The different types of depression
Depression isn't a one-size-fits-all diagnosis. Find out about the different depression types & where you can go for help if you need it
One in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives. Thankfully, we’re all more aware of how important it is to open up if we’re struggling – which is amazing. Although mental health is a super-hot topic of conversation, sometimes it can be difficult to know if how we’re feeling is something we need to speak up about and ask for help.
Most people go through periods of feeling down. It’s totally normal. But if the feelings are interfering with your life and don't go away after a couple of weeks, it could be a sign of depression. It’s important to always speak to your GP if you've noticed changes in the way you are thinking or feeling and you’re worried about your mental health.
Depression isn't a one-size-fits-all diagnosis. It’s an umbrella term and the condition can be split into many different types. Let’s run through them and chat about where to get the help you need if you’re struggling.
Sadness is a normal human emotion, however these feelings are usually short-lived. Clinical depression is a continual feeling of sadness for weeks or months at a time, so much so that it affects your work, social and family life. Although depression affects people in different ways and can cause a wide variety of symptoms, common symptoms include:
• Continuous low mood or sadness
• Feeling hopeless and helpless
• Having low self-esteem
• Feeling guilt-ridden
• Having no motivation or interest in things
• Feeling anxious or worried
• Having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself
• Avoiding contact with friends and taking part in fewer social activities
• Having difficulties in your home, work or family life
Speak with your GP if you experience symptoms for most of the day, every day, for more than two weeks.
Manic depression or as it’s more commonly known, bipolar disorder, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood changes. Those with bipolar disorder have episodes of depression, where they feel very low, hopeless and lethargic and then episodes of mania where they feel very happy, full of energy and have ambitious plans and ideas. Each episode can last for several weeks or sometimes longer.
Speak with your GP if you’re experiencing extreme mood swings. Treatment for bipolar disorder aims to reduce the severity and number of episodes.
Some people who have severe depression may also experience symptoms of psychosis. Depression with psychosis is known as psychotic depression. Psychosis is a mental health condition that causes people to see or interpret things differently from those around them. Symptoms include:
• Delusions – thoughts or beliefs that are unlikely to be true
• Hallucinations – hearing, feeling, smelling, seeing or tasting things that are not there
If you're experiencing these symptoms, speak with your GP. It’s important psychosis is treated as soon as possible, as early treatment can be more effective.
Dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder (PDD) is a continuous mild depression that lasts for two years or more. PDD symptoms are similar to clinical depression symptoms:
• A sad, low or dark mood on most days
• Low self-esteem
• Low energy
• Feelings of hopelessness
Recurrent depressive disorder
If you’ve had at least two depressive episodes separated by a period of normal moods and behaviour, you may have recurrent depressive disorder. The symptoms of recurrent depressive disorder are very similar to those of clinical depression. The main difference between the two is the period of normal moods between each the depressive episode.
Certain life events and situations can cause depressive symptoms.
Reactive or situational depression is a type of depression triggered by a specific stressful event. Symptoms of reactive depression are very similar to clinical depression. Because everyone handles stress differently, the situations that can bring on reactive depression vary from person to person. Triggers may include:
• The death of a loved one
• The end of a relationship
• Money worries
• A car accident
• Some kind of rejection
It’s completely natural to feel a wave of emotions when you’re pregnant. It’s a big, exciting life event and an emotional time in a woman’s life. Unfortunately though, it’s not always a happy time for everyone, as pregnancy can trigger depression in some new mums-to-be.
Antenatal or prenatal depression is when a woman feels constantly sad for weeks or even months whilst pregnant. The condition affects women in different ways but common symptoms include:
• Feeling sad and hopeless
• Negative thoughts about yourself
• Not sleeping well, even when the baby is
• Sleeping too much
• A lack of interest or pleasure in doing things or being with people
• Loss of appetite
For the first few weeks after giving birth, many women experience the ‘baby blues’ where they feel overwhelmed and more emotional than usual. Usually the baby blues start within the first couple of days after delivery and fade after a couple of weeks. It’s completely normal, but if symptoms don’t go away after a few weeks or get worse, you may be experiencing postnatal depression (PND). Around 10–15 percent of new mums develop PND. Fathers and partners can also be affected and symptoms include:
• A persistent feeling of sadness and low mood
• Lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
• Difficulty bonding with your baby
• Withdrawing from contact with other people
• Problems concentrating and making decisions
• Frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting your baby
Having a baby brings about a whirlwind of emotions. Remember to speak to your midwife, GP or health visitor if you're worried about your mental health. It’s always important to ask for help when you need it.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
If it feels like someone’s hit the dimmer switch on your happiness as the evenings draw in, you could be experiencing SAD. It’s a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. Sometimes known as ‘winter depression’, SAD symptoms usually appear during the winter and improve when spring arrives but can happen at any time of the year. Everyone is different and although they vary from person-to-person, common SAD symptoms include:
• A persistent low mood
• A loss of interest and enjoyment in normal everyday activities
• Feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
• Feeling tired and sleepy during the day
• A reduced sex drive
• Sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
• Craving carbohydrates and gaining weight
Light therapy can help to brighten your mood if the dark days are getting you down. Sitting by a SAD lamp for 30 minutes a day or trying a sunrise-stimulating alarm clock, can help make up for the lack of natural sunlight available in winter.
Where can I get support if I’m worried about my mental health?
Always speak with your GP if you’re worried about your mental health. No matter how you’re feeling there’s help and treatment to help you feel better again. For any of the different types of depressive disorders discussed, treatment will be based on the type of depression you have. Treatment usually involves a combination of self-help, talking therapies and medicines.