Types of Depression

Types of Depression

The Most Common Types Of Depression

Depression (major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is a common but serious mood disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, it causes severe symptoms that can affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.

What causes depression? Scientists at NIMH and across the country think it’s a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological issues. Depression can also occur alongside other major illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease and make them worse.

Depression comes with many signs and not all people have the same symptoms. Symptoms may include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies or activities
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, or being “slowed down”
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts
  • Restlessness or irritability

No one is particularly immune to depression, but women are prone to suffer from it more than men. This is attributed to biological, life cycle, and hormonal factors that are unique to women. Men suffering from depression are more prone to be tired, irritable, and angry. They are also less inclined to recognize they are depressed and don’t seek help.

Older adults with depression are more likely to have medical conditions like heart disease that can add to depression.

As there are many different types of depression, it is worth you finding out what form you or a loved one may have.

The main types, according to NIMH, are:

Major Depression (AKA Major Depressive Disorder)

Major Depression is defined as having depression symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks. These symptoms interfere with your ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy life in general. A person can experience this once in a lifetime, but it’s more typical to occur several times.

In any year, over 16 million Americans suffer from this. It’s characterized by the following:

  • Depressed mood
  • Lack of interest in activities normally enjoyed
  • Changes in weight
  • Changes in sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts of death and suicide
Persistent Depressive Disorder (AKA Dysthymia)

Persistent Depressive Disorder includes having symptoms of depression lasting longer than two years. If you’re diagnosed with Persistent Depressive Disorder, you are prone to episodes of major depression alongside periods of less-severe symptoms. PDD sufferers have dark or sad moods (on most days). It’s also accompanied by sleeping problems (too little or too much), low energy, low self-esteem, poor concentration, and feelings of hopelessness. Medication and therapy are recommended for this. Globally dysthymia occurs in about 105 million people a year (1.5% of the population).

Perinatal Depression / Postpartum Depression

Women with perinatal depression may experience full-blown major depression during pregnancy or after delivery (known as postpartum depression). It can affect one in four women and even one in eight men. The difference there lays in the fact that women’s depression is triggered by changes in hormones whereas for men it’s brought on by environmental changes and shifting roles. Postpartum depression is found across the globe, with rates varying from 11% to 42% Around 3% to 6% of women will experience depression during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth. About 1 in 750 mothers will have postpartum depression with psychosis, and their risk is higher if they have had postpartum episodes in the past.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a depression that comes and goes with the seasons. It often begins in late fall/early winter then ends during spring or summer. Women and younger adults are more prone to this disorder, and it takes at least two years of recurring, season-based symptoms to be diagnosed. Some doctors think too much melatonin and too little vitamin D are responsible.

Doctors attribute SAD to changes in the body’s circadian rhythm. This means that light – or lack of it – triggers changes that can lead to depression. It’s quite common in far northern and far southern regions but can be treated with light therapy. The term Seasonal Affective Disorder was first coined in 1984.

Psychotic Depression

Psychotic Depression is a type of depression that occurs when the patient has severe depression alongside a form of psychosis including delusions or hallucinations. The concept of psychosis was introduced in 1841. At the time, neuroses referred to all diseases of the nervous system, but it was only in 1841 that C. Cannstatt identified it as the psychic manifestation of a disease of the brain.

Subsyndromal Depression

When people have 3-4 symptoms of Major Depression but not a minimum of five, they can be diagnosed as having Subsyndromal Depression.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Suffered by up to 10% of women who are of childbearing age, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a severe form of PMS and includes depression, sadness, anxiety, or irritability. It generally strikes the week prior to a period. Scientists think that taking antidepressants two weeks before a period, or through the month, can be extremely effective. Symptoms include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Feeling sad, hopeless, or self-critical
  • Severe feelings of stress or anxiety
  • Mood swings, often with bouts of crying
  • Irritability
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Food cravings or binging

There was a lot of debate amongst doctors about the validity of including this as an official form of depression; Sally Severino, a psychiatrist, argued that because PMDD symptoms were more prevalent in the US, it was a culture-bound syndrome and not a biological condition.

Bipolar Depression (AKA Manic-Depressive Illness)

The hallmarks of Bipolar Depression are wild swings in mood and energy. You can be diagnosed with this after just one bout of mania. It gets worse without treatment but can be treated with antipsychotic meds, mood stabilizers, and therapy. Symptoms include:

  • Fatigue, insomnia, and lethargy
  • Unexplained aches, pains, and psychomotor agitation
  • Hopelessness and loss of self-esteem
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Indecision and disorganization

Bipolar disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability worldwide and has a lifetime prevalence of about three percent in the general population. It has quite a history too. The basis of what we currently think of as bipolar illness can be traced back to the 1850s when Jean-Pierre Falret presented a description to the Academy of the Paris Psychiatric Society in which he mentioned “circular insanity.”

Bipolar II Disorder

Bipolar II disorder is a subset of bipolar disorder. Patients suffer from episodes of mania, usually followed by depression. Levels of mania in bipolar II patients do not reach the heights as the mania present in bipolar I.

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

Hallmarks of Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD) include screaming and temper tantrums. It’s often found in children, and other symptoms are hallmarked by irritable or angry moods that appear almost constant. This is a recently diagnosed disorder, starting in the 1990’s when some clinicians began observing children with hyperactivity, irritability, and severe temper outbursts. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) added it as a depressive disorder in 2013.

Substance-Induced Mood Disorder

People abusing substances can find themselves falling prey to Substance-Induced Mood Disorder. Symptoms include anxiety, loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities, and depression. Substances that can lead to this include too much alcohol, opioids, and benzodiazepines.

Atypical Depression

Atypical Depression is a form of depression that doesn’t seem to fit any other models or descriptions. Atypical describes someone who can experience signs of depression then suddenly perks up at positive news. Atypical Depression is seen more often in young adults and can make people sleep and eat a lot.  It’s more common than the name suggests and is characterized by:

  • Excessive eating or weight gain
  • Excessive sleep
  • Fatigue, weakness, and feeling “weighed down”
  • Intense sensitivity to rejection
  • Strongly reactive moods

There are many different forms of depression. If you believe you or a loved one is suffering from one, it is best to consult with a doctor and/or a therapist to see what the best course of action is.


Dysthymia is characterized as a low-grade, long-lasting depression. Dysthymia can last for years, and sufferers are sometimes characterized as negative or pessimistic people when in fact they are suffering from a serious, yet treatable, clinical disorder.

Mild Depression

When someone experiences a mild, low-grade episode of depression, the symptoms can be subtle enough that the patient doesn’t realize that what they’re experiencing are signs of the clinical mood disorder dysthymia.

Treatment Resistant Depression

While most people can alleviate depression symptoms with medication and therapy alone, almost 30% to 50% of depressed patients will not respond to the usual methods of treatment. In those cases, patients are diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression.