Understanding the Most Common Types of Depression

A Vision,

I’m sure we’ve all heard of “depression”.  This term is so commonly used and thrown around that people will diagnose themselves based on just one or two of the symptoms, most of the time because they’re feeling blue or down.  What many people do not understand is how depression is related to chronic pain and chronic illness.  This includes how to identify key symptoms, knowing when to get help and most importantly – how to get OUT of the hole! 

Today we are just taking a closer look at the most common types of depression and some of their key symptoms.  This will help so we can get a better understanding of what it means if one of these labels gets attached to us and our medical charts.

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[li]Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)[/li]I’ve heard this diagnosis be described as a “low level and long standing depression”.  Meaning, you have a depressed mood for most of the day, very frequently, for longer than 2 years.  While feeling depressed, you also have problems with some of the following: appetite (significant increase or decrease), sleeping (too much or too little), low energy, low self-esteem, difficulty with making decisions, can’t concentrate, feeling hopeless.

[li]Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)[/li]My guess is that most of us who live with chronic pain have been diagnosed with MDD at some point during our life.  This diagnosis may have come before or after the chronic pain.  The two biggest factors in MDD is that you have had a “Major Depressive Episode” and that you have NOT had a diagnosis of any type of bipolar disorder.  The criteria for an episode of Major Depression will most likely sound familiar if you struggle with chronic pain.  For at least 2 weeks you have had a depressed mood or a loss of interest/pleasure in life.  This also goes along with several other symptomatic areas: weight (loss or gain), appetite (significant increase or decrease), sleep (too much or too little), low energy, others notice that your body is either physically restless or slowed down, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, hard to concentrate or hard to make decisions, and last but not least – recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation.  MDD can range from mild to severe and can also be recurrent and maybe even have a seasonal pattern.  Some people may even have psychotic symptoms.

[li]Unspecified Depressive Disorder[/li]This is a typical diagnosis in certain situations: there is not enough information to make a formal diagnosis of another type of depression, the symptoms don’t present clearly, or the health care professional is unsure of what is causing the symptoms (medical reasons or using substances such as alcohol or drugs).  Having this diagnosis doesn’t mean you are not experiencing any symptoms, it just means that your doctor cannot get a clear picture and doesn’t want to mis-diagnose you with something you don’t have.



Pain Camp is a safe place to share your thoughts, experience, strength and hope.  Have you been diagnosed with a form of depression?  How is it related to your chronic pain and what tips do you have for others who have this same challenge?

Photo credit: amanda russell


    • camperjen says:

      You’re welcome Aaron! I hope that you have found some of the information useful in your own journey whether it is with someone you know who has chronic pain, or your own story.

  1. Colleen says:

    I have been diagnosed with MDD, and although the worst episodes have been associated with the chronic pain issues, I have suffered with this for most of my adult life off and on. As I have had to learn through these trials, I must take each day as it comes, take steps to care for myself on a regular basis, be thankful on good days, and bad, and keep in mind that I am not alone. I have also learned that keeping my “lows” to myself, and not reaching out to others because of fear, only keeps me “sick”, and does not help me get better. This is a great place to do that, and I thank you for taking the time to make this happen!

    • camperjen says:

      Thanks for your share Colleen! It sounds like you have some great coping skills in place and you are correct, you are NOT ALONE! 🙂 Thank you for sharing your experience, strength and hope with others!

  2. Angela says:

    This is a great article. I like the format you have in your posts, especially outlining steps to action that I read on your other article which helps people take action without being overwhelmed!
    I definitely will come back and see how this resource is progressing – great job 🙂

    • camperjen says:

      Thank you Angela! I’m excited to be a new part of the “community” of chronic pain related blogs out there. I hope to be able to continue to share experience, strength and hope as well as learn from the others in the community like yourself. Such a great tool for our journeys!

  3. Andi says:

    Thanks for the info! Depression is so much more than just a bad day and truly goes hand in hand with chronic pain. Chronic pain influences depression, and vice versa. Even worse though is many doctors don’t tell you that many chronic pain meds are known depressants…. It was about 10 years of constantly spiraling down with every med increase before a doctor told me this!

    • camperjen says:

      Hi Andi, thanks for your share! I’m sorry you were stuck in that cycle for such a long time before a doctor finally informed you of some of the other side effects of the medications! You are right on when you say depression and chronic pain go hand in hand and influence each other! I hope your situation has stabilized now and you’re moving through recovery, one day at a time!

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