Types of depression

Depression gets talked about a lot, but not many people know exactly what it is. Gaining a better understanding of depression, and its different types can be a great start to getting help and feeling better!

This may be helpful if:

  • You’ve been feeling low for a while
  • You’ve consistently not enjoyed, or been interested in, things you usually like
  • You’re not sure whether you’re experiencing depression
Boy on couch with books

What is depression?

Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses for young people in Australia. People will depression experience sad, empty or irritable moods that are often paired up with physical and mental changes that interfere with everyday life. Depression is more than just feeling sad, though. It's an illness that lasts longer than a bout of sadness, causes more distress and disruption to life, and is less likely to go away without treatment. 

Common symptoms of depression include:

  • Low moods
  • Reduced participation or interest in activities
  • Negative thoughts and changes to things like your sleep, appetite and energy levels
If symptoms are present most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, then you may be diagnosed with a depressive disorder. But you'll need to see a health professional for this to be determined.

Types of depression

Major depression

Also known as clinical depression, major depressive disorder, and unipolar depression, this is the most common depressive disorder and what most people know as ‘depression’. It involves low moods and/or loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, along with other physical and mental symptoms. These include changes to weight, sleep, appetite, energy and activity, along with thoughts of suicide and feelings of worthlessness. Symptoms occur almost daily, for at least two weeks, and significantly interfere with day to day living.

Persistent depressive disorder

Also known as dysthymia, this label applies to long lasting depressive disorders. The symptoms experienced are similar to those in major depression, although usually less severe. These must be experienced most of the time, for at least two years, to meet criteria for dysthymia.

Psychotic depression

This is another severe type of depression, in which people typically lose touch with reality and experience psychosis. It involves hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there) and/or delusions (false beliefs not consistent with evidence), such as beliefs that they are being followed or going to be harmed by others.

Other types of depression

Other variations of depressive disorders include post-natal depression (experienced by mothers during or shortly after pregnancy), seasonal affective disorder (which follows a seasonal pattern is thought to be related to light exposure) and disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (which involves frequent and intense temper outbursts in children aged 6 – 18). These share some symptoms with other depressive disorders, but have distinct features related to how, when and where they arise, and in who.

Getting help for depression

The good news is that a wide range of treatment options and resources are available to help manage depression. Professional help is recommended for all types of depression, but particularly necessary to help address severe and persistent forms.

In person
Over the phone
  • Call Lifeline (13 11 14) or Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) for 24/7 phone counselling.
  • Contact your local community mental health team (1800 011 511) for high risk situations or where emergency response is needed.

What can I do now?

Last reviewed: 04 May, 2017
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