What Are the Types of Depression?

Depression is characterized by persistently low mood and lack of interest in activities. Learn about the different types of depression in this article.

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What Is Depression?

Depression is a mental health illness that impacts how a person thinks and feels. Depression causes feelings of sadness and a lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities. It can lead to various mental and physical issues and negatively impact the ability to function at work, school, or home.

Depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. An estimated 280 million people are affected, including approximately 5% of the adult population and 5.7% of older adults sixty or over. At least 10% of people in the U.S. will experience depressive disorders at some point in their lives.1

Types of Depression

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Is Depression Genetic?

Depressive disorders can be determined by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. A team of researchers isolated a genome-wide connection to chromosome 3p25-26 that appears to be prevalent in multiple family members with recurrent, severe depressive disorders. Scientists believe that as many as 40% of individuals with depression have some genetic link.2

In addition, women are more likely to develop depressive disorders than men. It was reported that women had a 42% chance of having a hereditary depression-related disorder versus 29% of men.3

Clinical Depression: an Overview

Depression Symptoms

Symptoms of depression can be mental, physical, and social. Common signs and symptoms of depression may include:

There are also different depression levels that vary based on the severity of symptoms, which include mild, moderate, or severe depression. A national survey done in 2019 determined that 2.8% of adults experienced severe depression, 4.2% experienced moderate depression, and 11.5% experienced symptoms of mild depression.4

Depression vs. Sadness/Grief

Depression differs from sadness or grief in that normal feelings of sadness resolve after a period of time, whereas depressive symptoms are persistent and negatively impact self-esteem, creating feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. Similarly to depression, grief can be ongoing but is a normal response to a life event. 

Depression and grief can be experienced concurrently; however, their strength, intensity, and duration are what set them apart. In depressive disorder, symptoms are persistent for two weeks or more. With grief, the painful feelings may come in waves that include feelings of happiness over positive memories.

What Does Life With Depression Look Like?

Common Types of Depression

There are several types of depression. The symptoms of each depressive disorder may show up in different ways and exhibit a variety of distinct symptoms.

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), in order to receive a diagnosis of major depressive disorder, an individual must experience five or more of the symptoms during the same two-week period, and at least one symptom should be either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure.

The average lifetime prevalence of MDD is about 12%, and the prevalence rate is almost doubled in women as opposed to men. Further, major depressive disorder occurs more often in individuals with no close interpersonal relationships and who are divorced, separated, or widowed. While statistics reveal no difference in prevalence among races and socioeconomic status, MDD is reported more frequently in rural areas than urban areas.5

Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)

Persistent depressive disorder, previously known as dysthymic disorder, is a continuous, chronic type of depression. PDD is a complex depressive disorder that is very similar to MDD but is often less intense and must last continuously for at least two years. At one time, PDD was classified as a depressed personality disorder

To be diagnosed with PDD, one must experience a depressed mood throughout most of the day, more often than not, for at least two years, and does not meet the criteria for major depressive disorder. The depressed mood must also be followed by two or more other symptoms of depression, such as low self-esteem, low energy or fatigue, noticeable changes in appetite, poor concentration, or hopelessness.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, previously referred to as manic-depressive disorder or manic depression, is characterized by unusual shifts, or episodes, in mood, energy level, and concentration. These episodes are defined as depression and mania, abnormally elevated feelings of excitement, euphoria, and delusions. There are three different types of bipolar disorder:

Types of Depression

Postpartum Depression (PPD)

Another type of depression is postpartum depression. PPD is a complex mix of emotional, physical, and behavioral changes that occur in some women after giving birth. According to the DSM-5, PDD is a type of major depressive disorder that begins four to six weeks after delivery. Postpartum depression symptoms often include:

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a health problem similar to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) but more severe. PMDD often occurs a week or two before the menstrual cycle and causes symptoms such as:

To be diagnosed with PMDD, one must exhibit at least five or more PMDD symptoms, one of which must be a mood symptom similar to a general depressive disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder is a common depression type that occurs during seasonal changes. In most cases, SAD symptoms often start in late autumn or early winter and persist until spring or summer. Nonetheless, some individuals experience depressive episodes during the spring and summer months, which is called summer-pattern SAD and is less common.

