In the normal course of life, everyone has times when they feel somewhat less than happy and optimistic. Although many people attribute their feelings of sadness or lethargy to the onset of depression, it’s important to understand that medical professionals have specific indicators that they use to make a diagnosis of clinical depression. When you know more about what’s wrong, you can make it right.
Understanding What Depression Is
Let’s start with the word “clinical.” By definition, a condition is clinical if it is directly observed. That is, the professional does not count on a patient’s self-report but is more likely to check for symptoms of depression that can be observed and documented. Clinical depression is a phrase used to describe a condition serious enough to require clinical (professional) and possibly pharmacological intervention. Clinical depression, according to medical sources, lasts more than two weeks and is usually not precipitated by anything external.
For example, if you’ve just lost your job and have no money in your bank account, you may feel stressed, anxious, panicked, and unable to function. However, most of your friends and family would reasonably conclude that it’s quite normal to feel that way. Although your reaction might match the symptoms of depression, a traumatic event precipitated them and your state of anxiety would not be diagnosed as clinical depression. Clearly, a new and better job would probably end the negative feelings in an instant.
Of the many different mood disorders, depression is the most common, and one of the most misunderstood. While modern research indicates that brain chemical imbalances cause the condition, many people still believe that chronic depression indicates a weak personality or character flaw. This makes seeking help difficult, as people hesitate before admitting this “weakness” to family, friends or doctors. Imagine the devastation and suffering if people hid a major illness such as cancer from the world.
Mood disorders – especially depression – are very common. Chances are that someone you know, or you yourself, suffers from a mood disorder. And the majority of depressive disorders go untreated. Healing starts with learning to recognize the symptoms of depression in yourself or a loved one.
Common Symptoms of Depression
Here are some of the most common symptoms of depression:
- Persistent sadness or unhappiness
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
- Sudden change in appetite
- Disruption of normal sleep pattern
- Physical discomfort
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating
- Thoughts of suicide or death
Depression in America
Approximately 18.8 million adult Americans, an alarming 9.5 percent, suffer from some form of depressive disorder in any given year, making it the most widespread of all mood disorders.
The death of a loved one, health problems, financial stress or other traumatic life events can trigger a variety of depressive mood disorders. In these instances, an identifiable trigger can be associated with the onset of the disorder. Some people suffer from what is termed chronic depression. The affected individual goes through depressive episodes interspersed with periods of time when the symptoms of depression seem to disappear. The disorder can be a lifelong struggle.
You don’t have to suffer. Many treatments for depression are available that can help you get your life back.