Depression - Am I Clinically Depressed?

Depression - Am I Clinically Depressed

Depression-Am I Clinically Depressed?
Being in a depressed mood or “feeling depressed” can be an emotion like any other.  The difference between feeling depressed and being clinically depressed is the length of time that the feeling of depression persists and the extent to which the depressed mood interferes with our daily activities. 

Clinical depression is accompanied by multiple physical and mental symptoms.  Depression can leave individuals unable to function in their lives in the manner which they did previously: it can be disabling or even life threatening in extreme cases.
Clinical depression can originate from external or internal factors.  The first, external, is triggered from environment factors (i.e. death, divorce, loss of employment).  Internally triggered depression can result from a pre-disposition to mood disorders, a chemical imbalance. 

Depression may be triggered by external stressors or can occur with no identifiable factors.  Research indicates that like other health issues, we can be genetically susceptible to depression given our family history.  Regardless of the origin of depression, if it is interfering with your quality of life for more than a few weeks, it is wise to seek help from a medical professional.

A majority of adults will suffer from at least one major depressive episode in their lifetime.  The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, clinical depression will be the second leading cause of death world-wide (suicide or related physical conditions).  Clinical Depression is a medical condition; it is not something one chooses to experience or a mood we can talk ourselves out of.  If you have 3 or more of the following symptoms persisting more than 2 weeks, it is recommended that you seek support.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression may include the following:

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Overeating or appetite loss
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

Teenagers and Depression: While many of the symptoms listed above are similar for teens, teenagers often exhibit different or additional symptoms including the following:

  • Restlessness and hyperactivity
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Cutting or other self-harming behaviors
  • Insomnia and difficulty staying asleep
  • Lack of motivation in school
  • Isolation and withdrawing from friends and family
  • Disinterest in activities once enjoyed
  • Excessive crying or flat affect(no facial expression)

If you believe you or a loved one is suffering from the medical condition of depression, it is important to contact your physician for support.  Understanding that depression is a medical condition requiring medical assistance, helps individuals suffering to recover more safely and expeditiously.  Seeking medical support does not mean you will be prescribed or forced to take medication. Frequently, physicians recommend speaking to a mental health professional.  

While medication may not be indicated, it is important to speak to your primary care physician about symptoms.  Other medical conditions can trigger or mimic depression such as thyroid or hormonal imbalances.  It is wise to rule out other medical conditions while addressing symptoms of depression. 

Understanding depression, gaining awareness about triggers, symptoms, or susceptibility to mood disorders, helps us to more easily identify, prevent or manage future episodes.     Clinical depression is not an attitude, personal weakness or choice, it is a medical condition, like any other treatable health condition.

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