disorder is not a milder form of Bipolar I Disorder, but a separate diagnosis.

A depressive episode is a period of two weeks in which the sufferer experiences at least five of the following:

  • Intense sadness or despair; feeling helpless, hopeless or worthless
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Sleep problems — sleeping too little or too much
  • Feeling restless or agitated (e.g. pacing or hand-wringing), or slowed speech or movements
  • Changes in appetite (an increase or decrease)
  • Loss of energy; fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering and making decisions
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Hypomanic episodes are similar to manic episodes, but with less severe symptoms that last at least four days.

Cyclothymic disorder

Sufferers of cyclothymic disorder go through periods of hypomanic and depressive symptoms that last for at least 2 years. However, these symptoms do not meet diagnostic requirements for a hypomanic episode and a depressive episode. 

Here’s a table summarising the three the bipolar disorder classifications:

Bipolar Disorder ClassificationBipolar I DisorderBipolar II DisorderCyclothymic Disorder
What is it?Manic episodes that last at least a week or by manic symptoms that are so severe that require immediate medical attentionAt least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episodeAt least 2 years of many periods of hypomania symptoms and periods of depressive symptoms (less severe than MDD)
Differences May trigger a break from reality (psychosis)
May be preceded or followed by hypomanic or major depressive episodes for at least 2 weeks
No manic episodeSymptoms do not meet diagnostic requirements for a hypomanic episode and a depressive episode. 

If you’re unsure whether you have bipolar disorder, or find that you have some of these listed symptoms, it’s important to seek professional help. Video consult with MyDoc’s medical professionals today. 

4. Postnatal depression

Postnatal depression, also known as postpartum depression, usually develops within the first few weeks after giving birth, but it also can start at any time during the first year after birth or during pregnancy. There is no single cause of postnatal depression, but physical and emotional issues may play a role. Physical issues include hormonal changes after childbirth and sleep deprivation; while emotional issues include feeling overwhelming/anxious and having money, work or relationship problems.

Women who are at risk of developing postnatal depression include those with past psychiatric illness (especially MDD); those who were depressed in pregnancy; and those who have little support, money worries and marital/relationship dissatisfaction.

Several symptoms of postnatal depression include:

  • Feeling down or depressed for several weeks or more
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Feeling extremely tired or loss of energy
  • Intense irritability and anger 
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby or negative feelings towards your baby

Most women experience emotional fluctuations after childbirth. Due to fatigue and hormonal changes, they may feel more easily overwhelmed and emotionally fragile. However, if these symptoms do not go away in a week or two, you could be suffering from postnatal depression. 

5. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder

Woman looking moody in bed due to her depression
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a depressive condition where a woman has severe depression symptoms, irritability and tension before menstruation.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Many women experience varying degrees of PMS during their menstrual cycle. However, PMDD is more than just the mood swings you might experience during your menstrual period. 

Those who suffer from PMDD experience extreme fluctuations in their emotions especially before their menstrual period. This causes them to go into moods of depression and anxiety, which affects their interactions with others and their performance in school and at work. 

In PMDD and PMS, symptoms usually begin 7 to 10 days before the start of the menstrual period and continue for the first few days of the menstrual period. Both PMDD and PMS may cause bloating, breast tenderness, cramps, fatigue and changes in sleeping / eating patterns. However, in PMDD, at least one of the following emotional and behavioural symptoms stands out:

  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Anxiety or tension
  • Extreme moodiness
  • Marked irritability or anger

While the exact cause of PMDD is unclear, those who remains unclear, those who have had a personal or family history of postnatal depression, mood disorders, or depression, are more likely than others to experience PMDD. It is possible that the hormonal changes that trigger a menstrual period worsen the symptoms of mood disorders. 

How to fight depression: Educate yourself with the signs and symptoms

Depression is more common in our society than we realise and they come in various forms. 

When we talk about depression, most of us have a preconceived idea of what depression might look like, such as experiencing extreme sadness for a prolonged period. 

However, that does not encompass all forms of depression. There are many causes and varying symptoms of depression, depending on the severity. 

Due to the stresses and demands of society, many individuals suffer from depression and anxiety. However, as many of us are not educated about symptoms of depression, it often goes untreated. And if it’s left untreated, depression could worsen and destroy your relationship with your loved ones,  as well as affect your performance at work.

If you suspect that you might be suffering from depression or know of someone who might be suffering from it, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. Reach out to our professionals for advice here. 

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