Types of Depression

Depression is a serious disease. It can keep you from a normal experience of your everyday, it  can make you unable to enjoy much of anything and it can become unbearable and lead to suicide. In fact, eighty to ninety percent of all depression can be treated. Get treated and get normal emotions, normal energy, normal sleep. It’s really worth it.

Many people just put up with depression. Sometimes it is because they don’t know they have something that can be ‘fixed,” or they think the only help is medication and they don’t want to use drugs (see Can depression be treated without drugs?). Some people are too emotionally down and have little energy on top  of that to take any action to help themselves; they are literally too depressed to get help. If you know someone like that, get involved. At some point they will thank you. If you think you might have depression, take the time to read below and then take the time to do something important for yourself: get professional help! The self evaluation for depression or the Booklet on Depression from the National Institute of Mental Health should help add clarification.

If you find yourself thinking about suicide – seek help immediately.

You don’t need to suffer and you certainly don’t need to risk ending your life for something that you can change.

Three Kinds of Depression

There are different levels of severity and several different types of depression  but in my experience it is useful to think of three general kinds of depression. Biochemical depression, situational depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder. These categories are not mutually exclusive, someone may suffer from one or any combination of all three. Depression may occur only once, it may be episodic and occur several times in a lifetime or it may become a general persistent state.

Biochemical Depression

Biochemical depression varies in severity. Commonly this type of depression is characterized by symptoms that interfere with productivity at work, the ability enjoy life or normal functions such as sleeping, eating or routing tasks. Clinical studies have shown that the best treatment in this case is a combination of psychotherapy and medication. In my own experience some of my clients have also benefited from psychotherapy in combination with acupuncture, spiritual practice or homeopathy. In cases of severe depression I strongly encourage people to try medication which should be prescribed by a knowledgeable psychiatrist as opposed, for example, to a family physician.

Situational Depression

Another category of depression is called situational depression. This  mood disturbance comes from a reaction to a specific, external situation or stress,  such as a loss or significant life change.  Examples of this kind of situation include retirement, loss or change of employment, getting married or the end of a relationship or marriage, death of a loved one, serious illness  or a traumatic experience such as an accident, disaster or being the victim of a crime. These events can trigger the symptoms of depression, such as  hopelessness, pessimism, loss of interest, difficulty concentrating, fatigue and decreased energy, overeating or loss of appetite, anxiety, insomnia or even thoughts of suicide.

Psychotherapy and over the counter supplements, aerobic exercise, eating right, as well as holistic medicine can definitely make a difference with these depressions. Unlike clinical depression situational depression is a reaction to an outside stress and usually goes away once a person has adapted to the situation.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder effects about 5% of the population, especially in the norther part of the country. People are effected to differing degrees at different times. Most often it is winter depression, although some people get depressed in the summer in reaction to too much light. Using a light box in the winter or sunglasses in the summer are both fairly easy solutions to what can be disabling condition. I find many people don’t take this seriously and miss a chance to feel good through all the seasons. Get your self checked out if you think this could be going on with you. There is more information about SAD  and its diagnosis on the SAD Association Website.

This page has the following sub pages.

19 thoughts on “Types of Depression

  1. I would really be interested in some leads on information about people who get depressed because of too much light as opposed to SAD. I may be one of those people.
    I am much happier in the winter and tend to largely avoid daylight generally.
    Thank you!

    • You are not unique in your difficulty with too much light. Norman Rosenthal, who is known for his research in Seasonal Affective Disorder, has stated in his book “Winter Blues” that some people do have trouble with depression in the summer. The treatment is simply to wear good sunglasses in sunlight. His book is available on Amazon.com.

      Good Luck to you

  2. What if Scared to get help cause you feel like a failure as it is with out having abnormal behaviour and you feel you’ve let or your friends and family down and they don’t want you around what do you do then when you no you don’t want to go on and nothing will ever change the way you feel inside you might forget for a while but then what

    • What comes to mind is Courage. You’ve already shown you have it because you wrote to me — a good first step.

      Psychotherapists know the “then what” – they actually have a plan of how to help. You have to choose one and go. I recommend telephone interviews to start figuring out who to go to– check out my article “How To Choose The Right Therapist”. You deserve to be respected right from the beginning interview. You’ll find out more about the person when you go in to see him or her for the first time.

      Obviously I think psychotherapy works. I hope you do go and I wish you all the best on your way to having your own life.

  3. Well i’m eighteen, well nineteen monday.
    i always feel tired angry and get headaches.
    i thought this was caused by depression as my doctor led me to believe but my friend said it might be down to my weight i’m 5ft7 and weigh 107 lbs do YOu think its my weight or depression?

    • Hi Brooke,

      It could be both. Your weight does seem like a serious problem, as I am sure others have told you. You could go to an eating disorder specialist or a good psychiatrist to get it sorted out, and then get what ever help you need. You deserve a face to face consultation about this, I don’t want to give you an incomplete answer which is all that I can do over email. If you need help after you have had an interview, I can try to help with the next step.
      Best of everything to you.

