Life has its highs and lows for everybody, but if all you’re experiencing are the lows, or if the lows you’re experiencing feel lower and more inescapable than everybody else’s, you might have some type of depressive disorder.
Depression, generally characterized by constant and persistent feelings of sadness, worry, or hopelessness and extreme difficulty in improving your mood, is a serious condition that affects 16 million adults each year—6.7% of all adults in the US—and is the second leading cause of disability.
Many people struggle with some depression symptoms but aren’t sure whether or not they actually have depression because their symptoms don’t match what they think they know about depression. That is because there are many types of depressive disorders that share similar characteristics, but not all.
Depression strongly affects your emotions, your mind, and your body. Getting help can feel impossible, but there is always hope. One of the best things you can do to take your first step toward getting help is figuring out what type of depression you might have.
Types of Depressive Disorders
No two people’s experience with depression is quite alike. Depression is a complicated condition with many possible causes, and it can manifest in many different ways. Healthcare providers today recognize many different types of depressive disorders, which all share a common set of symptoms but are distinguished from each other in important ways.
At their root, all depressive disorders share a common characteristic—a group of conditions associated with having a lowered mood that chronically affects how you feel, think, and handle activities in your everyday life. Beyond those commonalities, different types of depression can vary in their severity, their root cause, or their symptoms.
Major depressive disorder, or major depression, is a mood disorder characterized by intense or overwhelming depression symptoms that last for longer than two weeks and significantly interfere with your everyday life.
Symptoms of major depression can include the following:
- Melancholy, feeling bad even when good things happen to you
- Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
- Eating too much or too little
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Changes in sleep, such as insomnia
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
- Intense feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness
- Anxious distress, tiredness, or restlessness
- Increased feelings of agitation, irritability, or frustration
- Aches and pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that seem to have no clear cause
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
Persistent Depressive Disorder
Persistent depressive disorder (PDD), which used to be referred to as “dysthymia,” is a form of depression with symptoms lasting for much longer than normal—up to two years or longer. Dysthymia was originally a form of low-grade persistent depression. PDD refers not only to low-grade persistent depression but to chronic major depression as well.
Perinatal Depression or Postpartum Depression
Perinatal depression is a form of depression that can occur around the experience of pregnancy and childbirth. Pregnancy and childbirth involve significant hormonal changes, and for some people these hormonal changes can lead to depressive disorders.
Perinatal depression can occur in late pregnancy leading up to childbirth and afterward. Symptoms of perinatal depression experienced after childbirth are typically called postpartum depression.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
For some people, a shift in the seasons significantly impacts their brain’s ability to produce mood-regulating chemicals. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) presents similarly to major or minor depression in its symptoms and usually manifests in the late fall or early winter and goes away during spring and summer.
Bipolar disorder used to be called “manic depression,” because it manifests as experiences of extreme high moods (mania) and extreme low moods (depression). However, the ranges of mood swings with bipolar disorder can vary significantly from person to person.
During depressive episodes, people generally experience symptoms of major depression, while during manic episodes, people experience symptoms of mania—extreme high energy.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
As with pregnancy and childbirth, menstruation often involves significant body chemistry and hormonal changes. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a severe form of premenstrual disorder. People with PMDD experience major depression symptoms in the days or weeks leading up to their menstrual period.
Though the name may imply otherwise, atypical depression is actually somewhat common. Atypical depression involves experiencing the symptoms of depression—intense and overwhelming low moods that interfere with your daily life or put your physical health at risk—but there are still times when you can feel “normal” and have a good mood, or enjoy yourself during a positive event.
If you’ve been telling yourself that you “aren’t really depressed” because you still feel joy sometimes, despite also struggling with depressive symptoms, there is a good chance that you could actually have atypical depression.
Types of Treatment for Depression
While depression cannot be cured, it can be treated to provide relief from your symptoms.
Different types of depression respond better to some treatments than others. Major depression and many other forms of depression are typically treated using medication, counseling, or a combination of the two. If medication and counseling are not sufficient for improving your conditions on their own or together, other options such as TMS can be effective treatments as well.
