Different Types of Depression: An Overview

Although depression is a common condition, it can be a confusing disorder to understand, as it has multiple types, all with unique symptoms and ranges of severity.

In this article, read about the different types of depression, their causes, symptoms, and prevention and treatment methods.

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What Is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that causes symptoms affecting feelings, thoughts, and daily functioning. It can have severe and lasting effects. Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the United States. It can affect anybody, no matter their race, age, gender, income, or education. It can occur with other mental health and physical illnesses as well. 

Causes

Research has shown that there is not one single cause of depression. It can result from a combination of psychological, genetic, biological, and environmental factors. It often begins in adulthood, but it is seen in children and adolescents as well, often with differing symptoms than in adults. Especially in adults, depression can be comorbid (co-occur) with other medical illnesses, like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease, a neurological (brain) disorder.

Some risk factors for depression include:

  • Personal history of depression 
  • Family history of depression
  • Significant life changes 
  • Traumatic events
  • Chronic stress
  • Specific physical illnesses and medications

The Different Types of Depression and Their Symptoms

There are several different types of depression, which vary in timing and symptoms. The diagnostic criteria for depressive disorders are from the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the book used by mental health professionals to diagnose conditions.

Major Depressive Disorder

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is diagnosed when someone has at least five symptoms all day and nearly every day for at least two weeks. One of these symptoms needs to be a depressed mood or loss of interest in activities. However, for children and adolescents, the mood might be irritable instead.

The symptoms of MDD that are in the diagnostic criteria include:

  • Depressed mood (or irritability in children and adolescents)
  • Decreased interest or pleasure in daily activities (anhedonia
  • Weight loss or gain, or a noticeable change in appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual
  • Noticeable changes in physical movements, as in moving very slowly or being more restless and agitated
  • Fatigue or loss of energy 
  • Feeling worthless or inappropriately guilty 
  • Difficulty thinking and concentrating
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Atypical Depression

Atypical depression is a specifier (depression with features that are not typical) added to the diagnosis of MDD. It is assigned when certain signs and symptoms are present a majority of the time during a major depressive episode. One of the features is mood reactivity, meaning someone’s mood brightens in response to positive events. Atypical depression also presents with at least two of the following features:

  • Significant increase in appetite or weight gain 
  • Sleeping too much (hypersomnia
  • Heavy feelings in arms and legs (leaden paralysis) 
  • Consistent pattern of sensitivity to interpersonal rejection, which causes impairment

Persistent Depressive Disorder

Persistent depressive disorder (PDD) is also known as dysthymia. It is characterized by a depressed mood that is present for most of the day, most days, for at least two years (or for one year in children and adolescents). They must have two or more specific symptoms in addition to the depressed mood. These are:

  • Decreased appetite or overeating 
  • Insomnia or sleeping more than usual 
  • Low energy 
  • Low self-esteem 
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Feeling hopeless

Perinatal Depression

Perinatal depression is a mood disorder that occurs before or after a child's birth.

Perinatal vs. Postpartum Depression

Prenatal depression is diagnosed when depression begins during pregnancy, while postpartum depression begins after birth. Postpartum depression is different from the “baby blues,” which are milder changes in mood, worrying, fatigue, and unhappiness in the first two weeks after having a baby.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a condition characterized by severe irritability, lability (shifting moods), depression, or anxiety during the one to two weeks prior to the beginning of menstruation. The symptoms tend to resolve about two to three days after the period begins.

Women Affected by PMDD

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) affects up to 5% of women of childbearing age.

Symptoms of PMDD can include:  

  • Irritability or anger 
  • Sadness, feelings of despair, or thoughts of suicide
  • Tension or anxiety 
  • Panic attacks 
  • Mood swings
  • Loss of interest in daily activities 
  • Difficulty thinking or focusing 
  • Fatigue or low energy 
  • Food cravings or binge eating 
  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Feeling a loss of control
  • Cramps, bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, joint or muscle pain

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression in which symptoms occur and recur seasonally. It is formally known as major depressive disorder with seasonal pattern. Symptoms include ones that may happen with major depressive disorder, but there are some that are specific to each pattern of SAD, whether occurring in winter or summer. For example, oversleeping (hypersomnia) is sometimes present in SAD occurring in the winter, while difficulty sleeping (insomnia) sometimes occurs in summer-pattern SAD.

Diagnosing SAD

To be diagnosed with SAD, symptoms of major depression must occur for two consecutive years during specific seasons, like only during the winter or summer months. However, not everybody has symptoms every year.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder was formerly known as manic-depressive disorder or manic depression. It causes shifts in mood and energy, as well as actions and behaviors. Changes in mood are on a spectrum ranging from overly elated and elevated mood—which are known as manic episodes—to down and sad periods of depression. A less-severe episode of mania is called a hypomania. Sometimes manic and depressive symptoms may appear together, which is called a mixed episode.

