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Depression vs. Clinical Depression: What’s the Difference?

Have you ever had one of those days where you can’t seem to shake off the blues? Everyone feels down sometimes, but when does regular sadness cross over into depression? And when does depression turn into clinical depression? It’s important to understand that these aren’t simple interchangeable terms, but rather complex emotional states with distinct characteristics.

In this article, we’ll explain depression vs clinical depression and how to distinguish between the two.

Depression vs. Clinical Depression

When discussing depression vs clinical depression, it’s important to understand that depression is a broad term that includes a range of emotions and experiences. Everyone goes through periods of low mood, sadness, grief, stress, and burnout. These are all part of the human experience. Think of depression as an umbrella term for these feelings, but it’s usually when these states persist for a long period and begin to interfere with daily life that it becomes a clinical issue.

What is Depression?

Depression affects about 280 million people worldwide. It goes beyond simply feeling sad or low. It can significantly affect your thoughts, behaviours, and overall quality of life. Depression refers to a range of feelings, from temporary sadness to more severe and persistent symptoms. It’s a normal human emotion that everyone experiences at some point and a common reaction to challenging life events such as experiencing financial struggles or losing a loved one.

What is Clinical Depression?

Clinical depression refers to the medical diagnosis given by a mental health professional. It’s a mental health disorder characterised by persistent and severe symptoms of depression that significantly interfere with daily life. This type of depression often requires treatment, such as medication or therapy, to manage symptoms.

Unlike temporary feelings of sadness, clinical depression may last for long periods, even if there are no clear triggers or reasons for it. It can also be recurrent, meaning you may experience multiple episodes throughout your lifetime.

What Does Depression Feel Like?

People living with depression may describe feeling trapped in a deep, never-ending sadness. They may struggle to find joy in activities they once loved and have difficulty maintaining relationships. Other common symptoms include:

  • Significant weight loss or gain because of changes in appetite
  • Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering
  • A pervasive sense of self-blame or unworthiness.
  • Feeling tired, even after a restful sleep
  • Loss of interest in activities, hobbies, or social interactions
  • A feeling of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness lasting for weeks
  • Recurring thoughts about death or suicide
  • Experiencing insomnia or oversleeping regularly

Am I Depressed or Sad?

The line between sadness and depression isn’t always clear. Feeling down is a natural part of life. But the key difference lies in the duration, intensity, and impact on daily life.

A low mood may last a few days or weeks but can often improve with small lifestyle changes or supportive relationships. However, if your feelings of sadness persist for two weeks or more and significantly interfere with your ability to perform daily activities, it may be a sign of depression. It’s always best to seek professional help for an accurate diagnosis if you’re unsure.

9 Types of Clinical Depression

There are several types of depression with their own unique set of causes and symptoms. Here are nine common types:

  1. Clycothymia: Categorised by persistent and unstable mood changes, including periods of depression and elation. But the symptoms aren’t as severe as bipolar disorder.
  2. Depressive episode: This is the formal term mental health professionals use when diagnosing depression. They may describe it as a “mild,” “moderate,” or “severe” episode, depending on its intensity.
  3. Dysthymia: A chronic condition that lasts for at least two years in adults. Symptoms of dysthymia may be less severe than clinical depression but can interfere with daily life.
  4. Manic depression: Also known as bipolar disorder, symptoms of this condition include periods of extreme lows (depression) and highs (mania).
  5. Prenatal or postnatal depression: Occurs during pregnancy or after giving birth. It can affect mothers or fathers.
  6. Psychotic depression: A severe form of depression with a combination of major depressive disorder and psychosis, where there is a break from reality.
  7. Reactive depression: This is a type of depression triggered by a traumatic event or significant life change, like going through a divorce, grieving over the death of a loved one, losing a job or experiencing work burnout.
  8. Recurrent depressive disorder: A chronic form of depression characterised by recurring episodes (at least two) of depression. It can be severe and long-lasting.
  9. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): SAD occurs during the winter months when there is less natural sunlight.

How To Treat Depression

There are various treatments available for depression, and one of the most effective approaches involves a combination of healthy lifestyle changes, therapy, and medication. Schedule an appointment with your provider to find the best depression treatment plan for you.

