Recovering The SelfA Journal of Hope and Healing


Depression Subtypes – Science or Myth?

by Alfredo Zotti 

The Black Dog institute is a well-known and somewhat respected Australian organization which provides information, The face of depressioncarries out research and attempts to help sufferers, mostly online. The Black Dog Institute is well-established, affiliated with the University of New South Wales, and based on the Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick, a suburb of Sydney.

If we look closely at some of the research and ideologies of this institution, however, we find some substantial problems. For example, Professor Gordon Parker, who is the founder of the Black Dog Institute, proposes that depression is not an “it” but a complex cluster of different subtypes of the disorder, of which, for example, melancholia is one subtype.

According to psychologist Dr. Bob Rich, who also suffered once with severe depression, and therefore has some inside knowledge of it, writes:

This is the old myth about endogenous and reactive depression. The first is supposed to be chemical. I think all depression is reactive to something triggering childhood belief systems.

Speaking from personal experience, having suffered with depression since childhood, I agree with Dr. Bob Rich, but I also know that the way in which I experience depression varies from what is happening both in the environment and in my mind, my perception of situations. I have experienced many different kinds of depression: Anhedonia, which had me confined to an armchair and bed for two years, as well as less severe forms of depression and anxiety. My depression is an “it” but its intensity can vary greatly, something that is common to many sufferers with whom I am in constant communication.

Mental health professionals who suffer directly may be able to assist Professor Parker in taking a better look at his theory, which is misguided according to the evidence that I have gathered.

Mental health professional Lewis Weir, who specialises in depression, writes:

I agree with your assessment, that depression depends on the environment (all forces outside and affecting the individual) and how that affects an individual internally. It seems what is going on with a person, their life has a lot to do with how depression presents itself. It can have a range of severity and I believe that depends both on neurochemistry and environment.

Here is another sufferer who is also an expert.  Judy writes:

Hi, Alfredo. I think I’d have to agree with you on this. Depression is too complicated to try to divide it into subtypes because, as you say, any one person can experience varying degrees of it. I think people have various triggers that get it going and I believe some of those triggers have to do with subconscious memories so that we don’t always understand why certain things can trigger it. I think it’s a waste of time to try and figure out subtypes.

Waste of time? If it is a waste of time, then it is really sad to think that a professional person like Professor Gordon Parker is so misguided in his ideas. Think of all the research money and effort dedicated to establish various subtypes of depression that may not exist.

Note: The above excerpt has been contributed to Recovering the Self by the author. To read the rest of this article, please visit

About the Author

As a sufferer with Bipolar 2 disorder, Alfredo Zotti decided, some 20 years ago, to attend university at the age of 30, knowing that knowledge is vital for people with mental illness. Ten years ago, he started to help sufferers online because he also realized that only by helping others can we truly understand the human condition. He also started to write a journal and found that writing this journal, in cooperation with other sufferers, made it possible for him to see mental illness from a totally different, positive perspective.

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