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The Facts About Clinical Depression

Clinical depression is not just normal sadness - like when grieving a loved one or being down for a day or two. Clinical depression typically consumes a person in their day-to-day living. And it may continue for weeks or months. This type of depression interferes with the person’s work or school, their relationships, and with their ability to enjoy life and have fun. Some people feel as if life is hopeless or that they are empty inside.

Depression commonly manifests physically, through stomach pains, headaches, disrupted or excessive sleep, and motor control difficulty. While the causes of depression are unknown, a predisposition for it runs in families and it can be triggered by trauma and adverse life circumstances.

In a given year, 7 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with this condition; women are 2 to 3 times more likely to be diagnosed than men (American Psychiatric Association).

People tend to suffer higher rates of depression after giving birth and in late fall. Depression and anxiety often exacerbate each other and people with depression commonly have difficulty concentrating on tasks and conversations. Some people abuse alcohol and drugs or overeat as a way of coping, causing them to develop other medical problems. Depressed people are also at increased risk for self-harm.

When faced with the emptiness and hopelessness of clinical depression, many people find it a struggle just to wake up in the morning and get out of bed. Everyday tasks we may take for granted - like showering, eating, or going to work or school - seem become impossible for a person living with depression. Clinical depression is a mental illness characterized by prolonged emotional symptoms including:

  • Apathy
  • Sadness
  • Guilt
  • Exhaustion
  • Irritability

Diagnosing depression involves a psychiatric evaluation and physical tests to determine whether a person’s symptoms are actually being caused by a different disorder. A person must have been experiencing symptoms for at least two weeks to be diagnosed with depression. Every case is unique and requires individual attention, but there are a number of effective complementary ways of treating depression, including:

  • Talk therapy
  • Medication
  • Adopting a healthier lifestyle
  • Exercise

When we see a friend or family member in distress, most of us want to reach out and offer a hand. However, when it comes to helping someone with clinical depression we often remain silent, fearful of the stigma attached to depression. There is no reason to be ashamed, and no reason to not help someone who is going through the challenges of living with this disorder.

You can learn to be helpful to your loved one suffering from depression by reading these articles from PsychCentral:

10 Things You Should Say to a Depressed Loved One

4 Ways to Support Someone with Depression

Worst Things to Say to Someone Who's Depressed

“Depression is being colorblind and constantly told how colorful the world is."
Atticus Poetry - Love Her Wild

Reference: American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).
Washington, DC: Author.

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