Medication

Antidepressant medications can help balance chemicals in the brain that affect mood and emotions. Your provider may prescribe norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for the management of depressive symptoms. These medications work by balancing neurotransmitters in the brain that influence mood.

It may take weeks for these medications to take effect, and it may be necessary to try different medications or combinations before finding the right fit.

Talk Therapy (Psychotherapy)

Talk therapy helps you manage depression by exploring behaviours, thoughts, and feelings that contribute to the condition. You can do this type of therapy one-on-one with a therapist or in a group setting.

Individual Therapy Sessions

This involves regular sessions with a therapist to discuss personal struggles and develop coping strategies. The therapist may use various techniques, such as:

Group Therapy Sessions

In a group therapy setting, individuals with depression can come together to discuss their experiences and learn from others. This type of therapy can help reduce isolation and provide social support.

Alternative Therapies

Alternative therapies can also help manage symptoms of depression. There are many options for those who want to consider these types of therapies, including:

Discuss alternative therapies with your provider before trying them. You can use them with traditional treatments or on their own, depending on your needs.

While these therapies may help alleviate symptoms, they’re not a cure for depression and shouldn’t replace ongoing medical treatment.

Finding Support

Managing depression is challenging, especially when facing it alone. Build a strong support network to help you through difficult times. This may include:

  • Family and friends: They can provide emotional support and help with daily tasks.
  • Online resources: There are many online forums, apps, and websites that offer tools and support for individuals with depression.
  • Hotlines: In times of crisis or when feeling overwhelmed, hotlines such as the Samaritans (116 123) can provide immediate support and resources.
  • Support groups: Joining a support group led by a therapist can provide a sense of community and understanding.

Getting help and building a support network is crucial in managing depression and promoting overall wellbeing.

All Points North (APN) London’s Holistic Approach to Mental Health

We believe in taking a multi-faceted approach to treating mental health conditions. This means addressing the symptoms of depression and the underlying causes and contributing factors. Our team of professionals includes psychiatrists, therapists, certified personal trainers, and nutritionists, who work together to provide personalised, comprehensive treatment plans for clients.

Key components of our approach include:

  • Conventional and alternative therapies: We offer a range of evidence-based treatments, like DBT and CBT. We also incorporate innovative approaches such as psychiatry and neurotechnology.
  • Medication management: For clients with clinical depression, our psychiatrists may recommend medication to help manage symptoms. They can monitor and adjust your medications as needed for optimal results.
  • Lifestyle changes: We believe in the power of exercise, nutrition, and self-care in promoting overall wellbeing. Our certified personal trainers and nutritionists will work with you to develop exercise and nutrition plans that support mental health.

At APN London, the emphasis lies on providing holistic mental health programs that extend beyond conventional methods.

Lifestyle psychiatry, dual diagnosis programs, ketamine-assisted healing, and DTMS are among the approaches we use to address symptoms and the root causes of mental health issues. Our goal is to empower you with the support and tools needed to lead a fulfilling life while facing challenges like depression.

Get the Support and Treatment You Need at APN London

Depression isn’t just a fleeting emotion. It’s an intricate web of emotions that can trap anyone. Recognising the difference between transient sadness and clinical depression is crucial. While traditional treatments serve a purpose, embracing holistic approaches can offer a more comprehensive way to address the complexities of mental health.

If you want a more encompassing approach to mental wellbeing, call 0203 984 7699 or complete our online contact form today.

References

  1. Gautam M, Tripathi A, Deshmukh D, Gaur M. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression. Indian J Psychiatry. 2020 Jan;62(Suppl 2):S223-S229. doi: 10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_772_19. Epub 2020 Jan 17. PMID: 32055065; PMCID: PMC7001356, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7001356.
  2. Zheng L, Sun J, Yu X, Zhang D. Ultra-Processed Food Is Positively Associated with Depressive Symptoms Among United States Adults. Front Nutr. 2020 Dec 15;7:600449. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2020.600449. PMID: 33385006; PMCID: PMC7770142, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7770142.