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Depression is often talked about, but not many people know exactly what it is. Gaining a better understanding of depression, and of its different types, can be the first step in getting help and feeling better.

This can help if:

  • you’ve been feeling low
  • you’re unsure about whether you’re experiencing depression
  • you want to learn more about different types of depression.
Boy sitting in group looking sad

What is depression?

Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses for young people in Australia. You can read more about depression here. There are lots of different forms of depression. People with depression experience moods where they feel sad, empty or irritable, often paired with physical and mental changes that interfere with everyday life. Depression can only be diagnosed by your GP or mental health professional.

What are the different types of depression?

There are a number of different types of depression. The most common types of depression include:

Major depression. Also known as ‘clinical depression’, ‘major depressive disorder’ and ‘unipolar depression’, this is the most common type of depression 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 in weight, sleep, appetite, energy and activity, 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 the criteria for dysthymia.

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

Other types of depression. Other variations of depressive disorders include perinatal depression (experienced by some mothers and fathers during or after pregnancy), seasonal affective disorder (which follows a seasonal pattern and 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 disorders share some symptoms with other depressive disorders, but have distinct features related to how, when and where they arise, and in whom.

Other mental health disorders. Many people can experience depression secondary to other mental health disorders such as eating disorders and anxiety disorders. People with bipolar disorder can experience periods of depression.

Where to get 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 is 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 an emergency response is needed.


What can I do now?