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Depression Types and Symptoms

7 Major Depression Types and Symptoms You Should Know About

Writen By: Huma Khan
Reviewed By: Huma Khan
Publish Date: October 20, 2023

Ever wonder what someone is actually going through when they always say they are “feeling down” or “having bad days”? It’s a subtle way to describe a serious and challenging condition—”Depression.” 

Depression is a tough opponent that affects millions of individuals around the world. It is a complicated mental health issue because it manifests itself in a variety of ways, each with its own unique symptoms. That’s why we decided to explore the various depression types and symptoms, aiming to clarify this often misunderstood aspect of mental health.

Understanding these various depressive disorders is essential in today’s world. Our goal is to make these conditions less mysterious and help you recognize them, whether in yourself or others.

By the time you finish reading this article, you will understand depression types and symptoms better and be better equipped to help those who may be silently battling this powerful enemy. Join us as we delve into the multifaceted subject of depression, explaining its different types and providing guidance on how to cope and heal.

Understanding Depression

Being depressed goes far beyond simply feeling down or having a bad day. It is frequently referred to as the silent pandemic of the modern world. It is a widespread mental illness that has an impact on your feelings, thoughts, and behavior. Anybody can be impacted by it, regardless of their background, age, or gender. Although the exact cause is not always clear, it is important to notice the warning signs and symptoms.

Depression affects people on a larger scale. In addition to an individual’s general well-being and productivity, relationships, families, workplaces, and communities are all impacted. Raising awareness of depression can therefore foster greater understanding in society and aid those who are impacted by it. 

We have just touched on the surface of depression in this section; in the sections that follow, we will look deeper into the various depression types and symptoms. Stay with us to learn about the complexities of this mental health challenge and how to deal with it.

Depression Types and Symptoms

Not everyone suffers from depression in the same way. The range of symptoms depends on the type of depression that a person experiences. Think of depression as a complicated puzzle. Every piece symbolizes a distinct kind of depression, each with a unique set of symptoms. It’s like trying to solve a unique puzzle for each type. In this section, we will take a closer look at these pieces of the puzzle, learning what characteristics distinguish each type of depression from the others as well as their accompanying symptoms.

1. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

Major Depressive Disorder, often simply referred to as clinical depression, is the most common type of depression across the globe. It is also known as unipolar depression, or simply depression. 


Generally, at least five symptoms from the following list must be present in order to diagnose MDD. It is important to remember that one of the symptoms must be a consistently low mood or a noticeable loss of interest in or satisfaction with activities that were once enjoyable. The severity of MDD can range from mild to moderate to severe, based on the number and intensity of these symptoms.


  1. Intense sadness that lasts almost all day, almost every day.
  2. A decline in interest in previously pleasurable activities.
  3. Notable fluctuations in appetite or weight, either up or down.
  4. Irregularities in sleep patterns can show up as insomnia or excessive sleeping.
  5. Extreme tiredness and lack of energy.
  6. Guilt or a sense of worthlessness frequently stems from circumstances beyond your control.
  7. Inability to make decisions, even easy ones.
  8. Difficulty staying focused and paying attention.
  9. Thoughts of suicide or death.

These symptoms must:

  • Occur on most days. 
  • Last for at least two weeks or more.
  • Impact various areas of life, including work, social relationships, and overall daily functioning.


A study conducted in 2021 found that the prevalence of major depressive episodes (MDE) in the United States was as follows:

  • 8.3% of US adults (18 years of age or older) reported having MDE in the year prior.
  • MDE affected more women (10.3%) than men (6.2%).
  • Young adults (18–25 years old) accounted for 18.6% of the MDE cases.
  • MDE affected 20.1% of adolescents in the US in the previous year.
  • MDE was more common in girls (29.2%) than boys (11.5%).
  • Adolescents of multiple races had the highest rates of MDE.

These results demonstrate how common MDE is, with females and adolescents being more at risk.

2. Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)

Persistent Depressive Disorder was formerly known as Dysthymia, which means milder symptoms that last for a longer period of time. This type of depression is more like an ongoing drizzle in your life than a violent storm. You can say it’s not as severe as Major Depressive Disorder (often referred to as high-functioning depression), but it can impact your life as the symptoms persist for many years.


According to the DSM-5 criteria, diagnosis of dysthymia or persistent depression requires the presence of a pervasive low mood lasting throughout the day, on a majority of days, for a minimum of two years in adults, along with at least two of the additional symptoms listed below. In children and adolescents, symptoms must persist for at least one year.

Throughout the first two years of the disturbance, there should not be any significant depressive episodes, and the symptoms should not disappear for longer than two months at a time. It is necessary for these symptoms to cause significant distress or impairment in social, vocational, or other important areas of functioning.

