Depression affects roughly 10 percent of U.S. adults at some point in their lives. There are several distinct types of clinical depression or depressive disorders that can be diagnosed and treated, as well as a short-term type known as situational depression.
There is a significant difference between situational depression and clinical depression. Clinical depression can be chronic and can recur for years, while situational depression is usually shorter, more intense, and tied to a particular event such as a major life change, illness or trauma, the death of a loved one, a divorce or the loss of a job.
Situational and clinical depression are similar but not the same. Recognizing the differences between these types of depression is the first step toward getting help.
Situational depression is known medically as “adjustment disorder with depressed mood.” It often resolves in time and talking about the problem can ease the recovery process.
Clinical depression, known medically as “major depressive disorder,” can develop if the individual does not recover over a period of time.
Situational depression is a short-term, stress-related type of depression. It can develop after you experience a traumatic event or series of events. It’s also a type of adjustment disorder. It can make it hard for you to adjust to your everyday life following a traumatic event. It’s also known as reactive depression.
Symptoms of situational depression vary from person to person. Situational depression can magnify the intensity of stressful life events. This stress can cause severe disruption to your daily life.
Five common symptoms of situational depression are:
Situational depression often improves after enough time passes after the stressful event. You may notice your mood improve and things start to look up.
Most people feel sad or low at some point in their lives. Clinical depression has a more severe impact. It’s marked by a depressed mood most of the day, sometimes particularly in the morning, and a loss of interest in normal activities and relationships — symptoms that are present every day for at least two weeks.
It is also known as major depression or major depressive disorder. It is severe enough to interfere with daily function. Disturbances in levels of certain chemicals — known as neurotransmitters — may be to blame.
However, other factors are likely to play a role, for example:
Depression can also alter a person’s thought processes and bodily functions.
Five common symptoms of clinical depression are:
Feeling sad is a normal reaction to loss, life’s struggles, or injured self-esteem. But when these feelings become overwhelming, cause physical symptoms, and last for extended periods of time, they can keep you from leading a normal, active life.
That’s when it’s time to seek medical help.
Your regular doctor is a good place to start. They can test you for depression and help manage your symptoms. If your depression goes untreated, it may get worse and last for months, even years.
Recognizing the symptoms is key. Unfortunately, more than half the people who have depression never get it diagnosed or treated.
Once you have had an episode of depression, you are at high risk of having another. The best way to prevent another episode of depression is to be aware of the triggers or causes and to continue taking any prescribed medication to avoid relapse. It is also important to know what the symptoms of depression are and to talk with your doctor early if you have any of these symptoms.
Depression symptoms, even if severe, usually improve with psychological counseling, antidepressant medications or a combination of the two.
Medications and psychotherapy are effective for most people with depression. Your primary care doctor or psychiatrist can prescribe medications to relieve symptoms. Additionally, many people with depression also benefit from seeing a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional.