What are the different types of depression?

Outlining the most common types of depression and their symptoms.

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Page medically reviewed by Dr Leon Rozewicz (MBBS, FRCPsych, MRCGP, MRCPsych), Consultant Psychiatrist and Medical Director of Priory Hospital North London in September 2021.

We treat a number of different types of depression at Priory. Each type can cause different depression symptoms and can impact on people in unique ways.

Experts at Priory have lots of experience in treating many kinds of depression and its causes. We can give you the tools to cope with your depression and help you take steps towards a much healthier and fulfilling life.

Recognising the type of depression you’re struggling with is important so you’re able to take steps towards getting the support you need.

What is depression?

Depression is a mental health condition that causes you to experience persistent sadness and low moods. We can all feel ‘down’ from time to time, but if you struggle with depression, your low moods can be so bad that you may struggle to function in your daily life.

Having a depressed mood can reduce your motivation and energy levels, and disrupt lots of different areas of your life. It can affect you emotionally, socially, professionally and even physically.

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We are currently able to offer fast access to private inpatient treatment at Priory. Please call us today and speak to our expert advisers.

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Types of depression

The most common depression types that we treat are:

  • Severe depression
  • Severe depression with psychotic symptoms
  • Mild depression and moderate depression
  • Bipolar depression
  • Dysthymia
  • Recurrent depressive disorder

We are also able to offer specialist treatment for more specific types of depression such as:

  • Postpartum/postnatal depression (PND)
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Severe depression

If you find that you're experiencing significant fatigue and a loss of interest in activities that you once enjoyed, it may be that you’re suffering from severe depression.

Severe depression is the most serious type of depression that someone can have. It's also referred to as:

  • Clinical depression
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Chronic depression

If you struggle with severe depression, it's likely to be having a profoundly damaging impact on your quality of life. It can cause intense and overwhelming feelings of sadness and hopelessness, which affect your ability to function effectively.

As with other types of depression, severe depression is characterised by low moods and a lack of joy in everyday life. However, the main difference between depression and clinical depression is that with clinical depression, these symptoms are likely to be much more debilitating, causing noticeable difficulties in all areas of your life. Severe depression can cause you to struggle to look after yourself on a daily basis, meaning that you’re unable to carry out your normal day-to-day activities and responsibilities. People with severe depression may also experience suicidal thoughts and impulses, or have frequent thoughts about dying. It is therefore a life threatening condition.

Severe depression with psychotic symptoms

Severe depression with psychotic symptoms, also sometimes referred to as ‘psychotic depression’, is a type of depression that causes all the symptoms of severe depression as well as psychotic episodes.

Psychotic depression can be an extremely difficult and frightening condition to deal with. Not only does it result in the intense feelings of sadness and hopelessness that come with severe depression, but it can also cause you to experience delusions (believing things that aren’t true) and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t real). This can affect your reality and negatively influence how you see the world.

Mild to moderate depression

Mild depression and moderate depression tend to cause symptoms that are similar to severe depression, except these are less extreme.

This doesn’t mean that these types of depression are insignificant. Mild and moderate depression can still affect you on a daily basis, although you’re more likely to experience small improvements in your symptoms from day-to-day.

Bipolar depression

People who have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, formerly known as ‘manic depression’, experience extreme mood swings. These range from energetic ‘highs’, known as mania, right through to the extreme lows of depression. Episodes of mania and depression can last anywhere between several weeks and several months.

Bipolar depression is different to other forms of depression because it is followed by episodes of mania and forms part of a cycle. It can be difficult to diagnose at first because, at face value, bipolar disorder depression can appear to be very similar to severe depression. It is only when a manic episode occurs that it becomes apparent the person has bipolar disorder. This is the point at which they are cycling between the two extremes.

Bipolar disorder depression can be intense. It usually consists of the same symptoms as severe depression, except these can be even more extreme. Bipolar depression is also sometimes accompanied by psychotic episodes, including delusions and hallucinations.

Because people with bipolar disorder swing between the opposite extremes of mania and depression, the condition can make dealing with your everyday life very challenging. It can put a huge strain on your relationships and can make holding down a job difficult. These problems can be magnified and cause intense feelings of guilt and shame when you’re going through a depressive episode.

Find out more about bipolar depression.


Dysthymia, also known as ‘persistent depressive disorder (PDD)’, is a chronic type of depression that can endure for years at a time.

It’s completely normal to feel upset or ‘down’ every now and then. However, if you struggle with dysthymia, you will typically find that you feel sad and hopeless most of the time. This can have a significantly negative impact on your quality of life.

