6 Different Types of Depression: Deepen Your Understanding of ‘what is depression?’


Did you know that there are many different types of depression? If you do, you’re one of the few!

If you don’t, then reading this article on depression types will hopefully be enlightening and helpful to you.

When you’ve read this research article, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how the many different depressive states may feel inwardly and show outwardly plus you’ll get insights into ways to handle and treat them.

Depression Isn’t Something You ‘Just Get Over’

If you’ve never suffered from depression, it is difficult to understand what it means to be clinically depressed.

The state of being of depression is one thing to cope with, people’s expectations of a quick ‘recovery’ is another.

I think most depression sufferers have felt their surroundings indirectly saying that now this depression affair has lasted long enough and that they should ‘get over it.’

This attitude is not only harmful to the depression sufferer, but it isn’t even remotely practical as a way of dealing with depression.

Here is what you’ll get in this article on different types of depression:

  • Let’s start by looking at ‘what is depression really’ and defining it once and for all.
  • Then we’ll look at the different types of depression (some of which probably don’t fit into your normal idea of depression)
  • And the we’ll explore some of the symptoms that may indicate you or someone you know is suffering from depression.

What is Depression? The Definition of Depression

Depression is a serious condition that does not just pass. Famous Van Gogh picture of a man with his head buried in his handsWhat is depression?

It’s a question that will often be met with a fairly misinformed answer.

Depression isn’t just a time when you’re feeling a little sad or ‘down.’

It’s an ongoing problem characterized by low moods and often suicidal thoughts, and it results from a real imbalance in brain chemistry.

This is why it’s not something people can just ‘get over’ – there are real physical processes involved that make this problem often impossible to overcome by willpower alone.

Here’s how the World Health Organization defines depression:

“Depression is a common mental disorder that presents with depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration. These problems can become chronic or recurrent and lead to substantial impairments in an individual’s ability to take care of his or her everyday responsibilities. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide, a tragic fatality associated with the loss of about 850,000 lives each year.”

As you can see from that definition, depression is:

  • A serious and may even be a life-threatening disease.
  • Also a progressive disease – in other words, left untreated it can become much worse (although on the flipside, if you catch it in the early stages it’s easier to recover from).

But it’s almost as important to understand that depression comes in many forms – in other words, there are many types of depression.

A List with Different Types of Depression

3 Common Types of Depression and 3 Less Common

There are a handful of common different types of depression, plus a few less common types.

We’ll start with the most common types of depression and then cover the rarer different types of depression.

In the following sections I’ll go into more detail on what each of these different types of depression involves and how to identify the symptoms of depression:

Here is a quick list of the 6 different types of depression:

There are 3 common different types of depression, major depression being one of them: Picture of a woman looking sad and depressed

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Manic depression (bipolar disorder)
  • Dysthymic depression
  • Situational depression
  • Psychotic depression
  • Endogenous depression

The first three different types of depression, major depression disorder, manic depression and dysthymic depression, I’ll explain in greater detail one by one.

The three less common different types of depression – psychotic, endogenous and situational – only differ slightly from the general category of major depressive disorder.

  • Endogenous depression is simply depression that comes from internal causes – stress and worry, for instance.
  • Situational depression is only experienced in particular situations, such as going to parties, and the sufferer experiences no symptoms in most other situations.
  • Psychotic depression is an extreme form of depression in which the low mood states are often accompanied by delusions or even complete hallucinations. Delusions can include the sufferer feeling guilty for something which they are not really responsible for.

A List of Symptoms of Depression

Symptoms of depression can obviously differ somewhat depending on the different types of depression being experienced, but there are a few general symptoms to keep an eye out for that appear in most types of depression.

These include:

Picture of a man looking sad, disinterested and hopeless. Van Gogh painting

  • Loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy.
  • Desire to avoid social occasions.
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness (often with no logical basis) .
  • Changes in appetite (either overeating or loss of interest in food) .
  • Excessive tiredness.
  • Changes in the speed of your movement, to the point where it’s noticeable to others.
  • Changes in sleeping patterns (either a reduced need for sleep or sleeping excessively) .
  • Suicidal thoughts, or thoughts that the world would be better without you.

As you can see some of these depression symptoms are complete opposites of each other – sleeping too much and not sleeping enough can both be physical symptoms of depression, for example.

This is partly because individuals often have different symptoms, but it’s also because the symptoms you experience might be related to the type of depression you’re suffering (manic depressives, for example, tend to feel a reduced need for sleep rather than feeling tired all the time).

