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What Is Clinical Depression?

Depression is considered a mental illness, or clinical depression, when it lasts for a prolonged period of time and is severe enough that it alters the way a person thinks and/or acts and interferes with their normal functioning in their day-to-day life, such as their ability to do their job, socially interact with peers or maintain familial relationships. The term clinical depression is frequently used interchangeably with major depression, but it can also be used as an umbrella term that includes both manic depression (bipolar disorder) and chronic depression (dysthymia).

The symptoms and causes of clinical depression are varied, but, fortunately, this condition is highly treatable once diagnosed.

Signs of Clinical Depression

The particular combination of behavioral signs will be different for each individual, but some of the most common clinical depression symptoms include:

  • Significantly decreased energy level; frequent fatigue
  • Significantly increased or decreased sleeping
  • Significantly increased or decreased eating (accompanied by a 5 percent gain or loss of body mass over a period of one month)
  • Decreased or nonexistent sex drive
  • Feelings of extreme sadness, guilt, hopelessness; frequent crying
  • Social and emotional withdrawal from friends and family
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Digestive problems and headaches that cannot be otherwise explained
  • Inability to concentrate or think clearly
  • Thoughts of/ talking about suicide

Possible Causes and Popular Treatments

Gender Matters

According the National Institute of Mental Health, there are approximately twice as many cases of major depressive disorder in women as there are in men. The reasons for this significant difference are unclear: it could be due to the various and often conflicting stresses women deal with, to the hormonal changes they undergo throughout their lives, or to the fact that men are less likely to seek medical treatment for symptoms which they erroneously view as signs of personal weakness rather than a serious mental illness.

There are many reasons someone might develop major depression. One common trigger is a traumatic event such as the loss of a job, divorce or the death of a loved one. Other causes of major depression are more chronic, such as an underlying mental illness or neurological imbalance, the pain of a physical illness, a negative self-image/ low self-esteem or substance addiction.

Did You Know?

Clinical depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in America: each year a combined 19 million people suffer from major, manic or chronic depression.

Factors that increase your chances of being predisposed to developing clinical depression include your genetic inheritance and personal history — you are more likely to suffer from major depression if it runs in your family, and if you’ve experienced it once, you’re at increased risk to experience it again.

Treatment of clinical depression usually consists of some form of psychological therapy, antidepressant medication(s) or both. After diagnosis there will often be an experimental period in which the patient and doctor try to ascertain the treatment combination that works best.

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