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Depressive disorders

Most people have experienced feeling depressed, but not everybody has a depressive disorder. Let’s look at the difference.

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Is depression a problem for me?

What normal depressed feelings are like:

  • Are temporary and may ‘come and go’
  • Have a known cause, e.g. losing a pet
  • Most of the time are mild to moderate in severity
  • Most of the time don't interfere with your everyday life
  • Most of the time don't cause you distress
  • Are manageable most of the time, i.e. you can cope with minor support

Depression might be a problem if:

  • It lasts a long time
  • It doesn’t seem to have a cause or the cause is unknown
  • It feels overwhelming
  • You are struggling to cope
  • It causes you distress
  • It interferes with your everyday life, e.g. you avoid seeing friends because you feel so down
  • You self-harm or have recurring thoughts of death or suicide

Depression can be hard to diagnose because there’s no ‘simple test’ for it. It’s based on self-reported symptoms. And depression can actually be a symptom of many other health and medical related issues.

Learn all about depression and your brain

Different depressive disorders

There are different kinds of depressive disorders. In any year, about 1 million people in Australia experience depression. 

Different depressive disorders include:

Other depressive disorders include things like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or Perinatal Depression (PND).

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

People experiencing MDD must have these symptoms most of the time:

  • Depressed mood

  • Loss of interest in things you usually enjoy

They must also have at least three of the following symptoms, most of the time:

  • Appetite changes with unintentional weight loss or gain
  • Slow thoughts and slow physical movements
  • Fatigue/low energy
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide


These symptoms must last for two weeks or more. 

If your depression lasts for two years or more, you might have Persistent Depressive Disorder (previously called Dysthymic Disorder).

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is when someone experiences extreme mood changes between mania (a high-energy, ‘hyperactive’ state) and depression.

Mania symptoms:

  • Extremely high self-esteem
  • Need less sleep
  • Very talkative
  • Racing thoughts
  • Easily distracted
  • Very focused on achieving goals
  • Doing things that might have negative consequences, such as going on big shopping sprees

Depression symptoms:

  • Feeling down/depressed mood
  • Loss of interest in things you usually enjoy
  • Appetite changes with weight loss or gain
  • Purposeless movement like pacing
  • Fatigue/low energy
  • Feeling worthless/guilty
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are three kinds of bipolar disorders:

Bipolar I disorder: manic and depressive symptoms. May also have psychotic episodes (such as seeing or hearing things that aren’t there, holding false beliefs, etc.)

Bipolar II disorder: similar to bipolar I, but less severe

Cyclothymic disorder: brief periods of mania or depression

"When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I thought that it meant there was something wrong with me."

Other forms of depressive disorders

There are other kinds of depressive disorders, including: 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
People with SAD experience mood changes and symptoms similar to depression, but these coincide with changes in the seasons (normally over winter months, but some people can experience it in summer). Spending time outside in nature is a treatment for SAD. For those with winter-based depression, getting enough light and Vitamin D can help alleviate depressive symptoms.

Perinatal Depression 
People with perinatal depression experience depressed mood as a direct result of pregnancy or childbirth, or following the birth of a child. This type of depression is linked to hormonal changes.

Worried you have a depressive disorder? Want more info on coping with depression?

If you’re struggling with depression, we’re here for you.

Even when you don’t know what to say or how to express what you’re going through, contact us and we’ll support you through it.

Give us a call, start a WebChat or send us an email today.

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This content was last reviewed 27/04/2020

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