top of page

Beyond the Blues: The Five Categories of Depression

photos of 5 individuals illustrating the types of depression

While depression presents in various forms, they can all be classified into five primary types – Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD), Bipolar Disorder, Post Partum Depression (PPD), and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  In our last article, we looked into the intricacies of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), being the most common type of depression. Now, let's expand our understanding by exploring all 5 types of depression and how to recognise each one. 


Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): 

Sarah, a 30-year-old woman, has been experiencing persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest in activities she once enjoyed, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, and difficulty concentrating. Despite efforts to cope, Sarah finds it challenging to function in her daily life and struggles to find joy in anything. 


MDD is a prevalent mental health condition, encompasses intense and persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness, contrasting the stereotype of depression as fleeting and easily recognisable. 


Signs: Symptoms include prolonged sadness, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. 


Who is Most Affected: MDD can affect anyone, but it's more common in women and often emerges during adolescence or early adulthood. 


Risk Factors: Genetics, brain chemistry, trauma, and life stressors can increase the risk of developing MDD.  

Treatment: Treatment options include therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and support groups. 


Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD): 

Meet Emily, a successful businesswoman and devoted mother who, despite her outward appearance of success, battles daily with Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD), enduring a constant undercurrent of sadness and emptiness that remains unnoticed by those around her.   PDD, formerly known as dysthymia, and commonly known as "high functioning depression" involves chronic depressive symptoms lasting for two years or more, often undetected in individuals who outwardly appear to be managing well in their daily lives, often maintaining a facade of functionality despite experiencing chronic symptoms of sadness, emptiness, and low mood.


Signs: Symptoms are similar to MDD but may be less severe and more persistent over time. 


Who is Most Affected: PDD is more common in women and often develops in childhood or adolescence. 


Risk Factors: Genetics, early-life trauma, and chronic stress can contribute to the development of PDD. 


Treatment: Treatment typically involves therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes to manage symptoms and improve quality of life. 


Bipolar Disorder: 


Jack, a 35-year-old man, experiences episodes of extreme mood swings. During manic episodes, he feels euphoric, energetic, and may engage in impulsive behaviors. However, these highs are followed by periods of deep depression, during which Jack feels hopeless, fatigued, and unable to function. 


Bipolar disorder, a condition characterised by alternating periods of manic highs and depressive lows, disrupts the traditional understanding of mood disorders. Unlike unipolar depression, bipolar disorder encompasses extreme shifts in mood and energy levels, challenging conventional perceptions of mental health. 


Signs: Symptoms of depression are similar to MDD, while manic or hypomanic episodes include elevated mood, increased energy, and risky behavior. 


Who is Most Affected: Bipolar disorder affects men and women equally and often begins in late adolescence or early adulthood. 


Risk Factors: Genetics, brain chemistry, and life stressors play a role in the development of bipolar disorder. 


Treatment: Treatment typically involves mood-stabilizing medications, therapy, and lifestyle management. 


Postpartum Depression (PPD): 

Maria, a 28-year-old new mother, has been feeling overwhelmed, irritable, and disconnected from her baby since giving birth. She experiences intense feelings of guilt and inadequacy, despite her efforts to care for her child. Maria finds it difficult to bond with her baby and struggles with intrusive thoughts of harming herself or her baby. 


Postpartum depression, an often underrecognised condition, emerges in new mothers following childbirth, contrasting the traditional image of depression and challenging the assumption that the postpartum period is always a time of joy and contentment. 


Signs: Symptoms include feelings of sadness, anxiety, and fatigue, often accompanied by difficulty bonding with the baby. 


Who is Most Affected: PPD can affect any new mother, but those with a history of depression or certain risk factors may be at higher risk. 


Risk Factors: Hormonal changes, lack of social support, and a history of depression or anxiety increase the risk of PPD. 


Treatment: Treatment may include therapy, medication, support groups, and lifestyle changes. 


Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): 

John, a 45-year-old man, notices a pattern of depressive symptoms recurring every winter. He feels more tired, irritable, and withdrawn during the colder months, and struggles to find enjoyment in activities he usually loves. John's mood tends to improve in the spring and summer when there is more sunlight and warmer weather. 


SAD manifests as recurrent episodes of depressive symptoms during specific seasons, typically during the winter months when sunlight is scarce. This contrasts with the conventional understanding of depression as a constant state, highlighting the influence of environmental factors on mental health. 


Signs: Symptoms include fatigue, changes in appetite, irritability, and withdrawal from social activities. 


Who is Most Affected: SAD is more common in women and individuals living in northern latitudes with less sunlight during winter. 


Risk Factors: Genetics, changes in sunlight exposure, and a history of depression increase the risk of developing SAD. 


Treatment: Treatment may include light therapy, medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle adjustments. 

How Can We Help? 

Educating ourselves about the different types of depression and their symptoms can help us recognise when someone may need support. Family members and friends can offer empathy, encouragement, and practical assistance to loved ones experiencing depression. Encouraging them to seek professional help is crucial. 


Professionals in healthcare and mental health fields play a vital role in diagnosing and treating depression. Providing evidence-based therapies, medications, and support services can make a significant difference in individuals' lives. 

Depression can affect individuals of all ages, from young children to older adults, and its impact can be profound. By educating ourselves about the various types of depression and recognising the signs beyond just feelings of sadness, we can provide timely support and intervention for those in need. Together, we can contribute to a world where those struggling with depression feel seen, heard, and empowered to seek help. Let's support mental health across all stages of life.  


If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please seek help immediately through the following:  24 hours, 7 days Crisis Support Services: 

Lifeline: 13 11 14  

Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467  

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636 

MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978 

Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800 

If you feel like you have depression or feelings of depression, contact your GP for a referral or message us at  


bottom of page