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Everyone feels down in the dumps sometimes. Maybe you’ve had a bad day, bad week, or a bad month. Maybe your spouse left you, you hate your job, and your best friend is moving away. These are all good reasons to feel bad. But is it possible your feelings go beyond just a slump? Could you be suffering from clinical depression?
Clinical depression, also known as major depression, major depressive disorder, or just plain “depression,” is typically more intense and longer lasting than just a period of feeling down in the dumps. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) V, the “bible” of mental disorders, those who suffer from clinical depression have had a low mood and a loss of interest in normal activities and relationships for at least two weeks.
In addition to that, to meet the official criteria for a diagnosis of clinical depression, you need to experience at least five of these nine symptoms of depression every day or nearly every day:
- Depressed or irritable mood
- Decreased interests or pleasure in most activities
- Significant weight changes (up or down)
- Changes in sleep
- Changes in activity level
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Problems with concentration
- Thoughts of suicide
Are you or a loved one suffering from constant sadness? Do you ever have difficulty concentrating or sometimes just feel helpless?
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While it’s helpful to know how clinical depression is diagnosed, don’t hesitate to see your doctor if you’re feeling bad but don’t meet the above criteria. Some people experience depression differently.
Depression in men, for instance, can often manifest as feelings of aggression or anger. Some people try to self-medicate and end up with a substance abuse problem without knowing the underlying issue is clinical depression. People with psychotic depression suffer from hallucinations or delusions.
Another possibility is that you feel bad not because of depression but because of an underlying medical condition that you aren’t aware of, such as a vitamin deficiency or hormone imbalance. Even heart disease and dementia have been linked with symptoms of depression. All this points to the importance of seeing your doctor if you’re not feeling like yourself for more than a few days at a time.
For further reading, see these University Health News posts:
- “How to Fight Depression“
- “8 Natural Dopamine Boosters to Overcome Depression“
- “How Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Can Drive Mood Swings“
Originally published in May 2016 and updated.