What is depression? 

Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time, and affects your everyday life. 

In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. It doesn’t stop you leading your normal life but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, depression can be life-threatening because it can make you feel suicidal

“It feels like I’m stuck under a huge grey-black cloud. It’s dark and isolating, smothering me at every opportunity.” 

When does low mood become depression? 

We all have times when our mood is low, and we’re feeling sad or miserable about life. Usually these feelings pass in due course. 

But if the feelings are interfering with your life and don’t go away after a couple of weeks, or if they come back over and over again for a few days at a time, it could be a sign that you’re experiencing depression. See our section on the symptoms of depression for more information. 

“It starts as sadness then I feel myself shutting down, becoming less capable of coping. Eventually, I just feel numb and empty.” 

Are there different types of depression? 

If you are given a diagnosis of depression, you might be told that you have mild, moderate or severe depression. This describes what sort of impact your symptoms are having on you currently, and what sort of treatment you’re likely to be offered. You might move between different mild, moderate and severe depression during one episode of depression or across different episodes. 

There are also some specific types of depression: 

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – depression that occurs at a particular time of year, or during a particular season. See our page on SAD for more information. 
  • Dysthymia – continuous mild depression that lasts for two years or more. Also called persistent depressive disorder or chronic depression. 
  • Prenatal depression – depression that occurs during pregnancy. This is sometimes also called antenatal depression. 
  • Postnatal depression (PND) – depression that occurs in the weeks and months after becoming a parent. Postnatal depression is usually diagnosed in women, but it can also affect men. 

See our page on postnatal depression and perinatal mental health for more information. The PANDAS Foundation (English only) also has information and support for anyone experiencing prenatal or postnatal depression. 

Is premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) a type of depression? 

PMDD is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Many women experience PMS, but for some women their symptoms are severe enough to seriously impact their daily life. This is when you might receive a diagnosis of PMDD. 

PMDD is not a type of depression, but most women who experience PMDD find that depression is a major symptom. 

“Sometimes it feels like a black hole but sometimes it feels like I need to cry and scream and kick and shout. Sometimes I go quiet and lock myself in my room and sometimes I have to be doing something at all times of the day to distract myself.” 

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