Clinical Depression: Definition, Types, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Clinical depression is the presence of depressive symptoms that increase the level of major depressive disorder, a mental illness. Clinical depression defines the state in which the symptoms of depression must be treated by a doctor, characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness or lack of interest in external stimuli. Unipolar connotes a difference between major depression and bipolar depression, which refers to a state oscillating between depression and mania. In contrast, unipolar depression focuses only on the “lows” or negative emotions and symptoms that you may have experienced.

Fortunately, clinical depression is well understood in the medical community and is often easily treatable with a combination of medication and talk therapy.

The causes of clinical depression are not explicitly defined; however, as with the causes of depression in general, the causes of clinical depression are believed to be a combination of genetic, biological, and environmental factors.

Causes of clinical depression

It is not known exactly what causes depression, as with many mental disorders, a variety of factors can be involved, such as:

  • Biological Differences: People with clinical depression appear to have physical changes in their brains. The significance of these changes is still uncertain, but it may eventually help identify the causes.
  • Brain Chemistry: Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that likely play a role in depression; recent research indicates changes in the function and effect of these neurotransmitters and how they interact with the neurocircuits involved in maintaining the Stability of mood can play an important role in depression and its treatment.
  • Hormones: Changes in the body’s hormone balance can be involved in causing or triggering depression. Hormonal changes can occur during pregnancy and the weeks or months after delivery (postpartum) and from thyroid problems, menopause, or other conditions.
  • Inherited traits: Depression is more common in people whose blood relatives also have this condition. Researchers are trying to find genes that may be involved in depression.

Symptoms of clinical depression

There can be several contributing factors related to the cause of depression. These usually manifest in coping behaviors and reactions to how you feel; depending on the type of depression, you may experience various symptoms.

  • Negative thinking with the inability to see positive solutions.
  • Agitation.
  • Restlessness.
  • Inability to focus
  • You are snatching your loved ones.
  • Irritability.
  • I am withdrawing from loved ones and regular activities.
  • Increase in sleep.
  • Exhaustion and lethargy.
  • Morbid, suicidal thoughts.
  • Weight loss or gain.

For many people with depression, the symptoms are often severe enough to cause noticeable problems with everyday activities, such as work, school, social activities, or relationships with others. Some people may generally feel miserable without really knowing why.

Clinical Depression

Symptoms of depression in children and adolescents

The common signs and symptoms of depression in children and teens are similar to those in adults, but there may be some differences.

  • In younger children, symptoms of depression can include sadness, irritability, clinging, worry, aches and pains, refusing to go to school, or being underweight.
  • In adolescents, symptoms may include sadness, irritability, feeling negative and worthless, anger, poor performance or poor school attendance, feeling misunderstood and extremely sensitive, using recreational drugs or alcohol, eating or sleeping too much, self-harm, and loss of interest in everyday activities and avoiding social interaction.

Symptoms of depression in older adults

Depression is not a normal part of aging, and it should never be taken lightly. Unfortunately, depression is often undiagnosed and untreated in older adults, who may feel reluctant to seek help. Symptoms of depression may be different or less evident in older adults, such as:

  • Memory difficulties or personality changes.
  • Physical aches or pain.
  • Fatigue, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, or loss of interest in sex are not caused by a medical condition or medication.
  • You often want to stay home rather than go out to socialize or do new things.
  • Suicidal thoughts or feelings, especially in older men.

Types of clinical depression

You may be surprised to learn that many different types of clinical or major depressive disorder can affect you, making everyday life difficult. Each class often has other causes, but they usually involve the same disinterest in activities you once loved and a general sense of melancholy. These are divided into subtypes called specifiers that determine how long the diagnosis of depression lasts and the defining characteristic of each type.

Seasonal affective disorder

It is classified as a disease caused directly by the time of year; it occurs most often in the winter months when sunlight is not as available. The National Institute of Mental Health states that phototherapy can be treated effectively, but almost half of people do not improve with just phototherapy; counseling and medications are also recommended. Read more about the effective seasonal disorder.

Psychotic depression

It often develops if you have been hallucinating or believe delusions that are not consistent with reality; this can be caused by a traumatic event or if you have already had a form of depression in the past. Learn a little more about psychotic depression.

Postpartum depression

It is common among new mothers who experience hormonal changes after giving birth; the stress of raising a new child and changes in their body can affect their mood. Additionally, the Canadian Mental Health Association states that adopting parents may also suffer from some of the symptoms of postpartum depression.

Melancholic depression

People with this type of depression often exhibit the most typical signs of depression, including weight loss and less interest in activities they once loved; they may experience a depressed mood similar to losing someone they love or intense pain.  Here you find more about melancholic depression.

Atypical depression

Often atypical depression is directly related to their mood and interactions with others. Symptoms include hypersomnia, heavy limbs, and social anxiety.

Catatonic depression

It is one to which you can experience motor and behavioral problems, maybe immobilized or have involuntary movements. According to the National Institute of Health at the US National Library of Medicine, it is a psychotic disorder that presents a significant risk to the patient’s well-being and an additional barrier to treating the underlying disease. The signs and symptoms of catatonia severely interfere with essential activities of daily living. Read more about catatonic depression.

