Depression comes in many forms. It can be caused by brain circuitry, an imbalance of brain chemicals, trauma, uncontrollable life events, genetics, or family history. What depression feels like is a persistent sadness that envelops you and alters your thoughts and emotions. It leaves you fatigued and often isolated.

Depression is diagnosed by professionals using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), 5th Edition from the American Psychiatric Association. A licensed mental health care provider reviews assessments, symptoms, length, and quantity of depressive episodes to make a diagnosis and suggest treatment.

Below is a list of several common depression disorders. If you suspect you or a loved one suffers from depression, reach out for help today. Severe depression can lead to thoughts of suicide.

Atypical depression.

Atypical depression begins at a younger age than other depressive disorders. You are at a higher risk of developing atypical depression if your family history includes people with depression or bipolar disorder. People who abuse alcohol or drugs may also develop this type of depression.

Atypical depression is marked by depressive states that lift with a positive event or good news. However, this lift is only temporary. It may seem as if your thoughts and emotions default to depression, and the only relief you have is when something good noticeably happens.

Since this depression tries to override other emotions, you must be aware of your thoughts and behaviors. Suicidal thoughts can intrude. Fatigue and a heaviness in your arms and legs can weigh you down and make you sleepy. Your sleep patterns can change, making you sleep more. As hormones shift, your appetite may increase, leading to weight gain, which can lower your self-esteem and make you self-conscious in front of others.

People struggling with atypical depression cannot handle criticism effectively and will allow a comment, even constructive criticism, to derail their mood, emotions, and relationships.

Bipolar disorder.

Extreme lows and highs mark bipolar disorder. Bipolar depression can last weeks or months. With this type of depression, sleep habits, and appetite change, leading you to lose or gain weight rapidly. You feel sadness and incredible guilt. You may blame yourself for something that happened in the past or feel empty inside. Suicidal thoughts may come and go.

You may complain of headaches and unexplained body aches. Bipolar depression interferes with your job and relationships.

At the other extreme are the manic episodes of bipolar disorder. These highs are euphoric and make you feel like you have energy for days. You may engage in risky behaviors and work to satisfy a drive for sex. You can also become irritable and easily angered. Your mind races, and you find concentrating on tasks at work difficult.

The manic episodes of bipolar disorder can also leave you sleep-deprived with manic, high-energy behaviors and a likelihood of delusions and hallucinations.

If you know what depression feels like with bipolar disorder and manic episodes, reach out to a counselor today. To reduce the symptoms, avoid alcohol and substance abuse. If your physician prescribes medication to treat your moods, take the drug as instructed and stay under a doctor’s care.

Clinical depression.

Clinical depression is also termed major depression. It is a severe form of the mental disorder. This type of depression is not due to events but is pervasive and persistent.

Clinical depression symptoms are the most common:

  • Sadness and feeling empty or emotionally numb.
  • Sleeping too much or too little.
  • Eating too much or too little.
  • Rapid weight gain or loss.
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities or hobbies.
  • Problems in relationships due to the depression.
  • Lack of focus.
  • Calling into work more often.
  • Headaches, body aches, and other unexplained pain.
  • Feelings of guilt, shame, and blame.

Psychotherapy, like talk therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), is effective in treating depression. Making healthier lifestyle changes is something you can do to help ease the symptoms. Try exercising a few days a week and eating fresh foods, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

Postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression occurs after the baby’s birth but can last for weeks or months. The changes that occur with the addition of an infant can create chaos in an otherwise orderly household. Caring for a newborn means little sleep, on-demand schedules, and crying. Not only can the mother develop postpartum depression, but so can other caregivers in the household if they are responsible for the little one.

Developing postpartum depression can lead to generalized depression later. It is normal to feel some sadness after the birth of a baby with the disruption in the routine. This is often referred to as the baby blues. But when the blues become severe, it turns to postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression has many of the same symptoms as clinical depression, namely sadness and fatigue. It also includes emotional bouts of tearfulness or crying and anxiety about caring for a fragile infant. Feelings of guilt and shame can also emerge if your thoughts include resentment for the baby. If you are a single parent, you may resent the father or other family if you are the only one to care for the child.

Ask others for help. Most people understand the massive responsibility of caring for a newborn. Ask for a trusted friend or family member to relieve you for a few hours so that you can rest, take a nap, or get away for a little while.

Speak to a counselor if you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PDD) is a mental disorder that affects women. It is connected to the hormones that rise and fall during the menstruation cycle. This type of depression is more severe than premenstrual syndrome (widely known as PMS).

PDD occurs after ovulation, about a week or two before menstruation begins. PDD symptoms resolve a few days into the period. It is marked by extreme mood swings from weepiness and crying to irritability and anger. On top of these mood swings are physical complaints from menstruation, such as cramping, lower back pain, headache, breast tenderness, and bloating.

A woman with PDD may need to call off work due to the aches and pains. Mood swings can also cause problems at work and home and create rifts in relationships.

Lowering your stress levels and exercise can help alleviate some symptoms of PDD. Therapy and medications may be needed to balance brain chemicals during the menstrual cycle.

Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that appears during a specific season, such as early fall or winter. People in areas with less sunlight during those months are more susceptible. SAD differs from other types of depression because after the season ends, the depression lifts, most notably in Spring.

SAD’s symptoms leave you wanting to hunker down until winter ends. It brings sadness, fatigue, sleeping too much, and isolation. Your appetite may increase, or you may eat for comfort, gaining weight as a result. Feelings of hopelessness and thoughts of suicide can also enter your mind.

Treatments for SAD include lightbox therapy to simulate daylight, exercise to encourage the release of brain chemicals that lift your spirits, and talk therapy. With the advancement in psychology and technology, you can now meet with a counselor online instead of traveling to a brick-and-mortar center. This is beneficial for those people that live in climates with heavy snowfalls during the winter. Group therapy may also be available online.

Finding help for what depression feels like.

When you recognize what depression feels like, you can seek help. A counselor can help you identify the cause of your depression and personalize therapy for your particular situation. By choosing a Christian counselor, you will receive confidential evidence-backed therapeutic methods combined with faith-based principles to learn how to cope with depression.

“Alone by the Lake”, Courtesy of Lukas Rychvalsky,, CC0 License; “Depressed”, Courtesy of Карина Каржавина,, CC0 License; “Holding Mama’s Finger”, Courtesy of William Fortunato,, CC0 License; “Sun Over the Sea”, Courtesy of Josh Sorenson,, CC0 License


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