Apart of Manic Depressive Disorder (also called bipolar disorder) the two main known types of depression are major depression and dysthymia. Both types of depression can easily be distinguished from each other although intertype episodes, especially of Major Depression in Dysthymia patients, are commonly experienced. So what are the differences between those two types of depression?
Arguably Major Depression is the mental disorder that a layman would associate with the term “depression”. As the name of the illness implies it is the case that patients suffering from this type of depression show many or even all classic signs of depression in their most severe form. Such symptoms include a change in natural sleep patterns leading to excessive sleepiness and / or insomnia; a loss of appetite, motivation and drive even for simple activities and ones, which had previously been enjoyed by the patient; (often unexplainable) deep sadness; anxiety episodes; the inability to meet and entertain people, including close friends and relatives; a general lack of self-esteem; and potentially strong thoughts of terminal disease, dead and suicide. Major Depression can happen as a single devastating episode often associated with a so-called “life-event” such as the death of a dear relative or close friend, or an accident leading to permanent disablement. In such cases it may pass away after proper treatment, usually by combined application of anti depressants and psychotherapy, to never appear again. However, in many instances episodes of Major Depression happen without a major life-event though some external trigger can normally be identified. Triggers of Major Depression may for example be a seemingly minor incident such as a family quarrel, or a more severe incident such as chemical poisoning. Also, there are many cases where this type of depression occurs more then once during a patient’s lifetime.
In a way Dysthymia is the less severe of the two mentioned types of depression as the usual symptoms of depression described before commonly occur in a weakened form and are less debilitating. However hard it is for her the Dysthymia patient usually is still able to live her life and to pursue her work (although it costs her much effort), while someone suffering from Major Depression may not even be able to leave his bed in the morning. In other words: The Dysthymia patient does not function properly – the Major Depression patient may not function at all. However, the downside of having Dysthymia rather than Major Depression is that the former is a chronic disease that may need constant treatment during a patient’s life. Also, Dysthymia patients often experience one or more episodes of Major Depression on top of their Dysthymia disease during their lifetime.
While Major Depression and Dysthymia are closely connected but different types of depression they have in common that they are both types of depression that can be treated very successfully. The usual treatment for both types of depression includes anti depressants, talk therapy and a change in lifestyle towards proper nutrition, sports and selected recreational activities, etc. Treatment does possibly though not necessarily result in a cure of the disease, i.e. the disorder never reappears after treatment is stopped. In any case it does definitely lead to an increased standard of living as there will be prolonged episodes without disease. Thus, while both types of depression are severe mental disorders they have lost lots of their threatening potential due to today’s medical achievements.