Now we’ll go on to exploring the list of the 6 different types of depression.

1) Major Depressive Disorder: One of the Common Types of Depression

This is the type of depression that people are usually referring to when they talk about depression as a disease.

Major depression or clinical depression: Woman sitting curled up in a corner feeling sad and depressedMajor depression disorder is otherwise known as clinical depression.

Diagnosing major depressive disorder is difficult since symptoms are both physical and mental – it’s not like a viral or bacterial disease where a doctor can make a definite diagnosis based on a blood sample.

Instead, diagnosis of depression is based on a doctor’s assessment of how the patient describes their own experience.

Length of Time and Sometimes Recurrence Pattern Is the Key to Diagnosing Major Depression

That said, there are some guiding criteria used by doctors and psychiatrists to identify major depressive disorder and distinguish it from other types of depression.

One of the key criteria for diagnosing a major depressive disorder is the experience of major depressive episodes.

In simple terms, a major depressive episode is a consistently low mood that lasts for two weeks or more.

The definition of clinical depression:

  • Clinical depression is defined as the recurrence of these long episodes of low moods, or one extended episode that seems to be ‘never-ending.’

So it is possible to be clinically depressed and still have ‘happy times’ – but typically these times are few and far between, and separated by long periods of down moods.

Depression can cause a wide range of bodily, clinical depression symptoms, such as insomnia. This is why physicians often have a hard time identifying the problem and many cases of depression go undiagnosed for a long time.

If you suspect you may be suffering from depression, you should request that your doctor recommend a capable psychiatrist who will be more familiar with diagnosing mental disorders.

However, your standard doctor may always want to run some tests on you to make sure the symptoms you’re suffering don’t have a physical cause.

5 Subtypes of Major Depression

Major depressive disorder can be broken down into a few sub-types. These are:

Sad picture of a naked woman sitting alone in the landscapeAtypical depression – this type of depression revolves largely around feelings of social rejection and is often accompanied by weight gain and excessive tiredness and longer sleeping hours.

Post partum depression – a type of major depression sometimes suffered by women after they have given birth.

Catatonic depression – this is an extreme type of depression in which the sufferer can’t speak and often has very limited control over his or her body movements.

Seasonal affective disorder – this disorder includes essentially the same symptoms as major depressive disorder, except it only affects the sufferer during certain seasons (usually winter and autumn/fall).

Melancholic depression – this is the type of depression most people tend to associate with the word ‘depression’ – it’s characterized by feelings of grief or guilt, the loss of ability to feel enjoyment or pleasure, and is often accompanied by weight loss.

Understanding which type you or someone you know is suffering from is important to ensure the right course of treatment is followed.

Searching Online for Information Is Good but Get Conclusions about Your Diagnosis from Your Doctor

It’s extremely important to avoid self-diagnosing when it comes to depression – there are many tests online that can give you can idea of whether or not you’re depressed and what type of depression you may be suffering from, but there may be other explanations for your symptoms.

If you self-diagnose depression and, even worse, attempt to self-medicate using drugs and alcohol, you may end up neglecting a real physical problem going on inside your body that’s causing you to feel depressed.

That’s why it’s absolutely crucial to seek medical help to get a proper diagnosis.

5 Subtypes of Major Depression

Other names for major depressive disorder include:

  • Major depression
  • Unipolar depression (or unipolar disorder)
  • Recurrent depressive disorder.

It’s called unipolar disorder because, as opposed to bipolar disorder, it’s characterized by a prolonged low mood rather than rapid switches from high to low moods.

Taking Major Depression Very Seriously!

Major depressive disorder is arguably the most dangerous of all the different types of depression.

Because of its severity and the fact that the low moods rarely give way to anything resembling happiness, sufferers often feel there is ‘no way out.’

It’s estimated that roughly 60% of suicide victims suffer from major depressive disorder.

2) Bipolar Disorder or Manic Depression: One of the Common Types of Depression

Traditionally called manic depression, this one of the different kinds of depression disorders is more commonly called bipolar disorder these days largely because its symptoms don’t typically resemble what most people think of as ‘depression.’

Depression in a Happiness Disguise

Bipolar depression is one of the most common types of depression: Picture of a sad and happy maskIn fact, to the untrained eye, a person with bipolar can often seem to be the opposite of depressed, being full of energy and talking quickly, jumping from one subject to another.

But these ‘manic’ episodes inevitably give way to the ‘depressive’ episodes in which the sufferer experiences low moods.

