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 Clinical Depression: Or just a low mood? 

Clinical Depression: An overview 

clinical depressionWhat is clinical depression? Whenever we don't feel particularly happy, does not mean that we are “clinically depressed". More frequently, we're responding to sad events, fatigue, or unhappy thoughts, rather then any form of depression. The liberal use of this term confuses a perfectly normal mood swing from the psychiatric syndromes of depression. All of us experience sad thoughts, dejection, and other life experiences which put us in a relatively low mood, but only a limited number experience true clinical depression. 

Sad thoughts and normal dejection is seldom severe enough to effect daily functioning to a significant degree or persist for a long time.  Down-turns in mood can even be beneficial on occasion. Time spent contemplating our life and experiences can lead us to explore our inner selves, our true value's, and our way of life, and we may often emerge with a sense of greater strength, clarity and resolve.  Clinical depression on the other hand has no redeeming characteristics.  It brings about severe long-lasting impairment in our daily functioning.  Individuals suffering from clinical depression may have an incredibly difficult time carrying on even the most minor of life’s duties and responsibilities. 


Clinical Depression: How common is it?

Recent estimates have concluded that between 5% and 10% of adults in the United States suffer from a severe unipolar pattern (depression without mania) of clinical depression in any given year, while another 3% to 5% suffer from milder forms of depression.  These prevalence rates have been found to be similar in England, Canada, and many other countries throughout the world.  Approximately 17% of all adults worldwide may experience an episode of severe clinical depression at some point in their lives.  A worldwide research project has suggested that the risk of experiencing clinical depression has steadily risen since about 1915.  Although it may begin at any age, the average age of onset is now 27 in the United States, and has dropped with each successive generation. 

The majority of studies in most countries have found that women are at least twice as likely as men to experience episodes of severe unipolar clinical depression. Some studies have found that as many as 26% of women may have an episode of depression sometime in their lives, compared with approximately 12% for men.  Among children, the prevalence of clinical depression is similar for both girls and boys. 

These prevalence rates seem to hold constant among the various socioeconomic classes.  Also, there have been found to be few differences among the different ethnic groups. In the United States however, middle-aged white Americans have slightly higher rates than middle-aged African-Americans, but the rates for younger and older adults are approximately the same in both populations.  Approximately two thirds of people with clinical depression recover within four to six months, some with and some without treatment. However, among these individuals, most have been found to have at least one recurrent episode of clinical depression at a later point in their lives.

Information Adapted from Ronald J. Comer’s Abnormal Psychology

Additional information and webpage by Paul Susic  MA Licensed Psychologist   Ph.D. Candidate  (Health and Geriatric Psychologist)  

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