Some specific types of depression respond better to certain treatments as well. For example, SAD is often the result of disturbances in your normal circadian rhythm affecting the mood regulating centers of their brain, caused by the reduction in sunlight experienced in late fall and winter. Light therapy can help manage SAD symptoms by providing the body with a sunlight equivalent and restoring the circadian rhythm your body is used to.
For most people with depression, medication is the first line of defense for treating their symptoms. In particular, antidepressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are the best option for reducing the severity of their symptoms or eliminating them entirely.
While SSRIs are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants, there are other medications used to treat specific forms of depression as well.
For example, atypical depression often responds better to a type of antidepressant known as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) as opposed to typical antidepressants. Perinatal depression, postpartum depression, and PMDD might also be treated with hormone therapy in addition to counseling and antidepressants. Bipolar disorder is frequently treated with mood stabilizers such as lithium.
Counseling and psychotherapy is frequently employed for minor or moderate depression disorders, or in addition to medication if medication on its own under-performs in reducing or eliminating depression symptoms.
Therapy typically tackles depressive disorders through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of counseling focused on helping you identify negative or misleading thoughts and replace them with healthier and more realistic thoughts. Studies have found that CBT usually helps you get more benefit out of your medication and helps you stay symptom-free or with reduced symptoms longer.
Severe major depression and bipolar disorder may be treated with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), otherwise known as electroshock therapy. This treatment uses powerful electric shocks to induce controlled seizures and modify the electrical profile of the brain.
TMS Therapy for Treatment-Resistant Depression
Though medication and counseling are the first lines of defense for treating depression, they don’t always work. If you have treatment-resistant depression, for instance, medication and counseling may not reduce the severity of your symptoms enough, or they might only ease your symptoms for a short time.
Medication also might not work for you for other reasons—for example, medication might not be a viable solution if you are pregnant or have a condition that reacts poorly to common antidepressants. For others, adverse side effects from antidepressants can cause significant distress on their own, causing medication to be ruled out as a treatment option entirely.
In these cases, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)—a non-invasive, non-drug, outpatient therapy used to treat major depression—may be the solution. TMS uses short magnetic pulses directed to the mood regulation centers of your brain to stimulate your cells, encourage neuroplasticity, and produce neurotransmitters to alleviate or even eliminate your depression symptoms.
TMS for Major Depression
Since 2008, TMS has had FDA approval as a treatment for major depression, with research clearly demonstrating its effectiveness and safety. TMS is an outpatient procedure performed under the supervision of a licensed psychiatrist. Unlike ECT, a session typically takes less than 20 minutes, causes no pain to the patient, and has no systemic side effects and no undesirable effects on cognition.
For most people—up to 83% of patients—four to six weeks of daily sessions lead to marked improvement in their depression symptoms for up to a year, with over 60% of patients reporting complete remission for six months to a year.
Currently, TMS therapy is used in over 900 practices nationwide. After conducting extensive research into NeuroStar TMS, Drs. Charles DeVine, M.D. and Troy Noonan, M.D. decided that NeuroStar TMS therapy was the next evolution for treating otherwise treatment-resistant major depression and opened TMS of Central Florida, the only TMS provider in Brandon, Florida.
Does TMS Work on All Types of Depression?
TMS is primarily used to treat otherwise treatment-resistant major depression. TMS has demonstrated effectiveness in treating persistent depressive disorder and perinatal and postpartum depression as well. Research is still ongoing as to whether TMS therapy is effective for treating otherwise treatment-resistant and bipolar disorder.
Ongoing research has also suggested that beyond depression, TMS can also be effective in treating OCD, anxiety, and PTSD.
Ultimately, the best way to know if TMS is right for you is to speak with your doctor or a referring psychologist about it.
Is TMS Right for You?
In order to be eligible for NeuroStar TMS, you must be currently diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression by a qualified healthcare professional.
If you’re interested in knowing more about whether or not TMS is right for you, you can get started by taking our PHQ-10 Self-Assessment Health questionnaire: