Varieties of Depression

Depression generally takes one of two major forms. Unipolar depression is what most people mean when they talk about depression: an unremitting state of sadness, apathy, or hopelessness, and loss of energy. It is sometimes called major depression. Bipolar depression, or bipolar disorder, is a condition marked by periods of depression and periods of high-energy mania; people swing between the two poles of mood states, sometimes over the course of days, sometimes over years, often with stable periods in between. 

The birth of a baby can trigger mood swings or crying spells in the following days or weeks, the so-called baby blues. When the reaction is more severe and prolonged, it is considered postpartum depression, a condition requiring treatment because it can interfere with the ability to care for the newborn. Depression can also occur seasonally, primarily in the winter months when sunlight is in short supply. Known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, it is often ameliorated by daily exposure to specific types of artifical light.

Sometimes depression manifests as a persistent low mood, a condition known as dysthymia. It is usually marked by years-long periods of low energy, low self-esteem, and little ability to experience pleasure.

Suicidal thoughts often coincide with depressive episodes, which is why it's important to be aware of the signs if you or a loved one experiences any prolonged mood disturbance.

Recent Posts on Depression

Why Ghosting Causes So Much Pain

By Jennice Vilhauer Ph.D. on November 27, 2015 Living Forward
Regardless of the ghoster’s intent, ghosting is a passive-aggressive dating tactic that can leave psychological bruises and scars.

Community as a Heart

Is the cruelty of the world getting to you? Are you seeking a haven?

What If Your Mom Wore a Bone in Her Nose?

By Susan K Perry Ph.D. on November 26, 2015 Creating in Flow
When an anthropologist goes native and marries a woman from the Amazonian Rainforest, their son's story of growing up makes for fascinating reading.

Flying the Coop: The Importance of Adventure

By Gregg Levoy on November 25, 2015 Passion!
There's an inverse relationship between adventure and depression in our lives. Too little of one can lead to too much of the other. Here's a cautionary tale that captures it.

Seven Simple Ways to Fight the Holiday Blues

By Jennifer Haupt on November 25, 2015 One True Thing
During this season of giving, it's often the small gifts and everyday gestures of kindness that matter most. Here are 7 low or no-cost ways to help you find your holiday spirit.

Approaching the Holidays With a Positive Attitude

By Thelma Duffey Ph.D. on November 24, 2015 Works in Progress
Are you experiencing the holiday blues? Here are some expert tips to help you out.

What Do You Need This Holiday Season?

The holidays don't have to be stressful. A few mindset shifts can go a long way.

10 Holiday De-Stress Tips

Symptoms that are inflamed by stress are difficult to endure, especially with the added pressure to "be on" with company around.

When is Depression Not Depression? Part 2

Being discouraged is a state that sounds like depression, but the causes are so different.

We Need a National Anti-Loneliness Campaign for the Holidays

By Guy Winch Ph.D. on November 23, 2015 The Squeaky Wheel
The holidays can be an acutely lonely period for millions of people. Here's what you can do about it:

The Void Social Media Fills

The average American spends 7.6 hours a month on social media. Social media sites enable people to connect with each other no matter on which continent or in which time zone they reside. Although it allows people to stay in touch with loved ones around the world, can social media become an addiction?

Looking to Our Past: Escapism or Exploration?

The past is gone, cannot be changed, and cannot return. Is revisiting it in memory a reluctance to live in the present?

The Voice of Science to Houston Control

A psychiatric patient who throws a tray table has committed a criminal offense and may be the object of “lethal force.” Any concept that the symptoms of psychiatric patients may involve aggression and agitation – and should be the object of medical not police attention -- has been lost here.

Self Help Books that Work

By Temma Ehrenfeld on November 21, 2015 Open Gently
Some self-help books really work; others are bunk.

Why Meds Are Not a One Stop Cure for Anxiety and Depression

Have you seen all the drug commercials lately? The rise in prescriptions for anxiety and depression in America, along with increasing lifestyle illness begs our individual and collective attention and action.

Terrorists Want Us to Feel Insecure - 5 Ways to Triumph

By F. Diane Barth L.C.S.W. on November 20, 2015 Off the Couch
5 ways to keep the terrorists from winning.

Problems with the Research on Psychological Treatments

By Todd B. Kashdan Ph.D. on November 20, 2015 Curious?
In this provocative blog post, I report on how much of what we know about therapy is based on clinical trials where the outcome is how much distress is reduced over weeks and months. Two, new meta-analyses provide evidence that the amount of distress people with anxiety and mood disorders experience has only a small association with how much impairment they experience.

Building Core Value Narratives

When personal narratives persist over time, they develop a support structure of highly reinforced habits.

Light Therapy Can Help Treat Depression Year-Round

A new study reports that bright light therapy can help treat both seasonal and nonseasonal depression.

Coffee Talk

Coffee: Morning savior or caffeinated devil?

6 Little Known Factors That Can Affect Depression

By Pamela D. Garcy Ph.D. on November 18, 2015 Fearless You
These 6 little known factors can affect depression.

What To Do for Those Truly Depressed Kids?

Psychiatry, as a field, has forgotten so much. But it’s the kids who are now paying a price for this.

A Gourmand’s Guide to the Passionate Life

Making sense of the emotions with psychiatrist, writer, and drink-maker Neel Burton in his Heaven and Hell: The Psychology of the Emotions (Acheron Press: 2015)

How Athletes Can Address the Psychology of Injury

By Laura M Miele Ph.D. on November 17, 2015 The Whole Athlete
What we can learn from Lamar Odom.

How Depression Prepared Me For A Death In The Family

By Tom Wootton on November 17, 2015 Bipolar Advantage
If I did not understand how to function during depression or, worse yet, still clung to the notion that it is not possible, I would have been a burden to my family instead of an asset. Most people fear they will break down and become a burden on those around them or that their bipolar loved ones will break down and add to the already difficult situation.

How to Survive the Paris Terrorist Attack

After happened in Paris, I drank a half bottle of wine, ate carbs, and didn’t want to come out of bed. But, in an ordinary day, an act of kindness changed everything. Here is my very personal blog about how terrorism affects us and the choices we can make not to sink into a depression.

Why Are So Many People Unhappy?

Our brain evolved to scan for danger and we end up with a constant sense of threat until we know how we're creating it. Then you can easily rewire yourself to see the world in new ways.

Is It Holiday Blues or Seasonal Depression?

If you’re feeling down this holiday season, don’t ignore your pain. By addressing your issues, you’re much more likely to keep symptoms from spiraling out of control — and that means a much greater chance that those happy holidays we’ve been primed to expect will live up to their promise.

It's Back Again . . . Those Holiday Blues

By Susan B. Winston LMFT on November 16, 2015 Shift Happens
The holiday blues started when those first Christmas decorations appeared in the stores in August. That was followed by the change in Daylight Savings Time; a mean trick contributing to depression (no sunlight left after the typical workday). Now many people are facing the holidays alone and crawling deeper into their sadness. How can we help?

An Epidemic of Hopelessness?

Depression and suicide are on the rise, while life spans decline. Part of the reason is our politics.