Just the Blues or Clinical Depression: Making the Distinction to Get the Help You Need

image for clinical depression articleDepression is a serious medical condition involving your mood, thoughts, and body. It may affect how you feel about things, how you think about things, and how well you eat and sleep. Most people normally experience feelings of sadness, loss, or grief at different times throughout their lives. But depression is generally characterized by more intense feelings, such as hopelessness and worthlessness, and is persistent and recurring in nature. By making the distinction between the blues and clinical depression, you can take the appropriate actions that may help improve your mood and quality of life. If you have depression, you will need professional medical treatment, since depression is not something that you can shake off on your own. On the other hand, if you have the blues, there may be a few things you can try to help improve your mood—but only after you are sure your symptoms are not a result of depression.

Symptoms of Depression

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV), if five or more of the following symptoms persist for more than two weeks, or if they interfere with work or family life, you may be suffering from one of several different forms of clinical depression.
  • Persistent sadness, anxiousness, or feeling of emptiness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities, including sex
  • Loss of appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Sleeping too much or too little, early-morning awakening
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling like you are slowed down
  • Restlessness, irritability, or excessive crying
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, pessimism
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
Contact your doctor for a complete evaluation, which will involve a physical checkup, a family health history, and a psychological evaluation.Not everyone with depression experiences each of these symptoms. The intensity of the symptoms also varies from person to person. If you are concerned that you may have depression, contact your healthcare provider or doctor regardless of which symptoms you have noticed. If you have thoughts of death or suicide, seek help immediately .

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