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What is Clinical Depression?

written by: Charlotte Raynor • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 2/3/2011

The term "clinical depression" is used by physicians to explain the more serious, continual type of depression and is also called "major depressive disorder" or "major depression". Read on for a more detailed answer to the question "What is clinical depression?"

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    What is Clinical Depression?

    Clinical depression can seriously influence how you feel, how you act or react and the way you think. Typically a person with clinical depression will feel sad and disheartened for long periods.

    Clinical depression is not what most people feel from time to time when they are down, which is a sadness or depressed mood for a day or two and then things are fine again. Clinical depression does not go away on its own.

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    What is Clinical Depression? Signs and Symptoms

    Clinical depression can not only affect a person's mood, but it can also affect an individual's behavior, physical health and thoughts. People with depression are not able to function the same way as they used to and lose interest in activities and hobbies they previously enjoyed. Their eating habits change as does how they relate to other people and their capability to study and work. Individuals who have clinical depression say that they just don't feel like themselves anymore.

    Some symptoms and signs of clinical depression include:

    • Concentration loss and uncertainty
    • Fatigue almost every day
    • Feeling slowed down or restless
    • Noticeably reduced pleasure or interest in hobbies and activities that the individual used to enjoy
    • Sleep problems-either not sleeping or sleeping more hours than usual
    • Considerable weight gain or loss
    • Continuous sadness or an empty feeling inside
    • Persistent thoughts of death or suicide

    To properly be diagnosed with clinical depression, a physician has to determine that the symptoms of interest loss or depressed mood are actually being felt. And that these symptoms are experienced every day for at least two weeks and felt for most of the day.

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    People Who are at Risk of Clinical Depression

    Clinical depression does not target any one age group, gender, religion, or ethnicity. Every year depression affects over 17 million American women and men. Almost twice as many women are diagnosed with major depression than men. It is believed that the additional stresses of living through puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, menopause and sometimes miscarriage, are the reasons for the higher rate of clinical depression amongst women. Additionally, more women these days tend to juggle a full time job, children, home responsibilities and even an aging parent which may also be why there is a higher incidence amongst women. Generally, between 20% and 25% will suffer a major depression incident at some time in their life.

    Although many men are diagnosed with clinical depression, some prefer not to report it (this could be another reason why clinical depression appears to occur in more women than men). They tend to avoid seeking help or even admitting they have a problem. Some of the signs of clinical depression in men include drug or alcohol abuse, anger and irritability. Since men sometimes suppress how they feel, violent behavior can be the outcome.

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    How Clinical Depression is Diagnosed

    Clinical depression can be very difficult to diagnose by mental health professionals and that is why they are very cautious and methodical before making this diagnosis. Just because an individual states that they are sad all of the time does not necessarily mean they have clinical depression. A psychiatrist will obtain a great deal of information about the individual and take time to determine if they indeed have this illness. Clinical depression is a mood disorder that takes a medical assessment, a clinical consultation, and maybe even more evaluations to determine if that is what a person is suffering from. Every mood disorder has a separate set of exclusive diagnostic criteria, or symptoms that are listed in a mental illness manual that medical professionals use called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

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    References

    Clinical Depression. (2011). Retrieved February 1, 2011, from University Health Services: http://www.uhs.berkeley.edu/lookforthesigns/clinicaldepression.shtml

    Diagnosis of Clinical Depression. (n.d.). Retrieved February 2, 2011, from AllAboutDepression.com: http://www.allaboutdepression.com/dia_01.html

    Hall-Flavin, M. D. (2009, April 23). Depression (Major Depression). Retrieved February 1, 2011, from Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/clinical-depression/AN01057

    Major Depression (Clinical Depression). (n.d.). Retrieved February 1, 2011, from WebMD.com: http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/major-depression