You may notice that your low moods seem to have a cycle — perhaps once a month if you have a monthly menstrual cycle or maybe your moods seem to ride a more seasonal wave. Depression, in all its many forms, is one of the most common mental health issues in the United States, affecting at least 21 million adults annually, as well as 15% of children.
While major depressive disorder is the most common type of depression, there are many other ways in which mood disorders and depression can present themselves.
To give you a better idea, board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Matthew Goldenberg has pulled together a few of the lesser-known types of depression, such as seasonal affective disorder and postpartum depression, so that you can better recognize if you might be struggling with a mood spectrum disorder.
A word about depression
Before we get into the different ways depression can manifest itself, we want to quickly review some of the hallmarks of this mental state, which include:
- Overwhelming sadness
- Feeling hopeless or worthless
- Lack of enthusiasm or interest
- Feeling empty
- Difficulty focusing
- Changes in eating and sleep patterns
- Head and body aches
- Suicidal thoughts
These are the most common signs and symptoms of a depressive episode, and people can experience these mood disorders in varying degrees and with different combinations of symptoms. If the depression is persistent, is causing difficulty in your life and you want more clarity on your specific symptoms, it may be time to reach out to a psychiatrist for an evaluation.
A seasonal flow to your moods
As the name suggests, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) follows a seasonal pattern — in most cases, your moods worsen as the days become shorter and there is less daylight, which is called a winter pattern. Far less common, some people have this disorder in reverse — their moods become worse with summer.
SAD affects about 5% of adults in the US and the depressive or low episode typically lasts for about four months. Have you experienced depression symptoms in the winter months? Have they seemed to spontaneously resolve in the spring as the temperature rises and the days get longer?
Depression following childbirth
During pregnancy and after childbirth, the hormones in your body fluctuate up and down, which is thought to be one of the drivers of postpartum depression. This type of depression affects up to 20% of women after they give birth and can last for just a few weeks or can continue for months or even years.
Some mild depression symptoms called “baby blues” can be normal. However, if you experience weeks of depression, moderate to severe symptoms, and symptoms that negatively impact bonding with your baby or daily functioning, it is time to reach out for help.
Moods related to menstrual cycles
Another form of depression that is unique to individuals with a uterus is premenstrual dysphoric disorder, (PMDD) which affects millions of women. With PMDD, mood swings occur before each menstrual cycle and these moods can include depression and/or anxiety. When these symptoms make functioning difficult or life difficult to enjoy, it may be time to speak with a psychiatrist.
Lows and highs
In contrast to what is called “unipolar depression, if you are experiencing periods of depression along with manic episodes, this could be a sign of a bipolar disorder, which affects about 5.7 million adults in the US.
There are different types of bipolar disorder. With bipolar I, the manic episodes are extreme and can require hospitalization. The “ups” are generally bad and the risk taking behaviors can cause legal and other problems.
With bipolar II, the “up” episodes are less severe and are called hypomania. In bipolar II, the downs/depression are often the problematic period of the cycles.
Outside of the mood disorders we outline above, there are others, such as disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (seen in children and adolescents), cyclothymia, persistent depressive disorder, substance-induced mood disorders, and others…
The good news is that no matter how your depression or mood symptoms manifest themselves, Dr. Goldenberg can help you get back to a happier and more engaged life. The first step is a full psychiatric evaluation to get an individualized and accurate diagnosis. Dr. Goldenberg can then provide both medication and non-medication treatment recommendations for your consideration.
Being licensed in both California and Alaska, Dr. Goldenberg can treat you no matter where you reside within these states and get you the help you need to break free from depression and the instability caused by mood disorders.
To get started, Dr. Goldenberg offers free, 10-minute phone consultations. To schedule your initial consultation, click here to set it up.