Individuals with SAD exhibit symptoms common in MDD, usually lasting four to five months per year. Symptoms may differ depending on the season SAD occurs:

Types of Depression

Atypical Depression

Of the different types of depression, atypical depression is the only one considered a specifier, or subtype, for major depressive disorder or persistent depressive disorder. Atypical depression involves several specific symptoms, including:

Psychotic Depression

Psychotic depression is characterized by symptoms of MDD that include episodes of psychosis, such as hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia. Research indicates that MDD with psychotic features affects about four in every one thousand people and is most common between ages fourteen and thirty and in adults over the age of sixty.6

The criteria for diagnosing major depressive disorder with psychotic features involves exhibiting a persistent low mood or lack of interest in everyday life for at least two weeks, four or more other symptoms of depression, and exhibiting symptoms of hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, or psychomotor impairments. Psychomotor impairments involve having slowed thoughts, movements, and lack of feelings.

Causes of Depression

The causes of depression result from a complex interaction between various biological, social, and psychological factors. It is difficult to determine the exact causes of depression, as different depressions have various risk factors. However, research has provided valuable input that may help determine the cause of depression.

Types of Depression

Brain Chemistry

One of the most widely accepted explanations for depression is abnormal brain chemistry. In many instances, having too few of certain neurotransmitters in the brain can impact mood and cause symptoms of depression.

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the brain that communicate with each other and are responsible for maintaining brain and body function. Many neurotransmitters produced in the brain play a significant role in mood regulation. Three neurotransmitters are associated with depression:

Hormone Levels

Changes in hormone levels can also affect the development of depression. Hormones are in charge of regulating mood; therefore, changes in hormone levels can greatly impact mental health. Estrogen and progesterone, hormones that are more prevalent in women, have been shown to affect depression and anxiety. This may be a contributing factor to the higher prevalence of depression among women than men.

Family History

As mentioned before, genetics can play a role in depression. It has been determined that people with a family history of depression, especially close relatives (e.g., parents, siblings) are two to three times more likely to develop depression than those without a family history.7

Early Childhood Trauma

Those with a history of early childhood trauma or abuse are also more likely to develop depression.

Types of Depression

Medical Conditions

Having a chronic medical condition, such as chronic pain or diabetes, has been linked with higher rates of depression. An estimated 9.3% to 25% of individuals living with a chronic medical condition also have depression.8

Substance Use

Substance use or misuse can be a contributing factor to experiencing depression. Although drugs and alcohol may temporarily relieve the symptoms of depression, they are ultimately more likely to aggravate or increase depressive symptoms.

Treatment for Depression

There are many different treatment options available to help treat depression. For the best success, many of these treatments are used in combination.


Various types of therapy can help treat depression, such as psychotherapy, individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and medical therapy.

What is Psychotherapy?

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT), such as antidepressants, has proven to be effective in the treatment of depressive disorders. Medical professionals prescribe various medications to patients with depression. Some of these include:

The type of medication prescribed is determined based on the individual’s side effects, severity of depression, and physical health concerns. Medication should always be discussed with a medical provider.

Support Groups

Many people utilize support groups as a tool to aid in their recovery. There are support groups for a variety of topics, including depression, bipolar disorder, substance use, postpartum depression, trauma, etc. Participating in support groups allows individuals to connect with other people dealing with similar issues, feel acknowledged and supported, and become educated on the disorder.

Support groups can be found online or in person and are available as peer-supported groups or run by a trained professional. There are many support groups available, so it is important for individuals to find a group that supports their needs.

Get Treatment for a Depressive Disorder at Profound Treatment

If you or a loved one has a depressive disorder, Profound Treatment offers a safe, supportive, and inclusive environment. Profound focuses on treating the person, not the disorder. Our trained medical staff utilizes evidence-based treatment approaches to create high-quality and personalized treatment plans to heal the mind, body, and spirit and treat the needs unique to each individual.

For more information about our programs and how we can help you achieve a happy, healthy life, contact us today at 310.929.9546, [email protected], or https://profoundtreatment.com/contact-us/.