Like depression, PDD causes people to experience low moods, feelings of hopelessness, low self-esteem and a lack of enjoyment in daily life. However, dysthymia differs from other forms of depression in two key ways:

  • Dysthymia symptoms don’t tend to be as debilitating as those experienced with other types of depression, especially severe depression. Instead, dysthymia symptoms are generally classed as ‘mild’. However, they can still impair your ability to function socially and at work
  • Dysthymia is a chronic and enduring condition. People with dysthymia often experience low moods and sadness for years at a time, as opposed to having episodes that come and go

Because of how persistent and enduring dysthymia is, it can be extremely draining and have a negative impact on every area of your life. Constantly dealing with low mood can leave you unmotivated and struggling to function effectively.

Find out more about dysthymia.

Recurrent depressive disorder

Recurrent depressive disorder, also known as ‘recurrent depression’, is when you experience repeated episodes of depression that seem to come and go over a period of time. During the time in between these episodes, your mood may be relatively stable and you’ll typically feel well.

In some ways, recurrent depression is similar to bipolar depression in that it comes and goes. However, people with recurrent depression don’t experience the episodes of mania that are associated with bipolar depression.

Postpartum/postnatal depression

Depression in the first year after giving birth (postnatal depression or postpartum depression) are specific forms of depressive illness, which are directly related to birth and becoming a parent.

This period of time in someone’s life (known as the perinatal period) is a huge step and brings with it many different challenges. While it’s normal to experience lots of different emotions during the perinatal period, some people may find that this develops into depression that needs specialist help.

Find out more about postnatal depression.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is another specific form of depression that typically occurs during autumn and winter. It is also known as ‘winter depression’.

Many people find that their emotions are affected by the weather. For example, you may find that you feel happier and more positive on a bright sunny day. However, the lack of daylight and the generally bad weather that we get in autumn and winter can make people feel so low that their ability to function on a daily basis is compromised.

Find out more about SAD.

Our services

Inpatient depression treatment at Priory involves people staying at a specialist hospital on a residential basis. Here, you'll receive round-the-clock care from our expert professionals, in a safe and supportive environment. Inpatient treatment includes individual therapy, group therapy, medication management and wellbeing activities. This option is beneficial for people with severe depression or when other treatments have been unsuccessful.

For people who prefer a more flexible treatment approach, we also offer outpatient treatment for depression at our hospitals and wellbeing centres. Outpatient treatment allows people to attend weekly therapy sessions, while being able to live at home and maintain their daily routines and responsibilities. This option is suitable for people with less severe depression symptoms, or those who are stepping down from inpatient care.

Day care treatment is another valuable option available at Priory, providing structured therapy and support during the day, while allowing people to return home in the evenings. This approach offers a balanced combination of therapy sessions, group activities and skill-building workshops to enhance coping strategies and foster long-term recovery. We offer full or half days, depending on your needs.

At Priory, we recognise the importance of accessibility and convenience, which is why we also offer online therapy for depression. These virtual sessions give you the chance to receive evidence-based therapy from the comfort of your own home. Online therapy at Priory maintains the same high standards of care as in-person treatments. Our experienced clinicians will guide you through your depression treatment journey via secure and confidential platforms.

How do I know which type of depression I have?

If you think you might be struggling with depression, no matter what type, the most crucial first step is to speak to a professional about how you’re feeling.

A first port of call may be for you to speak to your GP. They’ll be able to evaluate your symptoms and recommend an appropriate course of action in terms of treatment and next steps. They may also be able to refer you to a specialist mental health provider such as Priory, to receive support.

Alternatively, you can contact Priory directly. Our friendly team are always here to listen to your concerns and recommend an appropriate treatment programme for you. Our mental health and depression experts will be able to identify the type of depression you’re struggling with, and support you every step of the way towards overcoming it.

Patrick's inspirational story of his depression recovery

Getting treatment for depression at Priory

No matter what type of depression you’re struggling with, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Help is available and we can support you every step of the way towards getting your life back on track.

Our highly qualified specialists have extensive experience treating all types of depression. You’ll benefit from a tailored treatment plan which will help you to address your personal challenges and pave the way towards a healthy and happy future.

We offer lots of different options for depression treatment at Priory, ranging from intensive inpatient stays, to weekly therapy sessions that fit in with your life and work commitments - including from the comfort of your own home with online therapy.

Remember - depression is a mental illness, not a sign of weakness, and it’s possible for you to make a full and lasting recovery.

Contact us to make an enquiry or for more information

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