Clinical depression, or major depressive disorder, is a severe form of depression. This kind of depression is a psychological disorder that requires treatment from mental health professionals.
In order to be diagnosed with this condition, people must exhibit at least five of the recognized symptoms nearly every day. These signs and symptoms include:
- Either insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Significant weight loss that is not the result of a diet or sudden weight gain; abnormal decrease or increase in appetite
- General depressed mood, including feeling sad or empty; in children and teens, depressed mood can present itself as constant irritability
- Either slowed behavior or restlessness
- Trouble making decisions, thinking, and concentrating
- Feeling no pleasure at all in most activities
- Feeling worthless or feeling excessively and inappropriately guility
- Loss of energy or fatigue
- A suicide attempt, or recurring thoughts of dying or suicide
To be diagnosed with clinical or major depression, your symptoms must be severe enough to cause problems in relationships and everyday activities, such as work and school. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, clinical depression is a serious illness that at any given time affects around 7% of the total U.S. population over age of 18. Overall though, up to 25% of adults are likely to suffer an episode of clinical depression at some point in their lives.
Women are at a much higher risk than men for developing clinical depression. This is because things like puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, miscarriage, and menopause can all increase the risk for clinical depression and are all limited to the female population.
Men who suffer from clinical depression are less likely to seek medical help, so this could play into why there are fewer documented cases in males. Men are more likely to turn to substance abuse and repressing their feelings can often lead to violent behavior directed both at themselves and at other people.
There are several common triggers that can lead to clinical depression. These include:
- A major life change - graduating, moving, changing jobs, retiring, etc.
- Grief - losing someone as a result of death, divorce, or separation
- Personal relationship conflicts - with a significant other or a superior
- Abuse - either physical, sexual, or emotional
- Isolation - usually socially, but can also be a result of feeling generally deprived in some way
Besides these triggers, if clinical depression is a part of your family medical history it automatically puts you at a higher risk. Clinical depression generally seems to be caused by a combination of biological, environmental, and situational factors.
Fortunately, even severe clinical depression usually responds well to treatment. Treatment can include psychotherapy, which is talking with a therapist about your emotions and working through ways to better deal with your emotions. Antidepressant medications typically help as well, especially in conjunction with psychological counseling. Some common medications prescribed include Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, and Lexapro. If these are ineffective, your doctor may want to try some stronger medications such as Cymbalta, Effexor, Wellbutrin, and Pristiq. It may take several different trial and errors to figure out which medication works best for your clinical depression.