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What Is Clinical Depression?

June 18th, 2024


From time to time, we can go through periods of feeling low or down, unmotivated to take part in activities we enjoy. These feelings may result from situational stressors or other life events. As our life circumstances change, these feelings usually pass.

But when they remain for an extended period of time, it can turn out to be a signal of clinical depression. Clinical depression involves chronic depressive symptoms that impact an individuals’ functioning and everyday life.

Keep reading to discover what clinical depression is, what causes clinical depression, and some available treatment options. Let’s get started!

What Is Clinical Depression?

Clinical depression, otherwise known as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), is a mood disorder that involves two main features:

1. Feeling low, down, or sad

2. Experiencing anhedonia, or a lack of interest in engaging in activities

Clinical depression can have you feeling sad for several days on end. It can lead you to not feeling motivated to seek out hobbies, socialize, or do daily tasks. Sometimes, individuals may notice these changes right away while others may not notice them until several depressive symptoms appear in their lives. Clinical depression affects individuals at home, work, school, and in relationships.

Clinical Depression Symptoms

Here is a list of the most common clinical depression symptoms:

  • Low or sad mood
  • Losing interest in doing activities
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Changes in sleep (trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, or sleeping too much)
  • Moving around much more than usual or moving so slowly that others have noticed
  • Low energy or feeling tired
  • Excessive and/or inappropriate feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Difficulties with concentration or decision-making
  • Suicidal ideation or attempting suicide

It’s important to note that not everyone will show every clinical depression symptom. Moreover, not all symptoms need to be present for a diagnosis of major depressive disorder. For adults, at least five clinical depression symptoms must be present for a diagnosis.

Enough symptoms must overlap in the same two weeks, and they must impact functioning in several life domains. Only medical or mental health professionals can diagnose clinical depression.

Clinical depression can manifest through various symptoms beyond the typical feelings of sadness. For instance, irritability or behavioral outbursts are common, especially in children and adolescents. Cultural factors can also influence how depression presents itself.

In some individuals, depression may appear psychosomatically, with expressions of constant fatigue or physical exhaustion. They may also frequently complain of unexplained aches and pains throughout their body.

What Causes Clinical Depression?

There are different theories about what causes depression. Potential causes include:

  • Situational Factors: Sometimes, difficult life events or situations can trigger depression. These include major life changes or ongoing stressors. Moving, job challenges, or financial or relationship issues may worsen some individuals' depression.
  • Environmental Factors: Others may feel depressed due to chronic stressors in their environment. Being in adverse, distressing, or traumatic situations can contribute to depression. Living in a colder climate with less sunlight may also lead to depression.
  • Genetic or Chemical Factors: Sometimes, depression can run in families. Family members of depressed individuals are more likely to become clinically depressed. Additionally, changes in brain chemistry, such as in neurotransmitters, may account for the onset of depression.
  • Substance Abuse: Those who engage in substance abuse are at an increased risk of depression. Depression is often comorbid with substance use disorders (SUDs). In particular, those with alcohol use disorder are more likely to develop depression.
  • Personality Traits: Research suggests that those with certain “personal vulnerabilities” are more at risk of depression. Those who are more likely to ruminate may feel more helpless or hopeless. Those with lower distress tolerance may also be at a higher risk of depression.

There is ongoing research into the causes of clinical depression. More likely, depression develops due to a complex interplay of several factors. Addressing these factors requires a targeted treatment approach.

What is the Best Treatment for Clinical Depression?

There is no single best treatment for clinical depression, because everyone and every case is different, however, there are several effective options available. Professionals often recommend a combination of medication and psychotherapy to achieve promising results.

  • Psychotherapy: Attending talk therapy may be an effective treatment for depression. Cognitive therapy is an often-cited therapy modality used with depressed individuals. Cognitive therapy helps individuals explore and alter thought patterns and underlying beliefs that support depression. These interventions can lead to improved mood and behavioral changes that reduce depression.
  • Medication: Taking medication may help reduce depressive symptoms. There are several kinds of depression medication used, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Medication can work on various mechanisms in the brain to improve mood. In one study, 40 to 60 out of 100 people found that medication reduced depression. Several factors can affect these results.

There are also alternate approaches to depression management such as:

  • IOP: An Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) serves those needing a higher level of care. An IOP offers a structured itinerary of individual and group therapy in an outpatient setting. In an IOP for depression, individuals learn coping skills to navigate depressive symptoms. Individuals will usually attend an IOP for several hours a day and several days per week. Treatment length varies according to treatment plans. An IOP can be a helpful treatment option for those needing more regular treatment than weekly therapy.
  • TMS: Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is another option for treating depression. TMS is a relatively newer treatment for depression. It is usually offered when medication has been less effective for individuals. In TMS, individuals have magnetic coils placed on their head. Magnetic pulses are then administered to stimulate nerve cells in their brain. Treatment takes place daily for several weeks. This stimulation has been shown to improve mood in some individuals.

Talking to a mental health professional, like our providers at Clarity Clinic, can help individuals choose appropriate treatment routes.

Clinical Depression Treatment

Having persistent sadness or a lack of interest in hobbies and activities may be signs of clinical depression. Depression can show up in many forms, and not all symptoms show up at once. If you feel you may be struggling with depression, Clarity Clinic is here to help. We provide the best depression treatment such as psychotherapy, medication, IOP, and TMS for depression.

Book a consultation to speak with one of our mental health providers (therapist, psychologist, and psychiatrist) to get an accurate diagnosis and discuss the best depression treatment options for you.

Our mental health clinics are conveniently located in the Loop, River North, Arlington Heights, Evanston, Lakeview Belmont, Lakeview Broadway, and Mokena, Chicago, IL.

Book a Consultation!

Related Readings:

Clinical Depression Commonly Asked Questions

What qualifies as clinical depression?

Clinical depression is characterized by persistent sadness, loss of interest in activities, and other symptoms lasting at least two weeks, interfering with daily functioning.

What is the most common cause of clinical depression?

The most common cause is a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.

Is depression a chemical imbalance?

Depression is often linked to chemical imbalances in the brain, but it involves multiple factors, including genetics and life experiences.

What type of people are more prone to depression?

People with a family history of depression, those experiencing major life changes or stress, those who have low self-esteem or who are overly self-critical, and individuals with certain medical conditions are more prone to depression.

Is clinical depression the same as depression?

Yes, clinical depression is a term used to describe a more severe form of depression requiring medical attention.

Is chronic depression the same as clinical depression?

Chronic depression, also known as persistent depressive disorder, is a type of clinical depression characterized by long-term, less severe symptoms.

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