7 Common Types of Depression

Causes are as varied as the symptoms and treatment

When people think about depression, they often divide it into one of two things: either clinical depression which requires treatment or "regular" depression that pretty much anyone can go through. As a condition, depression can be a difficult concept to grasp since we refer to it as both the symptom of a condition and a condition itself.​

From a medical standpoint, depression is defined a mood disorder which causes a persistent feeling of sadness and the often profound loss of interest in things that usually bring you pleasure. It is one that it affects how you feel, think, and behave and can interfere with your ability to function and carry on with daily life.

There are many different causes of depression, some of which we don't fully understand. Seven of the more common types include:

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

depressed man sitting on the edge of his bed
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When people use the terms clinical depression, they are generally referring to major depressive disorder (MDD). Major depressive disorder is a mood disorder characterized by a number of key features:

  • A 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

If a person experiences the majority of these symptoms for longer than a two-week period, they will often be diagnosed with MDD.

Dysthymic Disorder

DSM-IV Criteria for Major Depressive Disorder
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Dysthymia, or dysthymic disorder, refers to a mild to moderate type of chronic depression. It may have episodes of major depression superimposed on top of it, which some refer to as "double depression."

Dysthymia is diagnosed when it lasts for at least two years but doesn't  undermine person's ability to function on a day-to-day basis. Most people who have dysthymia won't even know for sure when they first became depressed

Bipolar Disorder

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Bipolar disorder is more than just depression. It consists of periods of depression alternating with periods of abnormally elevated mood known as mania. These periods of mania can be mild (hypomania) or they can be so extreme as to interfere with a person's life.

People with bipolar depression often have a range of physical and emotional symptoms which may include:

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

People with bipolar depression are more likely to have thoughts of suicide and a preoccupation with death. Psychosis (including hallucinations and delusions) can also occur in more extreme cases.

Postpartum Depression

grandparents should look for signs of postpartum depression
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Pregnancy can bring about often profound hormonal shifts that can often affect a woman's moods. Following the birth of a child, it can lead to a common form of depression which people will sometimes dismiss as the "baby blues."

Postpartum depression is more than that just the blues. It can range from a persistent lethargy and sadness that requires medical treatment all the way up to postpartum psychosis, a condition characterized by symptoms of mania, severe confusion, loss of inhibition, paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Depressed woman sitting near the window
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If you experience depression, sleepiness, and weight gain during the winter months but feel perfectly fine in spring, you may have a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

SAD is believed to be caused by a disturbance in the normal circadian rhythm of the body. Light entering through the eyes influences this rhythm, and any seasonal variation in night/day pattern can cause a disruption in sleep leading to insomnia, sleep deprivation, and depression.

SAD is more common in far northern or far southern regions of the planet and can often be treated with light therapy to offset the seasonal loss the daylight.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

PMDD symptoms of depression
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Among the most common symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) are irritability, fatigue, anxiety, moodiness, bloating, increased appetite, food cravings, aches, and breast tenderness.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) produces similar symptoms, but those related to mood are more pronounced. They may include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Feeling sad, hopeless, or suicidal
  • Severe feelings of stress or anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Mood swings, often with bouts of crying
  • Constant irritability
  • Inability to concentrate 
  • Food cravings or binging

Extreme cases may require hormone therapy to any hormonal imbalances caused by your menstrual cycle.

Atypical Depression

Binge eating and depression
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Do you experience signs of depression (such as overeating, sleeping too much, or extreme sensitivity to rejection) but find yourself suddenly perking up in face of a positive event?

Based on these symptoms, you may be diagnosed with atypical depression, a type of depression which does not follow the typical rules of the disorder. Atypical depression is characterized by a specific set of symptoms related to:

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

It is actually more common than the name might imply. Unlike other forms of depression, people with atypical depression respond better to a type of antidepressant known as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI).


American Psychiatric Association. (2013) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th edition). Washington, D.C.: APA.