The problem is also sometimes called bipolar affective disorder.

It’s actually possible for bipolar sufferers to never experience the excessively low moods of a major depressive disorder sufferer at all.

This again accounts for why many people don’t understand bipolar and don’t realize it’s actually classed as a form of depression.

It’s easy to think someone who experiences manic episodes and then goes ‘back to normal’ without seeming particularly depressed is simply a ‘quirky’ character. As a result bipolar is often misdiagnosed or goes undiagnosed altogether.

The Four ‘Episodes’ of Bipolar Disorder

There are four main types of ‘episodes’ that a bipolar sufferer can experience.

  • One of these is a 1) depressive episode, which has already been described above.
  • But bipolar sufferers also tend to experience 2) manic episodes and 3) hypomanic episodes
  • As well as 4) mixed-mood states where symptoms of both mania and depression occur at the same time.

Manic Episodes – Ecstatic Happy Highs

Manic episodes are characterized by manic ecstatic happy highs: Woman laughingManic episodes can take on a few different forms, sometimes being characterized by irritability and a short temper, but often a manic state is actually experienced as being a kind of ‘happy high.’

The bipolar sufferer will often feel less need to sleep during an episode like this and engage in excessive drug or alcohol abuse and sexual behavior.

Some people who are often thought of by their friends as being ‘party animals’ are bipolar people who are simply riding the wave of a manic episode and will deal with the low of a depressive episode by withdrawing from social contact.

Short attention span is another key symptom of a manic episode.

Hypomanic episodes in bipolar depression are characterized by more subdued happiness compared to the manic episodes: Woman smiling

Hypomanic Episodes – More Subdued Happy Highs

A hypomanic episode is similar to a manic episode but usually less severe.

It can also have seemingly positive qualities, like an increase in creativity.

Mixed Episodes – A Mish-Mash of Feelings

The mixed episodes during the bipolar depression cycle are characterized by a mish mash of confused feelings: Woman looking neutrally in to the cameraThe mixed episodes are the hardest to recognize since they can be a mish-mash of feelings and symptoms.

Mixed episodes are not necessarily a good indicator that someone is suffering from bipolar unless they’re also accompanied by the characteristic up and down swings between completely manic and completely depressive episodes.

Bipolar Sounds Like Lots of Fun, What’s the Big Deal?

It may almost seem from these descriptions that bipolar doesn’t sound that bad after all. The person with the disorder is apparently happy and active much of the time, so what’s the problem?

Well, one of the main problems is the unpredictability of mood changes. A bipolar person can go from a manic episode to a depressive one in a very short space of time without any apparent reason for the change.

This can be extremely stressful for the sufferer and for the people close to him or her. It becomes hard to maintain a positive relationship with someone whose mood is constantly changing and engages in behavior without any apparent reason for it.

This can lead to social isolation for a bipolar sufferer.

Manic episodes in themselves, although they may make the person feel excited and ‘happy,’ can also have immediate negative consequences. For instance, difficulty concentrating during a manic episode can be a huge problem while the person is at work or school.

3) Dysthymic Disorder: One of the Common Milder Types Depression

Dysthymic disorder (or simply dysthymia) is another chronic form of depression, although it tends to be less severe than major depressive disorder.

Many Dysthymic Disorder Sufferers Have no Idea They Are Ill

Dark melancholic landscape with hillsDysthymia is quite a problematic disorder purely because it’s relatively mild – sufferers have a tendency to think it’s simply part of their personality, rather than suspecting they may be suffering from a disease.

Whereas major depressive disorder will often push people to a breaking point where they’re forced to seek help, dysthymia is a problem that many people go through their entire lives with without ever being diagnosed.

The main criteria that distinguishes this disorder from many other mood problems is its chronic nature. Someone is only diagnosed with dysthymia when they have been suffering symptoms regularly for over two years. Also, symptoms must be present continuously for those two years without a break of more than two months.

As if that weren’t enough to make dysthymia hard to identify, it’s also fairly common for other mental disorders to affect people with dysthymia.

In fact, around 75% of dysthymia suffer from other conditions, which can include alcoholism. I’ll discuss alcohol and drug use and their relationship to depression in a moment.

A List of Treatments for Depression: How to Deal with Depression

As depression is a real disease with often deep-seated psychological causes, its treatment is usually far from straightforward.

Successful treatment of different types of depression typically comes with a combination of therapy and medication.

