What is melancholic depression?

Find out all you need to know about melancholic depression - including the causes, signs and symptoms, and what to do if you think you might have symptoms.

Signs this might be a problem...

  • you’re feeling really crap and it’s impacting on your everyday life
  • you feel really slow and like you don’t have much energy
  • you can’t focus or concentrate
  • you’re not sleeping well.
troubled girl sitting with her knees to her chest

What is melancholic depression?

The word depression is often used by people when talking about when they’re feeling crap, sad or down. However, official use of the word depression means something more serious. Depression is a name for a range of conditions where someone feels a sadness that is more severe than normal, lasts for over two weeks and impacts on their everyday life.

Melancholic depression is a more severe type of depression than clinical (or non-melancholic) depression. It affects 1-2% of the population and roughly the same number of males and females.

Sometimes it occurs on its own, but can also be experienced as a part of bipolar disorder. The cause of melancholic depression is mostly biological, meaning it’s likely to be caused by:

  • your genetics, or whether there’s a history of depression in your family
  • biochemical factors, such as a chemical imbalance in your brain.
If you are predisposed to melancholic depression because of biological factors, symptoms of your depression can be brought on by psychological things, such as going through a stressful event/time.

Signs and symptoms

Signs that a person might have melancholic depression include:
  • experiencing slowed or agitated physical movements 
  • not being able to concentrate and having trouble remembering stuff
  • disrupted sleep, or not being able to sleep much at all
  • not feeling hungry
  • not having energy
  • finding it really hard to get out of bed or leave the house
  • lack of interest in the things going on in their life
  • not liking or enjoying the things a person used to
  • thinking about death a lot or wanting to die themselves.
They may also be feeling:
  • extremely sad or crap – to the point where it’s impacting things in their life like relationships, school and work 
  • hopeless
  • numb or empty
  • anxious
  • like they can’t cope
  • worthless.
You probably won’t get all of these symptoms, but if a couple of them are sounding familiar you should visit your doctor.

What you can do

Melancholic depression usually doesn’t go away on its own, so if you think you may have depression, it’s really worth visiting your GP for a consultation. Melancholic depression is usually treated using physical treatments such as antidepressants, so managing melancholic depression will be much easier if you get professional advice. Your doctors can work with you to create a treatment plan which suits your personal circumstances and experience.

What can I do now?

  • Talk to your GP about treatment plans
  • Work on reducing stress levels by practicing relaxation
  • Don’t wait for it to pass
Last reviewed: 16 February, 2014
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