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The Differences Between Situational and Clinical Depression

A woman at home struggling with her clinical depression.
Learn the difference between situational and clinical depression.

There are times when it takes all your willpower to swallow your feelings of dread and get out of bed in the morning. Some days, that hopelessness actually wins. Everyone experiences depression from time to time, but is what you’re experiencing normal?

Major depressive disorder is a serious condition that impacts over 16 million adults in the United States. Not every depressive episode indicates clinical depression, though. In fact, some forms of depression are temporary reactions to loss or some other negative life event. In order to maintain your mental health, it’s necessary to understand the differences between situational depression and clinical depression.

What is Situational Depression?

Situational depression (often referred to simply depression), is when you feel sad or a sense of hopelessness. It’s important to remember that situational depression is completely normal to experience. Most of the time, this type of depression is triggered by a major life change, such as:

• The passing of a loved one
• The loss of a job
• A traumatic event
• A major breakup or divorce
• You or a loved one having a serious illness

Situational depression can feel like a shock to the system, but symptoms typically subside after a few weeks. This time is simply your mind and body adjusting to what you’re feeling and experiencing. However, if these feelings last for an extended period of time, it’s important that you consult a doctor about clinical depression.

What is Clinical Depression?

Clinical depression (also referred to as major depressive disorder), triggers similar symptoms as situational depression. The difference is that these symptoms are so severe they stop you from functioning in your daily life. If your situational depression is left untreated, there’s a chance it can evolve into clinical depression.

To be diagnosed with clinical depression, you need to have at least five of the following symptoms for more than two weeks:

• Trouble falling or staying asleep
• No longer feeling pleasure with your hobbies or passions
• Unstable mood and irritability
• Feeling unmotivated and lethargic
• Suicidal thoughts or ideation
• Difficulty making decisions and intense self-doubt
• Drastic shifts in your body weight

What Causes Clinical Depression?

Clinical depression is usually caused by a major life event, your genetics or substance abuse. When you abuse drugs or alcohol, for example, your substance use triggers a rush of dopamine to the brain to help you feel euphoric. As you continue to drink and get high, your brain becomes so accustomed to these increased neurotransmitter levels that it requires more dopamine to function normally.

Unfortunately, coming off a substance abuse high can trigger severe depressive episodes. In some cases, this can lead to clinical depression, requiring a dual diagnosis treatment approach to address both the depression symptoms and addiction.

Telling the Difference Between Situational and Clinical Depression

Since clinical depression and situational depression share many of the same symptoms, how can you tell them apart? With situational depression, it’s common for people to find their own way out, given some time to heal. Mental health professionals recommend healthy changes to your lifestyle, which can help you overcome situational depression. Some of these behaviors include:

Eating healthy foods
• Participating in a new hobby
• Keeping a consistent sleep schedule
• Sharing your feelings with family and friends
• Getting regular exercise

Usually, clinical depression leads to physical symptoms like insomnia and weight changes that situational depression does not. Clinical depression can also cause hallucinations and delusions. If you start to experience physical symptoms like these, it’s important that you reach out to your doctor as soon as possible.

Unlike situational depression, treatment for clinical depression takes a much more tailored focus. If you’re suffering from clinical depression, it’s important to seek professional help. For example, The Raleigh House offers outpatient mental health treatment that offers a personalized approach to treating your depression.

Discover Expert Depression Treatment at The Raleigh House

If you’re suffering from clinical depression, you don’t have to go through it alone. At The Raleigh House, we can help you overcome those feelings of helplessness, guilt and sadness. We know that clinical depression can convince you that you’re stuck in a sea of negative emotions. However, our holistic east to west approach to treatment that combines both evidence-based treatments and experiential therapies can help you find ways to manage your depression and keep it from taking over your life.

Contact us today to discover how we can help you break free from clinical depression.

Call Now: 720-891-4657

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