  4. I’ve struggled with self-esteem and self-worth issues since I was a teenager and have continuously suffered from depression – sometimes mild, sometimes not. After college I left the States to “find myself” and “become stronger” and in some ways I’ve done that. I came to understand myself more deeply and even felt genuine happiness and empowerment for the first time in my life. However, as I got ambitious and trials surfaced so did my doubts and insecurities once again. Now I feel like I’m broken – a splintered soul. I keep reaching up but at some point things always break down and I sabotage myself and my progress; I fall back into destructive habits and patterns such as overeating. A couple of months ago I faced a crisis in which all of this became clear to me and I felt that all the progress I thought I’d made in regards to my issues was a lie and that in reality I’d gone nowhere. I despaired and I got up again, made myself better, but just a few months later and already I’m back at that pit, tinkering at the edge of hopelessness and despair. And this time I’m scared to move forward because every time that I do and then sabotage myself it hurts even more when I end up back here. I feel more and more frustrated with myself and lose a little more hope every time. Another fear is that if I start to feel better I might think I’m ok when really I know I’ll just do something else to end back here so I want no illusions. I have to face this. I have to heal. But I don’t know what to do. Part of me wants to go home (to Madison) and just take time to heal and get help (though I’m afraid because my home environment isn’t the best and the source of some of my problems), and another thinks all I can do is keep living which I enjoy doing here (but with the fear that I can’t heal while doing this since I seem to just be getting in my way every time I’m happy or there is a potential for me to get the things I want).

    So I’m stuck. And some moments I can stand it but others I drown in it. I don’t want to drown and completely lose myself. I want to make the decision that will ultimately make me better and will help me heal/overcome/succeed.

    I know this is long and I apologize, but if you have any advice I would appreciate it. Since I’m considering going home I was looking into therapists in the Madison area and that’s how I came across your website.

    Thank you.

    • I agree with you that repeating the pattern is detrimental , and that working with the right therapist for you (see my article Choosing The Right Therapist on this web site) could make a huge difference in your life. I do wonder if clinical depression is part of what is happening to you, and would definitely advise you to have that addressed.

      You don’t say what country you are living in, and if you have tried seeing a therapist where you are. If that isn’t the right move and you need to return to your own culture, you could find another city besides Madison to live in. Another option would be to come back to Madison and not visit your family of origin until that would be good for you.

      There are lots of reasons why people sabotage themselves. I support you in realizing that you need to get on with understanding what that is for you and overcoming it. I wish you the best in your travels inward! If you decide to come back to Madison and would like to contact me for therapy, I would be happy to meet with you and see if we would be a good team for you. There are many good therapists across the country. You might want to read my short article on this web site called “How To Choose The Right Therapist.” Again, my best to you. Ann

  5. Hi,
    I am trying to narrow down the reasons why I am a bit lethargic and tense. I believe I’m in the “situational” depression group. However, I also think I suffer from SAD and am wondering where I can find an affordable but good light box. I am in Madison. Thanks for your help. I will be looking to this site for future observations and encouragement.


    • The best light boxes I know of are made by The Light Box Company in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

      The guy who does SAD experiments and research at NIH uses these light boxes, so I know they are safe for the eye. I have used them myself for years. The Light Box Co. also has a help line, can answer questions about the correct use of their light boxes and they are very knowledgeable. They also carry his books, which include an easy self test to determine for sure if you have SAD.

      A good therapist can help you be sure you are in the situation depression group and would not be helped by medication. You can also read Beyond Prozac for life style changes, like aerobic exercise everyday that will help no matter what kind of depression you have.

      If you decide a therapist would help, let me know if you would like to meet with me.

      Good luck!

  6. I suffer from major depression and generally my medication brings my symptoms to a managable point. However, over the course of the last 3 years it has gotten to where the medication doesn’t really do much for me any more. There have been major life changes over that period; loss of job, move to a new state, elderly inlaws moved in with us, financial difficulties, and problems with my two boys. I know that the continual “craptastrophies” in my life over the last three years have attributed greatly to where I am in my depression.

    I have spoken with my general practitioner regarding upping my medication or altering it, but that is met with reluctance. I am told to get out of the house more often, go for a walk, etc. I don’t feel like going out of doors and I certainly don’t want to deal with meeting anyone. Honestly, I never feel like my G.P. understands, or “gets” what I’m telling her. Would I be better served seeking the assistance of a psychiatrist? I cannot tell you how tired I am of being in this rut and I certainly do not want this to affect my children.

    • Paula,

      Yes, I definitely think you should go to a psychiatrist. First of all, general practitioners haven’t been trained in prescribing psychotropic medications and chronically under prescribe the dose as well as not know enough to make the best choice of medication. You should see a specialist who has trained specifically in the field and keeps up on the latest drugs. Ask around and try to go to the best one you can find; like in every profession, not all psychiatrists are equally skilled.

