Life isn’t fair. At some point, you will feel low, sad, and even stressed. However, depression is more than that. Usually, sadness and emptiness last a few days. Depression is persistent – feeling fed up with the world for weeks, months, and even years.
Depression varies in severity. It becomes a case of clinical depression when it becomes so severe that a person needs medical treatment.
Clinical depression is a real illness with clinical symptoms. You can’t simply snap out of it by pulling yourself together. Fortunately, with treatment and emotional support, you can make a full recovery.
| Clinical Depression versus Situational Depression
Before seeking medical treatment for depression, you must determine whether you have clinical depression or situational depression.
Medically known as adjustment disorder with depressed mood, situational depression often resolves with time when the individual talks about the problem. However, if left unchecked, situational therapy develops into clinical depression, medically known as Major Depressive Disorder.
Situational depression is a result of a change in one’s life or a traumatic event. Triggers include, but are not limited to:
- Loss of employment
- The death of a family member or close friend
You become depressed because you are having a hard time adjusting to your current situation. After accepting and coming to terms with the change, you recover.
Situational depression causes symptoms such as:
- Loss of concentration
- Hopelessness and sadness
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Suicidal thoughts
As you will learn in the sections below, clinical depression is more severe than situational depression. It is so severe it interferes with normal bodily function and thought processes.
| What Is Clinical Depression?
If you experience persistent and intense sadness for an extended period, then you may have clinical depression. Clinical depression is a medical condition that can harm many aspects of your life. Aside from affecting mood and behavior, it interferes with normal bodily functions such as sleeping and eating.
People with clinical depression lose interest in work and activities and hobbies they once enjoyed. Plus, they have a difficult time accomplishing basic daily tasks such as cleaning and even personal hygiene. At this point, they feel like life isn’t worth living anymore.
| The Prevalence of Clinical Depression
Clinical depression is not as prevalent as heart disease. But it is also not rare. According to statistics published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, more than 8% of men and 20% of women suffer clinical depression at one point in their lives.
True, that’s a small population. But unfortunately, these men and women do not seek continued treatment for the condition. Yet if left untreated clinical depression has consequences as fatal as suicide.
The good news is that clinical depression is treatable. According to the national institute of health, about 80% of patients who seek treatment for major depressive disorders show improvement within the first six weeks.
| Causes of Clinical Depression
The causes of clinical depression include:
- A significant life change (such as divorce) or a traumatic event (such as loss of a loved one)
- Financial woes
- Caring for a loved one with chronic illness
- Certain medication including medication used to treat depression
- Alcohol and drug abuse
- Living with a chronic disease such as cancer and multiple sclerosis
There’s also a link between genetics and clinical depression. Research suggests that clinical depression could be inherited. A theoretical explanation is that there are hereditary factors that make mood-regulating hormones scarce or ineffective.
| Symptoms of Clinical Depression
The symptoms of clinical depression vary widely among individuals. However, most people will feel sad, hopeless, and will lose interest in things they usually enjoyed.
The symptoms of clinical depression fall into three categories:
- Bad mood
- Frequent crying
- Anxiety and feelings of worry
- Suicidal thoughts
- Finding no enjoyment in life
- Low interest and motivation in things
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of energy
- Moving and talking slower than usual
- Unexplainable pains and aches
- Lack of appetite
- Low libido
- Irregularities in the menstrual cycle
- Avoiding people
- Neglecting interests and hobbies
- Losing interest in friends, family, and work
One of the first people to talk to when feeling depressed is your doctor. A primary care physician might diagnose clinical depression, but they will refer you to a psychiatrist for a more comprehensive examination.
During the diagnosis, the psychiatrist will perform the following tests and exams:
- Psychiatric evaluation: The psychiatrist will ask about your symptoms, feelings, thoughts, and behavior patterns. They want to be sure that you actually have depression and its severity. Your doctor is likely to use DSM-5, a manual used in the diagnosis of mental conditions.
- Physical examination: The point of this test is to determine if an underlying physical health issue is causing the depression.
- Lab tests: The doctor is likely to carry out a blood test to determine if your thyroid is functioning correctly.
| Types of Depression
Symptoms of depression vary among individuals. During diagnosis or cause of treatment, your doctor might add one or more specifiers. In this case, a specifier defines the specific features of your depression.
Clinical depression specifiers include:
- Anxious distress: Depression characterized by excessive restlessness and constant worry about possible occurrences and the loss of control.
- Melancholic depression: It exhibits the typical signs of depression, such as lack of interest in things once enjoyed and lack of appetite. This type of depression is associated with a bad mood in the morning, agitation, and guilt.
- Typical depression: Individuals with this type of depression exhibit symptoms not generally associated with depression. These symptoms include increased appetite, ability to be cheered, excessive sleep, and heavy feelings in the arms and legs.
- Mixed features: This type of depression mimics bipolar disorder. Individuals have moments of happiness (mania) and episodes of depression. During the manic episode, an individual might talk too much or have elevated self-esteem and increased energy.
- Psychotic depression: It involves hallucinations and delusions that are not in line with reality. A significant traumatic event often causes psychotic depression.
The treatment of clinical depression involves both psychotherapy and medication. Also, lifestyle changes can help with some symptoms.
Patients who are a danger to themselves have to stay in the hospital during the cause of the treatment. Other cases of depression require an outpatient program.
Also known as talk therapy, psychotherapy is an effective treatment option for clinical depression. Talk therapy requires regular meetings with a therapist to talk about your condition and other relevant issues. Ultimately, psychotherapy will help you:
- Replace negative thoughts with positive ones
- Adjust and accept the situation causing your depression
- Find better ways to cope with stressful situations
- Improve your communication skills
- Reclaim your sense of satisfaction with life
- Regain control over your life
Antidepressant medication help treat and manage clinical depression. The most effective antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Serotonin is the hormone responsible for mood. A depressed individual has little of this hormone. SSRIs increase the amount of serotonin produced. As a result, SSRIs help with the mood-related symptoms in clinical depression patients.
Combined with medication and talk therapy, lifestyle changes can significantly help improve the symptoms of clinical depression. Lifestyle changes that can help treat depression include:
- Sleeping well: Sleep refreshes the body and brain and improves moods.
- Exercising: Although fatigue is a symptom of depression, you should try to get some exercise. Physical activity alters brain chemicals, which could have a positive impact on your mood.
- Eating well: Omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B, and magnesium are associated with helping alleviate the symptoms of clinical depression. Besides, healthy eating and exercise can improve your self-esteem.