Written by Shannon,
7 Minute Read
Medically reviewed by:
Erin O'Callaghan, PHD
Director of Therapy
10 Minute Read
Depression is an umbrella term that is often used to describe feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and lack of interest. However, depression is much more than that, and there are many more variations than people realize.
Depression is a mental illness that can take many forms. Let’s take a look at some of the different types of depression so you can better understand and recognize their symptoms in yourself or others.
Often called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, major depression is marked by loss of interest, low mood, fatigue, and other symptoms that are experienced during most days of the week for a period of 2 weeks or more.
Depression can be described as mild, moderate, moderately severe, or severe based on the severity of symptoms and the frequency that you experience them. Depression can be caused by various factors including having a genetic predisposition towards depression, having a chemical imbalance in the brain, having a predisposition to seeing the world, yourself, and others through a more negative lens.
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
Common symptoms someone may experience during a depressive episode include:
- Overwhelming feelings of sadness, hopelessness, emptiness, and tearfulness
- Outbursts of anger, irritability, and frustration, even over very small matters
- A loss of interest and pleasure in activities that you once enjoyed, such as sex, hobbies, and spending time with others
- Sleep disturbances such as insomnia, which is characterized by difficulty falling asleep, or sleeping too much, known as hypersomnia
- Tiredness and lack of energy such that even small, everyday tasks require extra effort
- Changes in appetite such as a reduced or complete loss of appetite, or an increase in appetite, and associated changes in weight such as weight gain or weight loss
- Anxiety, agitation, or restlessness
- Slowed thinking, speaking, or body movements
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt and a fixation on self-blame and past failures
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things
- Frequent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, or suicide
- Physical discomfort that cannot be explained, such as back pains or headaches
This is another form of severe depression in which a person suffers from a combination of depressed mood as well as symptoms of psychosis. Psychosis is a disconnection from reality, often resulting in delusions, hallucinations, or paranoia.
In the case of psychotic depression specifically, people tend to experience delusions where they believe bad things are going to happen to them persistently. However, individuals may experience hallucinations or other types of delusional thought as well.
The process of childbirth is very stressful for a new mother, and it’s common for a woman to experience “baby blues” after giving birth. However, it’s possible that new moms will experience a more severe and long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression.
Many of the symptoms of major depressive disorder present themselves here, but some other symptoms may include:
- Severe mood swings
- Difficulty bonding with child
- Withdraw from spouse, family, or friends
- Excessive crying
- Fear of being a bad mother
- Changes in appetite
- Overwhelming loss of energy
- Thoughts of harming oneself or one’s child
Many women with postpartum depression feel extremely disconnected from their child, often feeling no interest in loving or caring for them. Some may even experience a form of psychosis where they don’t believe they are actually the baby’s mother.
Although it is now classified separately, bipolar disorder used to be called “manic depression” because a person experiences periods of depression and mania interchangeably. These periods are often called episodes, and depressive episodes tend to last longer than periods of mania.
Mania is the opposite of depression. While this may sound favorable, manic episodes can sometimes lead to irrational, spontaneous, and risky behaviors, which can lead to further stress down the line.
Symptoms of mania include:
- Increased activity and energy
- Exaggerated sense of self-confidence
- Unusual talkativeness
- Racing thoughts
- Abnormal jumpiness or weirdness
Depressive episodes and manic episodes can last for variable amounts of time. Additionally, they can occur within hours of each other, or months can go by without a single period of mania or depression.
There are two different types of bipolar disorder, each marked by the severity of the manic episodes caused by each.
A manic episode refers to a person experiencing an extremely energetic, restless mood, which may also include feelings of euphoria, risky behaviors, and trouble sleeping.
People with bipolar I disorder will experience a full manic episode, while a person with bipolar II disorder will experience only a hypomanic episode, which is a less intense, shorter-lasting version of a manic episode.
Additionally, those with bipolar I may not experience a major depressive episode.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to change in season. It differs from major depression because it starts and ends at the same time every year and usually only persists during the winter months.
More often than not, individuals experience fall and winter SAD. This typically starts in the fall and continues through the winter months.
Symptoms of SAD include:
- Changes in appetite
- Weight gain
- Tiredness or low energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of interest or pleasure
People with bipolar disorder may also respond to the seasons in unusual ways. For some, spring and summer months may lead to manic episodes, whereas depressive episodes may be more common in the colder, darker months.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a health condition that results in severe irritability, depression, or anxiety within a week or two before menstruation. Symptoms usually disappear within a few days after the start of your period.
Symptoms of PMDD are similar to symptoms of major depression, including:
- Sadness or despair
- Mood swings or crying often
- Lack of interest in daily activities
- Tiredness or trouble focusing
- Changes in appetite
- Irritability or anger towards others
- Feelings of tension and anxiety
PMDD is similar to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) which also occurs within the weeks before your period when hormone levels change. However, PMDD often leads to more severe symptoms of depression or anxiety.
Depression looks different in everyone, and there are many different types that can help specify certain symptoms and causes. One of the most common types is major depression, which is marked by persistent feelings of sadness, despair, and hopelessness.
Another type of depression includes psychotic depression, in which some people experience delusions and hallucinations in addition to their depression.
Postpartum depression presents itself similarly to major depression, but can occur following childbirth. Seasonal affective disorder also occurs following a specific event, specifically a change in season.
Bipolar disorder used to be called manic depression because it refers to periods of depression followed by episodes of mania, or extremely elevated mood. And finally, premenstrual dysphoric disorder can occur during the weeks before menstruation, often resulting in depressive symptoms.
If you or a loved one seems to exhibit any of these symptoms, there is hope. Treatments such as psychotherapy and antidepressant medication are highly effective at treating depression and can help you manage the symptoms and live a full life.
Getting treatment can be hard, but Brightside is here to guide you towards feeling a little more like yourself again. With fully remote therapy and psychiatric sessions, unlimited messaging access with your provider, and medications delivered right to your door, it’s mental health care on your terms.
See the Brightside difference today by filling out a free assessment.