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(Not) Like a Box of Chocolates Part II: More Flavors of Depression

Bipolar disorder, Atypical depression, Postpartum depression,

In a recent blog post, we invoked Forrest Gump’s mother’s observation that life is like a box of chocolates because you never know just what you are going to get. We used that famous movie quote as a jumping off point for exploring a few of the many “flavors” of depression. In that entry, we considered major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, and seasonal affective disorder

Now we are going to give you something poor Forrest Gump never got: a sequel. (Well, at least not a movie sequel.)

In this entry, we will take a look at three more kinds of depression.

Fourth Flavor: Bipolar Disorder

While the name does not immediately reveal that it is a variety of depression, bipolar disorder certainly belongs on this list. The disorder—which is characterized by extremely high moods and extremely low moods—used to be called “manic depression.”

While that term has fallen out of favor, it can be a useful way to think about bipolar disorder. “Manic” is a word that describes the highs that are part of the disorder. During a manic episode, a person may feel as though they have boundless energy, and their creativity may seem supercharged. Often in the midst of an episode like this, a person will go without sleep for long periods of time until the exhaustion catches up with them.

“Depression” describes the other side of the coin. When a person struggling with bipolar disorder is experiencing a depressive episode, they will find themselves beset by the kinds of symptoms traditionally associated with depression—like a lack of energy, a lack of interest in much of anything, and a tendency to sleep much more than usual.

As is the case with nearly all forms of depression, bipolar disorder is best treated by a combination of medication and talk therapy.

Fifth Flavor: Postpartum Depression

Many new mothers—including those who have been anticipating the birth of a child with great excitement—experience postpartum depression. (We also want to note here that around 10 percent of new fathers experience depression in the first year after their child’s birth.) The symptoms of postpartum depression largely mirror those of major depressive disorder and can be just as intense and disruptive to a person’s day-to-day life. Given that day-to-day life now includes care of a child, the challenges of postpartum depression can be exceptionally hard to manage.

The causes of the disorder are thought to be varied, and may include:

  • Hormone changes resulting from giving birth
  • Lack of restful sleep
  • Heightened anxiety related to caring for a child
  • Relationship or family issues
  • A personal or family history of depression or mood disorders

Treatment for postpartum depression often includes participating in a support group with other new moms as well as psychotherapy. Medication can also be effective, and if appropriate, a doctor can ensure that any drugs they prescribe are compatible with breastfeeding.

Sixth Flavor: Atypical Depression

“Atypical” just means “unusual”—and what makes atypical depression unusual is that positive events can alleviate it. At least temporarily. A person with atypical depression may seem to come out of it when they have a reason to celebrate, feel pride in accomplishments (their own or those of others), or when they have a bit of unexpected luck.

This kind of mood receptivity is rare among other forms of depression. Generally, an individual struggling with depression has a difficult time finding pleasure even when things seem to be going their way.

Symptoms of atypical depression can include reacting to criticism in overly intense ways, sleeping too much, increased appetite (which in turn may lead to weight gain), and a feeling like a heavy weight is holding a person down and making it difficult to function.

Medication can help—and your doctor may also want to check for hypothyroidism, which is sometimes linked to atypical depression.

Keep an Eye Out for Part III of This Series

We wish it were not so, but we still have several more varieties of depression to explore. So you can expect a sequel to this sequel in a future entry.

Different Kinds of Depression but One Consistent Suggestion

If you suspect you are struggling with a mental health disorder—including any of the forms of depression discussed in this series—we have one consistent piece of advice: Get treated. As we have noted, often a combination of talk therapy and medication can lead to significant reductions in the symptoms of a mental health disorder. That means you can reclaim your life and build on improvements in your mental health over time.

At Johnstown Heights Behavioral Health in Colorado, we bring together expertise, experience, evidence, and empathy to provide personalized care. When you are ready to get started, we are ready and able to help you effectively address a mental health disorder.

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