What is depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that causes you to feel particularly low and unhappy for long periods of time. This can affect your daily life, impacting on your ability to carry out important tasks and enjoy everyday activities.
While everyone experiences periods of low mood on occasion, depression causes persistent feelings of sadness for weeks or months rather than a few days. At its mildest, it can make you feel upset and hopeless. At its worst, it can make life feel unbearable and prompt thoughts of suicide.
Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions and can affect anyone of any age, identity, and background. It’s the most predominant mental health condition worldwide, and between 4-10% of people in England will experience depression in their lifetime.
Many of us might use the term ‘depressed’ quite liberally - perhaps when we don’t really mean it - but it’s important to recognise depression as a serious mental health condition. It isn’t something that someone can just snap out of, and the people it affects aren’t weaker than others. Though challenging, depression is treatable with the correct support and understanding
What are the different types of depression?
There are a number of different types of depression that someone can be diagnosed with. You might also receive a diagnosis of ‘mild,’ ‘moderate,’ or ‘severe’ depression depending on the symptoms you experience.
The following list outlines some specific types of depression:
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
This is a type of depression that occurs at certain times of the year. It’s common for the condition to occur as the seasons or weather changes, particularly during winter. Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder can include a change in sleeping pattern (eg. sleeping more or sleeping less) and change in eating habits (eg. craving carbohydrate-rich foods).
This type of depression occurs any time from becoming pregnant to one year after giving birth. Both antenatal and postnatal depression are covered within this term. Symptoms include feeling low, guilty, worthless, or isolated. You might also feel indifferent or hostile towards your baby, your partner, or both.
Dysthymia is a mild depression that can last for two years or more. This is also sometimes known as chronic depression.
A healthcare professional can diagnose you with this type of depression if they believe that a specific life event has caused your depression. This could be a particularly stressful or distressing event like financial issues, a bereavement, or job loss.
Depression with psychotic symptoms
A severe episode of depression can bring about psychotic symptoms, such as delusions and hallucinations. A delusion is where you believe something to be true despite reality. A hallucination is when you see, hear, smell, taste, or feel things that aren’t there.
This is an outdated term used to describe the mental health condition now known as bipolar disorder, which is a different condition to depression. This was once used as people with bipolar disorder experience extreme emotional highs known as mania, and extreme emotional lows known as depressive episodes.