Key Symptoms:

  • low levels of energy 
  • either consuming less or more food than normal.
  • either having excessive sleep or suffering from insomnia.
  • self-criticism and feelings of inadequacy. 
  • Having trouble making decisions
  • A constant sense of hopelessness
  • a loss of interest in once-pleasurable activities like hobbies or social interactions

Distinction from MDD:

While it resembles MDD, there are a few significant differences:

  • Duration: While MDD typically flares up for a few weeks or months before subsiding, dysthymia can last up to two years or more.
  • Severity: The symptoms of dysthymia are typically milder than those of MDD, which are abrupt and intense. 
  • Functioning: Despite not feeling well, people with dysthymia can frequently carry out their daily activities. While in MDD, the symptoms can be so bad that they seriously impair a person’s capacity to work, interact with others, and perform daily chores.

3. Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD) is a unique kind of mood disorder that is typically diagnosed in children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 18. It is defined by constant irritability or anger and is marked by severe temper outbursts that seem disproportionate to the circumstances and inconsistent with the child’s developmental age. In contrast to ordinary childhood tantrums, DMDD is a pattern that is more severe and long-lasting. A child with DMDD may find it difficult to function in social situations, at home, at school, and in other areas of their lives.

Symptoms and diagnostic criteria

According to DSM 5, symptoms and diagnostic criteria for DMDD include the following:

  • Severe outbursts or tantrums that last for at least a year and happen at least three times a week
  • The child should consistently display a pervasive irritable or angry mood for most of the day, nearly every day, and it should be noticeable to others.
  • These out-of-control tantrums are accompanied by at least three of the following:
    1. Verbal abuse (such as slurs and name-calling)
    2. Violent acts (such as biting, kicking, or hitting)
    3. Purposeful destruction of property
    4. Negative behavior (such as not complying with requests)
    5. Anger or irritability
  • The child’s tantrums or outbursts significantly impair their social, academic, or work performance.
  • There is no other physical or mental health issue causing the tantrums or outbursts.
  • The onset of the symptoms must occur before the age of 10. During this time, there should not be any instances where there are no symptoms for three months or more.
  • The signs and symptoms should be present in at least two settings, such as the home, the school, or among peers.

It’s important to note that DMDD is often confused with other emotional or behavioral disorders such as oppositional defiant disorder, ADHD, or bipolar disorder, so the diagnosis must be made carefully and according to the criteria mentioned above. 

A 2013 study found that DMDD commonly co-occurs with other mental illnesses, including oppositional defiant disorder and depressive disorders. As a matter of fact, the research revealed that 62%-92% of cases of DMDD co-occurred with another disorder and 32%-68% of cases co-occurred with both an emotional and a behavioral disorder.

Prevalence in children and adolescents

DMDD is estimated to affect about 2–5% of children and adolescents. Boys are more likely than girls to experience it. Notably, though, DMDD is frequently misdiagnosed, suggesting that the actual prevalence rate may be higher.

4. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

Among the different types of depression, some are cyclical in nature, which means they reoccur on a regular basis. Similarly, PMDD, also known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder, is a hormone-based mood disorder that occurs on a cycle and is frequently regarded as a severe and incapacitating variant of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMDD and the menstrual cycle are closely related. While both PMS and PMDD cause symptoms to appear before a woman’s menstruation begins, PMDD makes them worse. It causes severe physical and emotional symptoms that can seriously interfere with day-to-day activities.

Relationship to the Menstrual Cycle:

PMDD is closely linked to the menstrual cycle. Its symptoms usually appear in the latter half of the menstrual cycle, right before or after ovulation. These symptoms can include physical discomfort as well as mood issues like tension, irritability, and depression. It is important to keep in mind that these symptoms follow a regular pattern: they typically appear before menstruation and disappear once it starts. This cyclic nature sets PMDD apart from other forms of depression and mood disorders.

Key Symptoms and Diagnostic Criteria:

In order for PMDD to be diagnosed, the following symptoms need to be present:

  • severe mood disturbance like deep melancholy, hopelessness, or noticeable irritability.
  • physical signs such as headaches, breast tenderness, and bloating.
  • Cognitive symptoms include feeling overwhelmed and having trouble focusing.
  • Behavioral symptoms include exhaustion, appetite fluctuations, and sleep difficulties.
  • The luteal phase is when the symptoms should appear, and they should go away when menstruation starts. 
  • These symptoms should start seven to ten days before the menstrual cycle begins and should either get better or go away around the time the menses start.
  • Importantly, they must significantly interfere with daily life, relationships, or work to meet the diagnostic criteria.
  • These symptoms must have appeared in the majority of menstrual cycles over the previous year in order to satisfy the diagnostic requirements.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder affects 1.8% to 5.8% of menstruating women annually. According to a study in the American Journal of Psychiatry, only 5% of women receive a diagnosis of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). It is like an unwelcome guest that shows up every month, bringing along a slew of distressing symptoms.

Distinction from MDD:

It is important to distinguish between Premenstrual dysphoric disorder and MDD  for accurate diagnosis and effective management.

PMDD differs from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) in a few notable ways:

  • Cyclical Nature: Symptoms of PMDD follow a predictable pattern that is connected to the menstrual cycle, whereas symptoms of MDD can arise at any time and are unrelated to it.
  • Physical Symptoms: While MDD is primarily associated with emotional and cognitive symptoms, PMDD also includes physical symptoms such as bloating and breast tenderness that are specifically related to the menstrual cycle.
  • Temporary Nature: While MDD symptoms can last for weeks or months, PMDD symptoms usually go away when menstruation begins.

5. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Another cyclical form of depression that has a seasonal pattern is called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. It is like a seasonal mood swing, and it usually happens in the fall and winter when the days get shorter and there is less natural sunlight. 


While SAD may not be as prevalent as other different types of depression, research suggests that around 5% of the US population suffers from severe symptoms, and it usually lasts approximately 40% of the year. Women are more likely to be affected than men. Additionally, many individuals may experience milder symptoms, which are commonly known as the “winter blues.”

Symptoms Linked to Seasonal Patterns:

SAD symptoms are similar to those of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), but they are seasonal in nature. The symptoms of SAD usually begin mildly in the fall and get worse over the course of a few weeks, lasting throughout the winter. These are a few of the symptoms:

  • Feeling unhappy, agitated, or angry
  • A decline in interest in things you used to enjoy.
  • Having trouble focusing, staying focused, or making decisions
  • Hopelessness
  • Greater exhaustion.
  • Social disengagement.
  • More sleepiness
  • Gaining weight and having carbohydrate cravings

Distinctive Seasonal Influence:

It is believed that this particular kind of depression is caused by a shift in the circadian rhythm—the body’s innate daily rhythm. This rhythm is influenced by the amount of light entering the eyes, and any change in the pattern of day and night can cause a disturbance that can ultimately result in depression. It is more prevalent in regions further away from the equator, where the seasons have a noticeable difference in the quantity of daylight. SAD, for instance, is thought to affect 1% of people in Florida, and 9% of people in Alaska, according to estimates.


Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is not a specific category in the DSM-5. Instead, it typically falls under the broader category of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) with a seasonal pattern.

So if an individual experiences symptoms of depression repeatedly during a specific season, such as fall or winter and remits in other seasons, then they may be diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Pattern (MDD-SP)

Light Therapy:

The use of light therapy can help control the symptoms of SAD. It includes being in front of artificial light sources, such as lamps, which can partially make up for the shorter days during the winter months. 

6. Postpartum Depression (PPD)

Postpartum depression, now known as peripartum depression or major depressive disorder with peripartum onset, is a type of depression that is experienced by some new mothers right after giving birth. It is often confused with perinatal depression, which occurs during pregnancy, making it a distinct and challenging aspect of maternal mental health. The prevalence of postpartum depression is not uncommon, with approximately 10% of women experiencing depression during pregnancy and increasing to around 15% within the first three months after childbirth.

Symptoms and diagnostic criteria:

According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) the following conditions must be met for someone to be diagnosed with PPD:

Timing: PPD usually starts around four weeks after the birth.

Key Symptoms: There must be a chronically low mood or disinterest in most activities, along with a minimum of four of the following symptoms:

  • Shifts in weight or appetite.
  • Sleep-related issues.
  • Exhaustion and low vitality
  • Feelings of guilt or unworthiness
  • Inability to focus or make decisions.
  • Excessive worry or persistent, intrusive thoughts about hurting the infant.
  • Thoughts or ideas of suicide 

Duration: Symptoms should be experienced for the majority of the day, almost every day, for a minimum of two weeks.

Functional Impairment: 

These symptoms should cause significant distress or impairment in various areas of life, including work, social relationships, and daily functioning.

Postpartum depression can have a significant negative effect on a new mother’s ability to bond with her child, take care of herself, and deal with the difficulties of being a first-time mother.

PPD vs. MDD:

  • Timing: Although MDD can occur to anyone at any time, postpartum depression specifically affects new mothers in the first year following childbirth.
  • Triggers: PPD is frequently brought on by hormonal shifts and the postnatal period, whereas MDD can occur without these particular triggers.
  • Symptoms: PPD may include unusual concerns for the wellbeing of the infant and recurrent thoughts of harming them, which are not typically present in MDD.
  • Onset: PPD typically appears within the first few weeks to months following childbirth, while MDD may develop gradually over time without a specific trigger.

