Learn about the signs, symptoms and causes of major depression and bipolar disorder.
Types of Depression
A depressive disorder can manifest itself in a number of ways, which is why it’s important for mental health professionals to develop targeted treatments for certain types of depression. A greater understanding of depression and its different forms is a great first step towards getting help. Some common diagnoses include:
Major (Clinical) Depression
Major depression is perhaps the most common manifestation of the condition, which involves a persistent feeling of sadness or lack of interest in usual activities. Both exposure to stressful life events and genetic factors are associated with the onset of a major depressive disorder. Symptoms are debilitating, affecting almost every aspect of a person’s social and professional life.
Melancholia is a severe subtype of major depression, where a person is unable to find pleasure in positive things, with little or no improvements to mood in response to positive events.
Much like major depression, dysthymic disorder presents similar symptoms but on a persistent basis. Those diagnosed with this type of depression endure milder symptoms for a prolonged period of time.
Perinatal or postpartum depression, is a common condition affecting mothers during pregnancy or after the birth of a baby. Sufferers can feel overwhelmed or unable to cope with their new role as a parent. This type of depression can have a severe impact on the mother-child relationship, rouse intense feelings of sadness and guilt.
Those who suffer with major psychotic depression often lose touch with reality, and episodes of psychosis can involve severe hallucinations, delusions and paranoia. Psychotic depression often occurs in conjunction with bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder.
Types of Bipolar Disorders
Bipolar I Disorder
This condition consists of both depressive and manic episodes. A manic episode is a period of abnormally and persistently high mood or irritable mood. During a manic episode a person may have a huge amount of activity and energy. It lasts for more than 1 week and is present nearly all the time.
Bipolar II Disorder
This condition consists of both depressive and hypomanic episodes. Hypomania means 'less than mania'. A hypomanic episode has the same symptoms as a manic episode but is less severe.
Causes of Mood Disorders
Mood disorders can manifest itself in a number of ways, which is why it’s important for mental health professionals to develop targeted treatments for certain types of depression. A greater understanding of depression and its different forms is a great first step towards getting help. Some common diagnoses include:
Genetics and Biochemical Factors
Brain chemistry (serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine)
Self-criticism or perfectionism
Sensitivity to criticism
Bullying and Discrimination
Physical and verbal abuse
Racism and bigotry
Physical health problems
Chronic health conditions
Injury and immobilisation
Life Events and Trauma
Physical and verbal abuse
Life threatening experiences
Witnessing death or injury
Unstable living conditions
Grief and loss
Death of a loved one
The end of a friendship/relationship
Loneliness and isolation
Lack of close family ties
Language or cultural barriers
Starting a new job or moving schools
Fear of rejection
Medication side effects
Family or Relationship Breakdown
Family suffering from mental illness
Separation and divorce
Loss of intimacy
Mood Disorders: Signs and Symptoms
Mood disorders presents itself in a myriad of ways. Experiences of the condition — whether subtle or severe — will depend on the individual. The diagnosis of depression can bear different meanings and consequences for sufferers, which is why a ‘one size fits all’ model should be rejected. Nonetheless, here are some common physical, behavioural and psychological indicators of depression: