Clinical Depression

October 7, 2020
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Clinical Depression: What You Need to Know

The symptoms of depression can range from mild to severe, short-term to long-term. When the symptoms are severe, long-lasting, and professional treatment is no longer optional, we refer to their depression as clinical depression. The two main types of clinical depression are major depressive disorder (unipolar depression) and the depressive phase of bipolar.

What are the Symptoms of Clinical Depression

Symptoms of depression, as well as the severity of the symptoms, can vary from person to person.

Major Depression

A person with major depression will often experience some or all of the symptoms below:

  • Struggling with concentration or focus
  • No longer enjoying normally enjoyable activities
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Feeling tired, fatigued, or low-energy
  • Unable to make decisions, or making poor decisions
  • Changes in appetite, weight gain, or weight loss
  • Feeling empty, having no feelings, or feelings of sadness
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Physical pain such as stomach upset, headaches, or body aches
  • Feeling slow
  • Feeling agitated
  • Thinking excessively about death or dying
  • Planning or attempting suicide

The most severe form of major depression is psychotic depression which may manifest with delusions or hallucinations, often about death or severe illnesses.

What to do if Someone is at Risk for Suicide

If you, or someone you love are struggling with suicidal thoughts you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The hotline is open 24/7, and you can talk to a trained counselor for free.

If you believe someone is at risk for suicide, please call 911, remove any weapons or medications, talk to the person without judgment, and stay with them until professional help arrives.

Depressive Phase of Bipolar Disorder

A person with bipolar disorder will have severe mood swings alternating between depression and mania, a very elevated mood. During the depressive phase, the symptoms will be similar to those of major depression, and during the manic phase, a person may exhibit the symptoms below:

  • Sleeplessness
  • More energy
  • Grandiose ideas
  • Impulsivity
  • Increased activity
  • Poor judgment
  • Racing thoughts
  • Irritability
  • Talking very fast
  • Hypersexual behavior

Other Types of Depression

There are some types of depression that are not considered part of clinical depression, since they are caused by hormonal or situational changes.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is depression brought on by a certain time of the year, such as dark winter months.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), not to be confused with PMS symptoms, is when a person experiences intense, persistent depression before the onset of their period.

Postpartum Depression happens after a person gives birth. Most mothers experience stress and anxiety the first few weeks following the birth of a baby, but if these feelings are severe and persisting the person should be screened for postpartum depression.

Dysthymia (Persistent depressive disorder) is a depressive episode that lasts for two or more years. Can sometimes alternate with major depression.

Download The Depression Fact Sheet


Treating Depression

There are several approaches that can be used when treating clinical depression, and usually a combination of treatments will give the best results.


In psychotherapy, or talk therapy, you work with a therapist to talk through your experiences, feelings, and how you see the world. The purpose of psychotherapy is to find underlying causes, triggers, and coping strategies. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has also been shown to be very effective in treating depression.

St.John’s Wort

St.John’s wort is not approved by the FDA for treatment of depression, and since it can affect certain medications and worsen symptoms in certain depressive disorders, it is very important to only take St. John’s wort under the supervision of a doctor.


Clinical depression may be treated with antidepressants. Your doctor will work with you to find the best medication to treat your clinical depression.

It is important to follow up closely with the doctor that prescribed your medication as antidepressants can sometimes make symptoms worse. You will need follow-up especially during the first few weeks of a new medication, or when changing dosage.

Do not stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor first. Also talk to your doctor about your medication if you become pregnant.

It is important to note that children and teens may have severe side effects when taking antidepressants, including suicidal ideation. Adults may also have a higher risk of suicide attempts while on SSRIs.

In-Patient Treatment

If you have severe symptoms and are at risk of hurting yourself or others, your doctor may consider treating your depression in an inpatient, or in an outpatient program, in a mental health care facility.

What Are Some Other Things You Can Do To Help Clinical Depression?

While clinical depression requires the care of a doctor, there are things you can do on your own to help yourself cope better with your depression.

Physical exercise releases mood-boosting chemicals in your body, called endorphins, and research has shown that exercise may improve symptoms of depression.

Creative outlets is another thing that might help you cope with your depression. Although many find it difficult to engage in hobbies they once enjoyed, doing creative activities such as crafts, painting, or gardening, may help to express how you are feeling and boost feelings of wellbeing.

Lastly, avoid isolation. Even though it is easy to become isolated when you are feeling depressed, it’s important to remember that supportive relationships are even more important for your wellbeing when you are suffering from depression.

How Can We Help?

If you, or someone you love have been diagnosed with major depression, it’s helpful to know that although depression cannot be cured, there are many ways to treat symptoms enough that patients can live happy and fulfilling lives despite their diagnosis.