Difference between clinical depression and being depressed

There is a huge difference between clinical depression and being depressed. Everyone will experience depression at some point in their life, whether it is due to the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or the termination of a relationship. These are all normal life events that cause people to feel sad, or depressed. With this type of depression, it is usually possible to “feel better” by doing one of the things friends often suggest such as going out with friends, taking time for yourself, or going someplace special – basically treating yourself to something that makes you happy. The difference between someone who is depressed because of a life event or stress and one who has a depressive disorder is that these tricks will not “cure” true depression.

Types of Depression

There are three basic types of medical depression; major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder.

  • Major Depression – This type of disorder is also known as clinical depression and major depressive disorder. It can cause emotional, mental, and physical symptoms. It is a chronic illness that must be treated with medication and psychotherapy.
  • Dysthymia – This is a milder form of depression that usually lasts no more than a few years. The symptoms are much the same as those found in patients with major depression, but are usually less severe. Medication is typically used to treat this type of depression, although psychotherapy may also be utilized.
  • Bipolar Disorder – This may also be called manic-depressive illness. It is a disorder of the brain that causes dramatic shifts in energy levels, mood, and ability to function. Symptoms tend to manifest by age 25 and may seem unrelated at first. Although there is no cure for the illness, medications can make the disease more manageable.


Unfortunately, the various forms of medical depression are not widely understood or accepted by the general public. Because of this, it is very important that patients who have been diagnosed with a depressive disorder find a good support network. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance is a good starting point for many patients.

As a mental health professional, you are in a position to help ensure there are support programs available in your community. Contact local health and mental health facilities to determine if there are active support groups in the area and if not work with others in the field to start groups in the surrounding areas. Ideally, people suffering from a depressive disorder would be able to talk to others in similar situations (a men’s group, a group for women, a group for teens and so on). However, a general group would be sufficient and is far better than having no active support network available.

Do you find there is still a stigma attached to a diagnosis of depression? What have you found helps people move past their diagnosis and become more comfortable with their treatment?


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