7. Atypical Depression (AD)

Atypical Depression (AD), as its name suggests, is a unique depressive type as it is different from the typical sadness seen in major depressive disorder. It doesn’t always follow the same patterns, which makes it a unique variation of depression. According to the research, AD is a common subtype of depression that affects between 18%-36% of cases. This indicates that although atypical depression is not as common as some other kinds of depression, it is still quite uncommon. 

Key symptoms and diagnosis:

The DSM-5 does not recognize atypical depression as a separate diagnosis. Rather, it has a specifier for “Atypical Features” that can be used in the context of a Major Depressive Episode.

So to be diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) with Atypical Features according to the DSM-5, an individual must meet the criteria for a Major Depressive Episode and also exhibit the following features:

Mood Reactivity: This is an important feature of atypical depression where a person can experience an improvement in mood for the time being due to positive experiences in life. However, better moods due to positive experiences are not seen in people with typical depression.

Two (or More) of the Following Symptoms: There should be two or more of the following symptoms in addition to the mood reactivity:

  • Notable increase in weight or appetite.
  • hypersomnia, characterized by excessive sleep.
  • limb heaviness (leaden paralysis) that lasts for at least an hour every day.
  • a pattern of high interpersonal sensitivity that adversely impacts relationships, such as a fear of rejection or perceived criticism.

Despite its unique features, atypical depression is a valid form of depression and should not be underestimated. It’s important to note that while someone with atypical depression may not always appear visibly depressed, they are still dealing with a challenging condition.

Causes of Depression

Although there are many different causes of depression, some common ones include 

  • genetic susceptibility, 
  • abnormalities in brain chemistry, 
  • tragic or traumatic life events, 
  • persistent stress, and 
  • specific medical conditions or drugs.

It’s frequently the complicated interaction of these factors that leads to the development of depression.

Treatment Options

Depending on the depression type and symptoms experienced, the following treatment interventions can be implemented: 

  • Psychotherapy: Several forms of therapy, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), and Dialectical-Behavior Therapy (DBT), are effective in treating depression. Therapy provides a safe space to explore emotions and develop coping strategies.
  • Medication: Antidepressant medications, including SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) and SNRIs (Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors), may be prescribed by a healthcare provider. These medications can help restore chemical imbalances in the brain.
  • Combination Therapy: In some cases, a combination of therapy and medication is the most effective approach to treating depression.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Incorporating coping strategies like regular exercise, healthy eating, and stress management through relaxation training can boost normal treatment process.
  • Support Groups: Seeking out peer support or joining a support group can help foster a sense of understanding and community, which can lessen feelings of loneliness.


By learning about depression types and symptoms, we aim to clarify this often misunderstood aspect of mental health. It’s essential to recognize the warning signs, not only in ourselves but also in others, so we can offer support and understanding.

Depression types and symptoms can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background. The more we know about these various kinds of depression, the better equipped we are to cope and heal. By shedding light on this multifaceted issue, we hope to make a positive impact and offer help to those silently battling this powerful enemy. Remember, you’re not alone, and there is hope for a brighter future.

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7 major depression types and symptoms you should know about 2


Q1: What are the different types of depression?

There are different depression types and symptoms, and each has its own diagnostic criteria in the DSM 5. The following are a few of the most typical forms of depression: 

  1. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
  2. Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)
  3. Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)
  4. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
  5. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
  6. Postpartum Depression (PPD)
  7. Atypical Depression (AD)

Other types of depression include prenatal depression, postmenopausal depression, psychotic depression, and manic depression.

Q2: How many types of depression are there?

As mentioned above, there are many different kinds of depression. These variations exist due to underlying causes, triggers, and symptom patterns. However, the precise number may differ based on how you define and arrange them.

Q3: What Are the Stages of Depression?

Unlike some physical disorders, depression usually does not proceed in clearly defined stages. Rather, it differs from individual to individual. However, it often involves the following general phases:

  • Normal mood and daily functioning.
  • Mild depressive symptoms emerge, like feeling down.
  • Severe symptoms manifest, including deep sadness, changes in appetite and sleep, fatigue, and loss of interest in activities.
  • With treatment and support, individuals experience improvement and recovery.
  • Some experience symptom reduction or absence, known as remission.
  • In some cases, depression returns, leading to a new episode called relapse.

Q4: What Are the Levels of Depression?

Depression is commonly classified into mild, moderate, and severe categories. These levels are based on the number and severity of symptoms, how they affect day-to-day functioning, and whether suicidal thoughts or attempts are present.

  • Mild Depression: symptoms exist but are not significantly affecting daily activities.
  • Moderate Depression: Symptoms are more severe and affect daily activities, but people still have the ability to perform daily tasks.
  • Severe Depression: Symptoms are intense and pervasive, with a prevalence of suicidal thoughts or actions, and may lead to severe difficulties with daily functioning.

It’s important to remember that these levels are not constant and may alter in response to therapy or over time.