Depressive disorders come in different forms. Four of the most common types of depressive disorders are Major Depression, Dysthymia, Adjustment Disorder with Depression, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (commonly referred to as SAD or the "winter blues"). Within these types, there are variations in the number of symptoms, their severity, and persistence.

Major Depression: is a serious medical illness. The symptoms may include feeling overwhelmingly sad, hopeless, worthless and pessimistic about the future. Another hallmark symptom is loss of interest or pleasure in activities you usually enjoy. Changes in appetite, feeling fatigued, and difficulty concentrating are also signs of Major Depression. These symptoms must be present for at least two weeks. This is the most severe type of depression and puts the person at increased risk of suicide.

Dysthymia: Some people go into major depressive episodes every once in a while. Others might experience mild depressive symptoms most of the time. A major depressive episode lasts a few weeks or months. Dysthymia is the chronic presence of mild to moderate depression symptoms for a period of 2 years or more. Literally, you just feel “kinda down” all the time. During that period of time, you might experience short periods of feeling normal or slip into major depressive episodes as well. If you feel hopeless, helpless, sad or a low level of energy most of the time, and you believe that life is “just this way,” you might be dealing with dysthymia. People who suffer from dysthymia are at risk for major depression.

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Adjustment Disorder with Depression: The difference between adjustment disorder with depressed mood and other depressive disorders is that the adjustment disorder symptoms begin in response to some specific stressful situation or circumstance or a combination of stressors. The stressor could be almost anything. Examples include divorce, financial problems, loss of a job, conflicts in a close friendship, having to move, being diagnosed with a serious disease, being a victim of crime, experiencing a natural disaster. You get the idea.

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The symptoms are usually milder than in other forms of clinical depression. Nevertheless, they are severe enough that they interfere with the person's ability to function normally. A second differentiator between this and other types of depession is that the symptoms only last a short time after the stressful situation ends. Usually the symptoms decrease and disappear within a few months. If the symptoms last longer than six months, you may have a more serious form of depression.

Seasonal Affective Disorder: Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a pattern of depression related to changes in seasons (usually fall, winter or spring) and a lack of exposure to sunlight. It may cause headaches, irritability and a low energy level.

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