clinical depression

Depression varies in severity. For some people, the feeling of sadness is mild and relatively fleeting. Others feel depressed day after day with no reprieve. More severe depression that does not let up is referred to as clinical depression, or major depressive disorder. Nearly 7 percent of Americans have clinical depression, making it one of the most common mental health issues.

To be diagnosed with clinical depression, you need to have a depressed mood or lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed, plus four or more of the following symptoms, for at least two weeks:

? Decrease or increase in appetite ? Weight loss or gain ? Trouble sleeping or getting too much sleep ? Agitation or restlessness ? A feeling of slowing down ? Fatigue or lack of energy ? Feelings of worthlessness or guilt ? Trouble thinking, concentrating, or making decisions ? Thoughts of death or suicide

Everyone experiences depression differently, but to qualify for a diagnosis of clinical depression, the symptoms must be significant enough to interfere with your day-to-day life. Clinical depression makes it more difficult to go to work or school, and interrupts your normal social activities. Some people experience sporadic episodes of clinical depression, while for others, the condition is more continuous and persistent.

Although clinical depression is a more severe form of depression, it does respond to treatments. The first step is to see a mental health professional for a diagnosis. During the evaluation, the doctor can rule out other conditions that can mimic clinical depression, including thyroid disorders or substance abuse.

Once clinical depression has been diagnosed, it can be treated with medications and talk therapy. Antidepressant drugs alter levels of brain chemicals that influence mood. These include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), and paroxetine (Paxil), and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) such as venlafaxine (Effexor) and duloxetine (Cymbalta). These medicines may be paired with psychotherapy, which teaches strategies to manage depression.

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