Depression Criteria: What Is Depression?

Reviewed by Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC

Published 12/09/2020

Depressive disorders are some of the most common mental health conditions, second to anxiety disorders. However, not everyone realizes that there are different kinds of depression or different kinds of depressive disorders. A diagnosis can make a difference in how someone's symptoms manifest, and each diagnosis categorized under depressive disorders or containing periods of depression has different criteria. Here are common kinds of depression and the symptoms affiliated with each diagnosis.

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

According to the ADAA, major depressive disorder or MDD affects 18.1% of those aged 18 and above in the United States on an annual basis. It is characterized by low mood and/or the loss of interest in activities used to enjoy.

Symptoms

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Here are some of the potential symptoms of MDD:

  • Low or depressed mood
  • Loss of interest in activities one typically enjoys
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue or restlessness
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Changes in appetite
  • Trouble concentrating or focusing
  • Excessive crying
  • Emotional numbness
  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, or worthlessness

Facts

Someone can develop the major depressive disorder at any age. Children and teens can have major depression. However, the average age of onset for MDD is 32.5, according to the ADAA or Anxiety And Depression Association Of America. More women are diagnosed with MDD than men, but the disorder is common and can be diagnosed in all genders.

Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)

A persistent low mood characterizes persistent depressive disorder or PDD. Symptoms of persistent depressive disorder must be present for two years or more to receive a diagnosis, hence the name.

Symptoms

Potential symptoms of PDD include:

  • Persistent low mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt
  • Trouble focusing or concentrating
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Irritability

Facts

A persistent depressive disorder is also referred to as dysthymia and is formerly known as dysthymia. It's often referred to as a low-level but long-lasting or chronic type of depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 1.3% of adults aged 18 and older will experience this condition.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD is categorized by intense PMS symptoms and depressed mood or mood swings during PMS. It is not the same as a typical manifestation of PMS because it's more severe. Depressive symptoms that occur during an episode can be so intense that a person might not feel like themselves and might spend that period of time each month wondering what's wrong with them or if this is going to last forever. Awareness of the condition can help a person a lot because they will begin recognizing these patterns and understanding why the symptoms are there. The symptoms can damage work, career, schooling, and interpersonal relationships at times.

Symptoms

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Here are some of the potential symptoms of PMDD:

  • Lethargy or fatigue
  • Depressed mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Anger or agitation
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Increased anxiety, panic attacks, or nervousness
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Physical PMS symptoms

Facts

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder PMDD is diagnosed in those who menstruate. Symptoms must be present before menstruation, and they must dissipate once the menstrual cycle starts or a couple of days after. This ensures that one's mood and other symptoms are not due to another mental health condition.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

In the DSM-5, the seasonal affective disorder is considered a manifestation of recurrent major depressive disorder with seasonal patterns. This means that the symptoms of major depressive disorder are present but on a seasonal basis.

Symptoms

Potential symptoms of the seasonal affective disorder include:

  • Low or depressed mood
  • Loss of interest in activities one typically enjoys
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue or restlessness
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Changes in appetite
  • Trouble concentrating or focusing
  • Feeling worthless, guilty, or hopeless
  • Excessive crying
  • Emotional numbness

Facts

Many people with seasonal affective disorder turn to light therapy, which helps a person with the disorder decrease or manage symptoms. Talk therapy is another common treatment. Some individuals also decide to take medication for seasonal affective disorder.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is a form of depression that begins during or after pregnancy.

Symptoms

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  • Low or depressed mood
  • Loss of interest in activities one typically enjoys
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue or restlessness
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Changes in appetite
  • Trouble concentrating or focusing
  • Feeling worthless, guilty, or hopeless.
  • Emotional numbness
  • Crying excessively or without reason
  • Feeling like a bad mother
  • Feeling extreme anxiety about the baby
  • Feeling detached from one's child

Facts

It said that the occurrence of postpartum depression is roughly one in eight. Postpartum depression can cause people who have just given birth extreme distress, and it is not the same as the "baby blues." Each diagnosable mental health disorder has a code that allows professionals to bill your insurance. The billable code for postpartum depression is F53.0.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is actually not listed under the category of depressive disorders in the most recent DSM version. Instead, bipolar disorder and related disorders have their own section in the DSM. There are different types of bipolar disorder itself, including bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymia. Bipolar I is diagnosed in those who have experienced a manic episode. Bipolar II is diagnosed in those who have experienced a hypomanic episode, but not a full-blown manic episode. The difference between mania and hypomania is the level of severity.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a hypomanic or manic episode may include:

  • Elevated mood
  • Talking quickly
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Racing thoughts
  • Impulsivity or poor decision making
  • A decreased need for sleep
  • Distractibility
  • Feeling "wired"

Mania may trigger psychosis or a psychotic episode, although this is not always the case. Hypomania is a more mild version of mania and is typically less noticeable than full-blown mania. Someone experiencing hypomania will experience these things on a lower level, but symptoms still impact a person's life, especially with the contrast and symptoms caused by depressive episodes.

Symptoms of a depressive episode may include:

  • Low or depressed mood
  • Loss of interest in activities one typically enjoys
  • Irritability
  • Loss of energy or fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Changes in appetite
  • Trouble concentrating or focusing
  • Excessive crying
  • Emotional numbness
  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, or worthlessness

Facts

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about 2.8% of the United States population has bipolar disorder.

Other Types Of Depression

Other diagnosable types of depression include disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD) and unspecified mood disorders or other specified mood disorders. Seeing a medical or mental health professional licensed to diagnose mental disorders is important because it ensures that you will receive the correct diagnosis.

Getting Diagnosed With Depression

To get a diagnosis of depression, you need to see a psychiatrist or general doctor. Many people start by making an appointment with her doctor to talk about their symptoms. During that doctor's appointment, you might get your diagnosis, get a referral to a psychiatrist for a diagnosis and evaluation, and you might inquire about seeing a therapist or counselor. Getting a diagnosis of depression isn't as invasive as it may sound. Generally, you'll be asked a series of questions and will be diagnosed based on your answers.

Depression Treatment

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Depression treatment will vary depending on several factors. Depression is highly treatable, and various treatments can help. Modalities of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT, are common treatments for depression. To find a therapist, you can search for a mental health provider online, ask your doctor for a referral, contact your insurance company or visit their website to see what they cover, or you may be able to get therapy or counseling through your educational institution, a religious organization, or a community center. You might also consider an online therapy company such as BetterHelp, which allows you to connect with a mental health professional by taking a questionnaire. This is convenient because you will be able to access supportive care from a licensed professional from the privacy of your own home. Support groups and online forums may also be helpful to those with depression. Although they cannot replace therapy, it can be very beneficial to be around people who understand. If you have depression, you are not alone, and there is hope.

Take The Mind Diagnostics Depression Test

Do you think that you could have depression? If so, consider taking the Mind Diagnostics depression test. It's free, fast, and confidential. The Mind Diagnostics depression test is for those 18 and older, and your results will be sent to your email address immediately after submission. The Mind Diagnostics depression test is not a replacement for a professional diagnosis, but taking it might be the first step to getting the support you need.

Click here to take the Mind Diagnostics depression test.