      It also sounds like seeing a therapist to help you cope with all the difficult changes that have come up recently. Talk therapy along with the right medication is the best way to overcome depression. If you are interested in holistic medicine, acupuncture and homeopathy can also be very useful and can be used along with the medication. Since financial concerns are also a problem, if you have to choose, go with what you have started with, the medications, and find a good therapist. You might check out my brief article on Finding The Right Therapist.

      Best of Luck to you!

  7. Hi. I’m 15 years old and i don’t have a case of depression. I am doing research on depression for a research paper for a school project. I just have a few quetions, in hope that you will please help me. :)

    What are the major causes of depression that you guys deal with?
    How do you deal with each type of depression?
    Between what ages does depression mostly strike?
    Can you prevent depression in any way?

    I am asking you to please help me with the answers to these questions if possible.. I would really appreciate it.

    Thank You!

    • Hi America,

      Here are my answers to your questions. Best of luck with your paper. (You might also interview a person who has depression also for your project to get their subjective feelings and thoughts about it – just a thought.)

      The causes of depression are (1) environmental and (2) biochemical ( also called clinical depression).
      Environmental – means the depression is caused by something in the person’s life, in his/her environment. That can be many things, for example: (a) growing up in a depressing family – where things are viewed as negative and hopeless and the children are “taught” by their parent’s example to be victims of what happens to them. (b) Something that happens in the person’s current adult life, like a major disaster, losing someone close to them through death or betrayal, or something else that overwhelms the person’s ability to cope.

      Biochemical means the person’s nervous system isn’t working right, and that causes depression that has nothing to do with what is happening or has happened to them. It comes from inside the person.

      Of course there are people who have both, and in that case when something bad happens in their lives, it creates a deeper ( worse) depression that lasts longer than the same experience might feel and last for another person who doesn’t also have a tendency for clinical depression.

      Depressions vary in intensity of symptoms and length of time it lasts. You can get a list of the depression symptoms from my website and other places on the internet.

      Biochemical depressions can be treated with medical interventions like antidepressant medications that should be prescribed by a psychiatrist ( not a family doctor who isn’t a specialist in this area). You can also treat biochemical depression with holistic medicine like acupuncture, homeopathy, supplements and energy medicine. The best treatment includes talk therapy. Diet and exercise make a difference too. (Check out a book called “Beyond Prozac” for this information.)

      Environmental depression is also sometimes be treated by medication, and definitely by holistic approaches and diet and exercise and psychotherapy.

      People report being depressed all their lives, which says clearly that they were depressed as far back as they can remember, so children do have depression, and sometimes for both reasons stated above. A common age for a clinical depression to occur is around age 20 – and this is usually a severe depression that if not treated well and at the time it occurs, can be difficult to treat completely later on. That means if someone is seriously depressed around age 20 and doesn’t do anything to get better then but goes for help after a few years of tolerating the depression, it is difficult to get the medication to work well enough to get them completely free of depression. Another common time for people to get depression is when they are old and have lost much of what they got satisfaction and joy from. Perhaps their spouse has died and they are disabled and can’t work or play their favorite sport anymore. Often many of their friends have died. The danger here is that many of these people are sent off to nursing homes and do not get help that would matter enormously to them.

      I suppose the answer to your last question is stay as physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally healthy as you can. Exercise aerobically and eat well. When a person is very tired or worn down their depression will be worse. No one can avoid stress and loss but you can get therapy if you are overwhelmed and become a victim to circumstances. You can’t avoid getting biochemical depression, because depression runs in families, you get it because it is in your genes. But you don’t have to accept it, and you shouldn’t. The good news is depression is very treatable.

  8. Thank You Soooo Much for taking so much out of your time to answer my questions. i can’t thank you enough. I really appreciate it, and i got all I Need thanks to you.. Again Thank You soo Much. I Love your page by the way. it is very informative and very helpful towards people with or without depression. Keep doing what you do. You are doing an awesome job! :)

  9. Hi,

    I definetly need your help right now.
    Im currently experiencing worst feeling and i think it wil lead me to a worst action’like ending my’life.

    • The story was all started when my parents died long time ago.I started to have separation anxiety sicknes.
      Both of them died when i was 8years old.
      Im 24 years old right now and very stress of whats happening to me.
      Im an ofw back then for two years and now im here as a jobles one.
      I cme hme becoz i really mis my family and im worried everytime they got sick.
      This is my 2nd day of being with them.
      I know that i mis them much but i mis the persôn i used to live everyday when im in other country.
      And shes my bestfriend.
      Shes my bestfriend for 10years.
      And now that were both in our own fam its like that i lose my self awarenes of who am i.
      Sorry coz im harding hard time to explain what im feeling right now.

    • You need to find a professional who lives near you and get help!! It’s not OK to live feeling so bad and it’s not OK to kill yourself when you could get better and have a good life.

    • I can not do much for you at this distance. You need to see a therapist/ professional face to face when something is this serious. I would not begin to work with you over internet through emails with you feeling so suicidal – it wouldn’t be doing a service to you. Even if you are very low income, most communities have places for you to get mental health treatment. I sincerely hope you will go and find someone who can really help you.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.