Treatment of clinical depression

There are several treatment methods for clinical or major depressive disorder; these approaches include psychotherapy, antidepressant medications, electroconvulsive treatment, and other somatic therapies. However, electroconvulsive treatment is generally avoided, except in extreme circumstances, in favor of psychotherapy and antidepressants. A medical psychiatrist can provide psychotherapy services and prescribe antidepressants, which differ for each person based on individual needs.

If you experience any of the symptoms or are related to clinical depression disorder, you should seek help from a medical professional. Fortunately, major depressive disorder has become less stigmatized in recent years, there is a lot of in-depth information available on depression, and your chosen medical professional is likely to discuss it with you so that you can choose the best treatment for your lifestyle.

You should feel like you have options; most likely, you don’t have to be weighed down by this illness and the negativity that often comes with symptoms of depression. Talking with a counselor and medical professional is the first step to living a happier and more fulfilling life.


Primary care providers often begin treatment by prescribing antidepressant medications.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors:  These antidepressants are frequently prescribed as they work by helping to inhibit the breakdown of serotonin in the brain, resulting in higher amounts of this neurotransmitter.

Serotonin is a brain chemical believed to be responsible for mood; it can help improve mood and produce healthy sleep patterns. People often have low levels of serotonin. Inhibitors can relieve symptoms by increasing the amount of serotonin available in the brain.

Selective inhibitors include drugs known as fluoxetine (Prozac) and citalopram (Celexa). They have a relatively low incidence of side effects that most people tolerate well.

Tricyclic antidepressants and atypical antidepressants can be used when other drugs have not helped; they can cause various side effects, including weight gain and drowsiness.

Note: Some medications used to treat clinical depression are not safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider if you become pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or breastfeed your child.


Psychotherapy, also known as psychological therapy or talk therapy, may be an effective treatment for people with clinical depression; it is to meet regularly with a therapist to discuss your condition and related issues. Psychotherapy can help you:

  • I am adjusting to a crisis or other stressful event.
  • Replace negative beliefs and behaviors with positive and healthy ones.
  • Improve your communication skills.
  • Find better ways to face challenges and solve problems.
  • Increase your self-esteem.
  • Regain a sense of satisfaction and control in your life.

Your healthcare provider may also recommend other types of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or interpersonal therapy. Another possible treatment is group therapy, which allows you to share your feelings with people who can relate to what is happening.

Lifestyle changes from clinical depression

In addition to taking medicine and participating in therapy, you can help improve your symptoms by changing your daily habits.

Eat Right:  Consider eating foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon; foods rich in B vitamins, such as beans and whole grains, have also been shown to help some people. Magnesium has also been linked to fighting symptoms; it is found in nuts, seeds, and yogurt.

Avoid alcohol and certain processed foods:  It is beneficial to avoid alcohol since it is a nervous system depressant that can worsen your symptoms; in addition, specific refined, processed, and fried foods contain omega-6 fatty acids, which can contribute to the major depressive disorder.

Get a lot of exercise:  Although clinical depression can make you feel exhausted, it is essential to be physically active, so it is highly recommended to exercise, especially outdoors and in moderate sunlight; it can improve your mood and make you feel better.

Get a good night’s sleep: It is vital to sleep at least 6 to 8 hours a night; talk to your doctor if you have trouble sleeping.

Risk factors for clinical depression

Depression often begins in the teens, 20s, or 30s, but it can occur at any age, more women than men are diagnosed with depression, but this is partly because women are more likely to seek and get treatment.

Factors that appear to increase the risk of developing or triggering depression include:

  • Certain personality traits include low self-esteem and being overly dependent, self-critical, or pessimistic.
  • Traumatic or stressful events, such as physical or sexual abuse, the death or loss of a loved one, a complicated relationship, or financial problems.
  • Blood relatives with a history of depression, bipolar disorder, alcoholism, or suicide.
  • It is being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, or having variations in developing genital organs that are not male or female (intersex) in a supportive situation.
  • History of other mental health disorders, such as anxiety, eating, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Alcohol or recreational drug abuse.
  • Severe or chronic illnesses, including cancer, stroke, chronic pain, or heart disease.
  • Certain medications, such as some high blood pressure medications or sleeping pills (talk to your doctor before stopping any medicines.

Complications of clinical depression

Depression is a severe disorder that can wreak havoc on both you and your family, often getting worse if left untreated, resulting in emotional, behavioral, and health problems that affect all areas of your life.

Examples of complications associated with depression include:

  • Being overweight or obese can lead to heart disease and diabetes.
  • Pain or physical illness.
  • Alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Anxiety, panic disorder, or social phobia.
  • Family conflicts, relationship difficulties, and work or school problems.
  • Social isolation.
  • Suicidal feelings, suicide attempts, or suicide.
  • Self-mutilation, such as cutting.
  • Premature death from medical conditions.
Georgia Tarrant
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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.