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Depression is often talked about, but not many people know exactly what it is. Problems with depression are varied and can look different for different people. Understanding these types can help you to think about what might help you.

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 a few different forms of depression. People with depression go through periods when they feel sad, empty or irritable, and can experience physical and mental changes that interfere with everyday life. Depression can only be diagnosed by a 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 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 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 term 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
Also known as ‘major depressive disorder with psychotic features’, this is a severe type of depression in which people may lose touch with reality and experience symptoms of psychosis. It may involve 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 parents during pregnancy or in the first 12 months after the baby is born.
  • Seasonal affective disorder – usually experienced in winter. This condition is thought to be related to light exposure.
  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder – 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 conditions
Many people can experience depression that is associated with other mental health disorders such as eating or anxiety disorders. People with bipolar disorder, which can include periods of very high moods and impulsive behaviour, can experience periods of depression.

Where to get help for depression?

The good news is that a wide range of treatment options and resources is available to help manage depression. Professional help can be beneficial for all types of depression, but is particularly necessary for addressing 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 Mental Health Access Line (1800 011 511) for high-risk situations or where an emergency response is needed.


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