Understanding the Difference Between Clinical Depression and Emotional Slump

By Susan Navarez

Owing to celebrities like Michelle Williams, Kristen Bell, and Demi Lovato who have openly
shared their experiences with depression, the latter is nowadays being discussed more openly
than ever before. Yet, due to the stigma attached to mental illnesses, people are still scared of
talking about the “issue” and do not know how to differentiate between the symptoms of a
depression and a temporary emotional slump.
Given below are a few ways which can help one distinguish between a temporary depressive
state and a form of this.

Understanding depression

The first thing that people need to understand is that depression is much more than an
extended phase of intense sadness. According to Dr. Daniel G. Amen, an author and
psychiatrist, depression, manifests as an outcome of biological issues in the brain and is an
extremely complex illness with a set of challenging symptoms.
Dr. Brain Cassmassi, a psychiatrist and mental health consultant in Los Angles, shared that in
order for an individual to be diagnosed with clinical depression, they need to meet certain
criteria after undergoing a bout of sadness exceeding two weeks, for most part of the day, or
every day. Some of these criteria include changes in appetite, changes in sleep pattern, fatigue,
a sense of guilt or worthlessness, and a sense of apathy. In some cases, the individual may
also be suicidal.

Clinical depression Vs temporary depression

According to Dr. Barbara Nosal, Ph. D., therapist, and chief clinical officer at Newport Academy,
in the case of clinical depression, at least five symptoms typically persist for more than two
weeks. On the other hand, if an individual is suffering from temporary depression, only two
depressive symptoms would be present. Also, if an individual can still find enjoyment or
pleasure in things and hobbies that made them happy in the past, it is not a sign of clinical
depression. In the case of a clinical depression, it can be extremely challenging to derive
enjoyment out of any kind of activity. Additionally, the afflicted individual also battles feelings of
worthlessness or guilt.
Temporary episodes of depression usually have triggers that are easier to spot. Dr. Cassmassi
elaborated that major episodes of depression, on the other hand, can occur without an easily
identifiable trigger, especially for individuals with a history of repeated bouts of the mental
disorder. Dr. Nosal shared that triggers such as social isolation, trauma as a result of abuse,
major life changes, or conflicts in personal relationships can trigger clinical depression.
Dr. Cassmassi also stated that while passing thoughts of suicide are common to both situational
and clinical depression, if anyone has more defined thoughts of suicide, it is a major sign of
clinical depression that needs immediate medical intervention.

Treating clinical depression

Clinical depression can be treated with a combination of medicines and certain
psychotherapies. The most effective therapies designed to help patients with clinical depression
include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), motivational
enhancement therapy (MET), and attachment-based family therapy (ABFT).
CBT helps patients identify self-defeating thoughts and judgments that make life more
challenging. The therapy focuses on teaching the patient to think differently so that the negative
thought process can be broken and replaced by a more positive one. DBT offers specific skills
like emotional regulation and mindfulness, while MET helps in resolving any kind of initial
resistance to treatment. ABFT, which is especially designed for adolescent depression, repairs
the parent-child relationship and the family system. Dr. Cassmassi said that therapy is a good
option even if someone is going through short-term depression. With the help of a skilled
therapist, an individual going through temporary depression can learn to handle the next
emotional down-period or the next stressful event in a much better manner and prevent the
episode from turning into a full-blown clinical depression.

Seeking help for depression

Depression affects more than 7.5 percent Americans, aged 12 years and above, according to
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With the help of a comprehensive
depression treatment plan, comprising therapies, medications or both, clinical depression can
be effectively managed.

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