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Understanding the Different Forms of Depression

Throughout your life you will have moments of great happiness and moments of great unhappiness. Most of your time may be somewhere in the middle. Unfortunately, there may be periods where you seem to feel sad or depressed for a lot longer than usual.  You may even start to wonder if you are just sad or if you have a mental health disorder such as depression. Yes, there is a difference between being sad, mildly depressed and depressed. In fact, there are several emotions that can make you feel like you have major depression but are actually only temporary periods of sadness or milder forms of depressions that will resolve themselves over time. Knowing the difference between emotions and disorders can help you determine what type of help to seek.

Situational Depression

Most likely, you have already experienced situational depression, whether you realized it or not. Situational depression occurs after a negative life event, causing you to show signs similar to depression. Some of these events or situations can include divorce, loss of a job, death of a pet, or moving to a new location from a home that you loved.

Situational depression may resolve itself if you make efforts to get involved in positive activities. Exercise, support groups, visiting with people who lift your mood and seeing a therapist are all good examples of positive activities to help you with situational depression.

While this is considered a type of depression, it can act more like an emotion that will change as the situation does. When your situation gets better, your emotions may also improve.

Sadness

Sadness is an emotion and not a mental health disorder. Sadness is a temporary emotion that can subside and be alleviated at times. While you feel sadness about something, you also can feel happiness during this period too. For instance, when a loved one passes away, usually we experience sadness. However, while we reminisce about a loved one, sometimes even during the time of the funeral, we can find lighter moments.

Sadness comes and goes versus depression which lingers. Some reports even claim that sadness can be good for you by helping you improve your judgment, memory and even improve interactions you may have.

Reactive Depression

Reactive depression is a sub-category of depression but because it usually only lasts for six months, it is not considered as damaging as major depression. It can sometimes be called adjustment disorder. Reactive depression is feeling depressed after a major life event. This type of depression sounds very similar to sadness and situational depression. However, there are differences.

Reactive depression onset can happen up to three months after a life altering event. Symptoms may include tearfulness, anxiety, irritability, anger and withdrawal. These symptoms should resolve themselves even without the help of a therapist. It has been noted that working with a therapist can shorten the time you feel depressed.

Mild Depression

The symptoms of mild depression are similar to those above but can also include negative thinking, fatigue and feeling hopeless or helpless. Mild depression is diagnosed as a mental health disorder but you only need to present with one core symptoms (tired, sad, etc.) instead of four as with clinical depression. Even though mild depression can resolve itself over time, usually when life events improve, it can still interfere drastically with a person’s life.

Many people with mild depression do not realize they have depression. You may think you are tired for no reason, have aches and pains for no reason, or just have a sad personality. Even though this is more severe than sadness and situational or reactive depression, people with mild depression do not always need medication to help them get better. You can take steps to make sure mild depression does not turn into clinical depression by involving yourself in positive activities and surrounding yourself by positive influences.

Clinical Depression

Clinical depression is considered a major mood disorder. Symptoms include persistent crying, lack of sleep, lack of appetite, and thoughts of death or suicide. These feelings and behaviors do not go away on their own. They may start to interfere with your daily living and in worse cases, make you want to stay in bed and isolate. If you are feeling this way, you need to seek the help of a professional who is trained in the field of depression.

There are many causes for major depression. You may have family members with depression and their genetics have been passed on to you. A major traumatic event or medical issues like cancer can cause clinical depression. Even medical issues like diabetes can lead to depression if you don’t take steps to change. Furthermore, life circumstances and substance abuse are devious triggers for clinical depression.

Do not feel alone in your journey of recovery from major depression. There are over 16 million Americans diagnosed with clinical depression in each year. That number only represents adults with depression, men and women going through the same thing. There are also millions under the age of 18 who are suffering from depression, teens and even children.

There are many types of clinical depression such as postpartum depression, psychotic depression, seasonal affective disorder and bipolar disorder. Getting professional help for any of these types is essential to recovery.

Who Can Help?

It is possible to overcome depression. It is a realistic goal you can set with many types of professionals who specialize in the treatment of all depressive disorders. Reaching out to a psychologist is a good recommendation for a first step. Psychologists can give you a complete evaluation and help you determine additional treatments.

If you are not sure if your feelings are associated with sadness, mild depression, reactive depression, situational depression or clinical depression, it is important you reach out to someone. Even if you start by talking with your family doctor, they can steer you in the right direction. However, you should not rely solely on your family doctor. Seek professionals who have a lot of education and experience in the field of psychology, who specialize in depression so they work to help you overcome your issues involving your moods.

Depression, in any form, does not have to control you. You can live a long, happy, even joyous life if you take the proper steps to fight your depression. Whether it is temporary or long-term, you can win over your depression. Call someone today for help!

 


Chris Massman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Chris' training includes Family Systems Theory along with numerous other theories. She believes therapy is an art and chooses the theory she feels will most benefit the individual sitting in front of her. Her specialty lies is in the field of Chemical Dependency and Addictions. Chris is currently seeing individuals, couples and families. Chris is a Clinical member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists as well as the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. Chris has two locations including Tarzana and Agoura Hills, CA.