Psychotherapy Alone or in Groups

Psychotherapy for depression: Black woman in couch talkingPsychotherapy can be done both in groups and one-on-one with a therapist.

The type of therapy that will be most effective depends largely on the different types of depression and their underlying causes – in some cases interaction with others suffering the same problems can be useful, but in severe cases it can be overwhelming and counter-productive.

Much of the therapy for different types of depression center on teaching the patient how to deal with specific scenarios in order to overcome depressive episodes.

It’s also about helping patients explore their own internal world to get insight into the real triggers and causes of their depression, which are often hidden from consciousness.


Antidepressants pills might be a treatment in many different types of depressionAntidepressants is the broad name for the many drugs that can be prescribed to combat different types of depression, although the use of drugs on its own is rarely enough to achieve a long term ‘cure.’

Drugs are often only used to alleviate symptoms while a patient works through therapy sessions.

Common prescription medications for different types of depression include:

  • Prozac
  • Zoloft
  • Cipralex
  • Lustral

Day Light Treatment

Strange as it may sound, bright lights are commonly used to treat various different types of depression but most commonly seasonal affective disorder, which many experts believe is linked to the lower levels of sunlight in the autumn and winter months.

Love and Affection

Warm hugs, love and affection plays a huge role in dealing with depression: Couple hugging in from of windowHowever, don’t underestimate the power of family and friend support for someone battling depression. Love and affection is powerful across all the different types of depression.

The natural reaction of people close to a depressed person is often to shut them off – they used to be fun, and now they’re ‘strange’ all of a sudden.

People react this way because they don’t understand depression, so if you’re suffering from this problem yourself it’s important to inform your close friends and family so that they understand how important it is for them to keep being there even when you’re struggling and don’t want to leave the house.

This is particularly helpful for disorders like dysthymia, where group therapy on its own can be enough to achieve a full recovery.

So What Causes Depression?

Genetic and Environmental Triggers

The causes of depression can differ a lot depending on the types of depression.

In many cases people have a genetic tendency to become depressed – in other words, if there’s a history of depression in your family it can be an indicator that you may be suffering depression or may be at risk of it.

But genetics on its own doesn’t give the full picture of why some people develop depression and some don’t.

Your environment, upbringing and events in your life can also play a big role. For instance, someone who has a history of depression in their family may never experience an event traumatic enough to ‘trigger’ a major depressive episode.

On the other hand, someone who has no family history of depression may suffer through an extremely traumatic event like a major car accident and develop depression as a result.

Why the Drugs Don’t Work

Back in the 1990s the band The Verve sang a song about drug abuse and depression which said, ‘The drugs don’t work/ They just make you worse.’

This is the best advice you can get when it comes to trying to self-medicate for various different types of depression using drugs and alcohol.

Alcohol, For Starters, Is a Depressant

There’s a popular illusion that alcohol ‘makes people happy.’

Alcohol may allow people to forget their problems for a few hours, but it isn’t capable of ‘making you really happy’ even in the short period while it’s working its effects on you.

If you’re a heavy drug or alcohol user, it’s almost certain that your habits of use are contributing to your depression and may even be one of the biggest causes to begin with.

This is an idea that many drug and alcohol users don’t like to hear, since they tend to think of their drug as a ‘crutch.’

But the reality is that in the long term, you’re much better off once you can catch aside your ‘crutch’ and stand on your own two feet. This is often not easy to do, but learning materials and support groups abound for helping people beat their addictions.

Depressed because of Drinking or Drinking because of Depression?

It appears that the cause and effect relationship between alcohol abuse and depression can run both ways.

In other words, you can become depressed as a result of alcohol abuse or you can become an alcohol abuser as a result of trying to self-medicate depression.

Regardless of whether alcohol played a role in the development of depression in the first place, its continued use will almost definitely make the depression worse over the long run.

Watch out for Mixing Drugs and Alcohol

You have to be particularly careful about drug and alcohol intake if you’re also taking antidepressants.

Never use antidepressants unless you have actually been diagnosed with depression by a health professional and the drugs have been prescribed for you.

What Would You Like to Read Now After This Article on The Different Types of Depression?

Research-Based Answers to What Causes Depression: A List of External and Internal Causes of Depression

Guide to Understanding Depression and Setting the Biggest Myths to Rest

Understanding Depression in Children: Seeing Through the Muddy Waters of Bipolar Depression and ADHD

Types of Depression in Women: General Depression Symptoms but also Those Related to Pregnancy, Infertility and Menopause

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