There are three forms of bipolar disorders. They are characterized by differences in the types of mood changes that occur. They are:

  • Bipolar 1 disorder: This is diagnosed when manic episodes occur for at least seven days or cause a need for hospitalization due to the symptom severity. Depressive episodes can occur as well. 
  • Bipolar 2 disorder: This occurs when there is a combination of depressive episodes and periods of hypomania. If any manic episodes occur, then the condition will not be classified as bipolar 2 disorder. 
  • Cyclothymic disorder (cyclothymia): People with this condition experience numerous episodes of hypomania and depression for at least two years (or one year if a child or adolescent). However, the symptoms never qualify as a full hypomanic or depressive episode.

How Do I Know Which Type I Have?

To determine what type of depression or mental health condition you have, the first step is to discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider. Primary care providers (PCPs) often will diagnose and treat depression—as well as some other mental health conditions—but they can also refer you to a mental health professional for further evaluation and treatment. Whichever doctor you see, you will be asked for a thorough history of your symptoms and will likely undergo a physical exam. 

Diagnosis and Treatment of Depression

Diagnosis and treatment of a mental health illness are done by primary care providers and mental health professionals. Some professions that specialize in diagnosing and treating mental illness are psychiatrists (a medical doctor) and psychologists. To start the conversation, keep in mind these tips for speaking with a healthcare provider about mental health:

  • Prepare before the visit, listing any medications you take, questions you have, and family history
  • Consider bringing a friend or relative for support
  • Be honest about any symptoms you have been having
  • Ask questions

Treatments of depression include both non-medication and medication options. Non-medication treatment typically involves psychotherapy, or talk therapy. Therapy can help teach new ways of thinking, behaving, and interacting, as well as provide coping strategies. Over time, this can help you change habits that may have negatively affected your mood. Therapy is often tried first or in conjunction with medication, depending on the individual.

Therapy for Depression

Certain therapy methods are proven to help depression, specifically cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and problem-solving therapy.

Depending on the type of depression you have, different medications may be used. Common types of medications used to treat depression are called antidepressants. Antidepressants can take up to several weeks to become effective, so it is important to work with your doctor to manage these medications over time. If you are feeling better or not noticing any improvement, consult with your healthcare provider prior to changing or stopping the medicine.

Management and Prevention

The management of depression and related conditions usually involves professional treatment and personal lifestyle changes. Participating in activities you used to enjoy can help improve your mood, and it is important to go easy on yourself. Nonmedical interventions that can help improve mood include:

  • Participating in physical activity, even 30 minutes of walking 
  • Sticking to regular bedtime and waking times 
  • Eating regular and healthy meals 
  • Prioritizing tasks, doing what is needed when you can
  • Connecting with other people
  • Talking with trusted people about how you feel 
  • Avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs

When to Seek Help for Depression

If someone notices symptoms of depression in themselves or a loved one and it is affecting their daily life and functioning, it is important to seek professional help from a primary healthcare provider or a mental health professional. They will be able to appropriately diagnose and provide treatment if necessary.

Helpline

If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Summary

There are many types of depression that vary based on when and how they occur, whom they affect, and what symptoms they cause. These include major depressive disorder, atypical depression, persistent depressive disorder, perinatal depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, seasonal affective disorder, and depression that occurs as part of a bipolar disorder.

Diagnosis can be determined by a primary healthcare provider or a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. Treatment for each type of depression varies, but usually therapy and/or medications are prescribed. Nonmedical interventions can also be helpful, such as getting enough sleep, exercising, and connecting with others.

A Word From Verywell

The different forms of depression can range in symptoms and severity. and they are serious illnesses that can greatly impact your life and functioning. If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, it is important to seek help from a healthcare provider or mental health professional. Sometimes it is difficult to make that first step to seek help, so look to trusted friends and family for support and encouragement. With appropriate diagnosis and treatment, you can hopefully feel better and regain your life.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many types of depression are there?

    There are several forms of depression that vary in symptoms and timing. Even within major depressive disorder are specific types that can be diagnosed.

  • What are the most common treatment methods for different types of depression?

    Treatments of depression include both non-medication and medication options. A common non-medication treatment is psychotherapy, or talk therapy. Medications used for depressive disorders include antidepressants, as well as other classes like antipsychotics and medications that act as mood stabilizers. The medication used depends on the type of depressive disorder you have, symptoms present, and severity.

  • Will I be able to tell which type of depression I have?

    To determine what type of depression or mental illness you have, the first step is to discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider. Diagnosis and treatment of mental health illnesses are done by healthcare providers, such as mental health professionals, so it is important to seek help if you are concerned that you are experiencing depression.

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8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute for Mental Health. Depression. Updated February 2018.

  2. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth Edition. 2013. doi:10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596

  3. National Institute for Mental Health. Perinatal depression.

  4. Office on Women’s Health. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Updated March 2018.

  5. National Institute for Mental Health. Seasonal affective disorder.

  6. National Institute for Mental Health. Bipolar disorder. Updated January 2020.

  7. MedlinePlus. Bipolar disorder. Updated September 2021.

  8. National Institute for Mental Health. Taking control of your mental health: Tips for talking with your healthcare provider.