The differences between Major Depression and other depressions, such as bipolar depression, dysthymia, or reactive depression, are primarily intended for psychologists planning treatment, and are of less concern to the average person. When you review the list of symptoms for major depression, and you have four symptom clusters, instead of five, you should not ignore it or forget about it. There is no diagnosis of Moderate Depression, other than to call it “unspecified.” Instead, ask yourself this question: “Does the depression interfere with my life, my relationships, my productivity or my happiness?” If the answer is yes, then don’t wait, talk to a psychologist soon.
Reactive depression is called an Adjustment Disorder with depressed mood. This means that something traumatic occurred in your life, such as a relationship breakup, or loss of a job, and you became mildly to moderately depressed as a result.
Psychological treatment can definitely help you to feel better, and will help you get your life back on track sooner, rather than later, but you can still manage okay. If a life crisis occurs and you develop symptoms of a major depression, then it is a major depression, even if it is also a reactive depression.
Dysthymic disorder is a chronic, low level depression, that continues for years. Occasionally, individuals with dysthymia also experience a major depression, when a life crisis occurs. If you are depressed all the time, even if only mildly depressed, you should consult with a psychologist. You don’t have to live your life in depression. Often, a person has been mildly depressed for years, and a crisis occurs, and he/she finally consults a psychologist. In such a case, the treatment will probably take longer, because of the chronic depression underneath the major depression.
Depression, not otherwise specified, is a category used by psychologists when the symptoms do not fit neatly into one of the other categories. For example, a person has been mildly depressed for a long time, but not long enough to diagnose dysthymia. The specific pattern of symptoms and duration of symptoms will determine the proper psychological treatment.
These other depressive disorders are discussed elsewhere on this site. You can find additional information by referring to the Depression Topic List.
Gwen Adshead and Scott Ferris