Depression ranges in seriousness from mild, temporary episodes of sadness to severe, persistent depression. Clinicians use the term "clinical depression" to describe the more severe form of depression also known as "major depression" or "major depressive disorder."
While most people experience periods of time where they feel "down or sad," clinical depression causes significant disruptions in daily life, such as work, school or social activities. Clinical depression also differs from depression caused by a loss (such as the death of a loved one), or other major life incidents in which feelings of sadness is a normal or healthy response. Most people who experience incidents such as loss will experience depressive symptoms for a period of time, and then slowly see their symptoms abate and return to a more healthy degree of functioning. Clinical depression can differ in that people may experience symptoms of depression without even realizing what has triggered it.
There are several treatments for depression. Clinical depression symptoms usually improve with psychological counseling, such as CBT, antidepressant medications, or a combination of the two. Even severe depression symptoms usually improve with treatment.
People with depressive illnesses do not all experience the same symptoms. The severity, frequency, and duration of symptoms vary depending on the individual and his or her particular illness.
Signs and symptoms include:
CBT helps people change the pattern of thoughts and behavior that keep them locked into depression. Many people with depression filter their experiences in a negative manner, effectively negating and ignoring positive, or even neutral, situations or information. This ends up confirming the belief that nothing is going well in their life. CBT helps people interpret their environment and interactions with others in a more balanced, effective, and realistic way. It also helps a person recognize things that may be contributing to the depression and help him or her change behaviors that are likely making the depression worse, such as isolating or withdrawing from people or activities.
(National Institute of Mental Health)
Lauren Stevenson, PsyD., Director