Different Types of Depressive Disorders

In the last post, I wrote about the different types of anxiety disorders according to the DSM-5, the manual we use for diagnosing disorders. You could check that post out here. Today I wanted to educate you on the different types of depressive disorders. A lot of times people have symptoms of both depression and anxiety, and sometimes symptoms are exclusive.

Depression could be tricky because some people get really good at hiding it. They could go to work and school with no problem, socialize with people, and even act happy. But when they’re alone they suffer in silence. Also, not every shows sadness when depressed, instead they express it in the form of anger.

We really don’t know what causes depression. There could be many biological and/or environmental reasons. Treating depression does not have a deadline. It’s not like when you break a bone and you are told to put it in a cast for x amount of weeks or months.

Depending on the severity, it takes time, support from professionals and loved ones, and spiritual strength to feel better.

If you ever get to the point where you’re having suicidal thoughts but don’t want to worry friends or family, remember you can always speak to someone  at the National Suicide Hotline, 1-800-273-8255

Remember, only a licensed professional can give you a diagnosis.

Normal Sadness

Sadness is a normal emotion we feel. If you’re going through a major change in your life, it’s normal to feel lost, alone, have no motivation for anything and simply want to be left alone. Normal sadness is typically related to some circumstance that has happened. Some examples are, wanting to change/improve your life because there’s no excitement anymore but you don’t know how, ending a relationship, being unable to work, going through medical issues, etc. It’s a temporary decrease in mood.

However, when that sadness is chronic; you feel it every day for weeks and months, that could be depression. A rule of thumb is that if symptoms are so severe that it interferes with going to school, work, your health, or socializing, it’s a problem.

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)

This disorder is given to 7-18 years-olds. Symptoms include persistent irritable and angry mood most of the day, almost every day. Their anger outbursts are so bad they have problems in school, at home, and with peers.

This is more than the normal attitude teens may give or temper tantrums kids throw if they don’t get their way. There’s an ongoing patter of hostility and even defiance towards authority. It’s different from Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) in that ODD is more of a conduct disorder (behavioral), and DMDD is depression expressed as anger.

Major Depressive Disorder

Major Depression is categorized into different categories depending on how serious the symptoms are and how long someone has been having the symptoms.  Mild, Moderate, or Severe. It’s also categorized by how frequent it happens, single episode and recurrent episode.

Single episode could be never feeling depressed your whole life, but then something happens, like being involved in a really bad car accident, then feeling severely depressed for 3 months. But then you get help and are able to be yourself again. Recurrent is when someone struggles with symptoms of depression, gets better for a few months, but then gets depressed again.

Symptoms of Depression include for at least two weeks everyday, having no motivation, loss of interest in anything, crying, irritable mood, feeling sad most of the day nearly every day, changes in appetite, low energy, trouble concentrating, sleeping too much or too little, ruminating, suicidal thoughts or thoughts of wanting to hurt yourself or someone else.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

In the new DSM-5, Seasonal Affective Disorder is no longer a separate disorder. Instead it’s under Major Depression, as “a seasonal pattern of Recurrent Major Depressive Disorder.

This is when someone has symptoms of major depression only during the winter months.

Postpartum Depression

Just like Seasonal Affective Disorder, Postpartum Depression is not a separate disorder anymore under the new DSM-5.

Postpartum Depression is when a woman has symptoms of Major Depression during pregnancy or after giving birth.

Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)

Same symptoms as Major Depression but the symptoms have lasted for at least two years.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Severe mood swings, feeling sad or highly sensitive, anger outbursts, irritable mood, anxiety, trouble sleeping, low energy, and changes in appetite are present at least one week before getting period.

Symptoms are so severe that it interferes with going to school, work, or socializing.

Substance/Medication-Induced Depressive Disorder

Having symptoms of Major Depression while taking or have stopped taking drugs, alcohol, or prescription medications.


All of these disorders could be treated effectively with psychotherapy. When symptoms are too difficult to handle, medication could help. However, you could also do some things to help yourself when feeling down. Studies show that spending time with supportive people, practicing gratitude and exercising are just a few things you could do to help increase mood. You can read my post on 3 ways to help you when feeling depressed

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About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, adults, and Spanish speaking families in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.




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