Depression often varies according to age and gender, with symptoms differing between men and women, or young people and older adults.
Depression in men.
Depressed men are less likely to acknowledge feelings of self-loathing and hopelessness. Instead, they tend to complain about fatigue, irritability, sleep problems, and loss of interest in work and hobbies. They’re also more likely to experience symptoms such as anger, aggression, reckless behavior, and substance abuse.
Depression in women.
Women are more likely to experience symptoms such as pronounced feelings of guilt, excessive sleeping, overeating, and weight gain. Depression in women is also impacted by hormonal factors during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. Up to 1 in 7 women experience depression following childbirth, a condition known as postpartum depression.
Depression in teens.
Irritability, anger, and agitation are often the most noticeable symptoms in depressed teens—not sadness. They may also complain of headaches, stomachaches, or other physical pains.
Depression in older adults. Older adults tend to complain more about the physical rather than the emotional signs and symptoms of depression: things like fatigue, unexplained aches and pains, and memory problems. They may also neglect their personal appearance and stop taking critical medications for their health.
Depression comes in many shapes and forms. Knowing what type of depression you have can help you manage your symptoms and get the most effective treatment.
Major depression is much less common than mild or moderate depression and is characterized by intense, relentless symptoms.
- Left untreated, major depression typically lasts for about six months.
- Some people experience just a single depressive episode in their lifetime, but major depression can be a recurring disorder.
Atypical depression is a common subtype of major depression with a specific symptom pattern. It responds better to some therapies and medications than others, so identifying it can be helpful.
- People with atypical depression experience a temporary mood lift in response to positive events, such as after receiving good news or while out with friends.
- Other symptoms of atypical depression include weight gain, increased appetite, sleeping excessively, a heavy feeling in the arms and legs, and sensitivity to rejection.
Dysthymia (recurrent, mild depression)
Dysthymia is a type of chronic “low-grade” depression. More days than not, you feel mildly or moderately depressed, although you may have brief periods of normal mood.
- The symptoms of dysthymia are not as strong as the symptoms of major depression, but they last a long time (at least two years).
- Some people also experience major depressive episodes on top of dysthymia, a condition known as “double depression.”
- Or you may think that your continuous low mood is “just the way you are.”
Seasonal affective disorder
For some people, the reduced daylight hours of winter lead to a form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder . SAD affects about 1% to 2% of the population, particularly women and young people.
- Can make you feel like a completely different person to who you are in the summer: hopeless, sad, tense, or stressed, with no interest in friends or activities you normally love.
- SAD usually begins in fall or winter when the days become shorter and remains until the brighter days of spring.
While some illnesses have a specific medical cause, making treatment straightforward, depression is more complicated. Depression is not just the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain that can be simply cured with medication. It’s caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors. In other words, your lifestyle choices, relationships, and coping skills matter just as much—if not more so—than genetics.
Risk factors that make you more vulnerable to depression include:
- Loneliness and isolation
- Lack of social support
- Recent stressful life experiences
- Family history of depression
- Marital or relationship problems
- Financial strain
- Early childhood trauma or abuse
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Unemployment or underemployment
- Health problems or chronic pain