Clinical Depression

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To be diagnosed with clinical depression, a patient must show five or more of a specific list of symptoms nearly every day over a two week period.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association, is the guide used by mental health providers to diagnose mental illnesses. It is also the guide used by insurance companies to pay for treatment.

The DSM is updated every few years. The current DSM is titled DSM-5.

Diagnostic Criteria for Depression Diagnosis
DSM-5 states that, for a diagnosis of depression, the patient must experience at least five or more of the following signs and symptoms for essentially an entire day, every day of a two week period. These signs and symptoms must include either a depressed mood or a loss of interest and pleasure.

These signs and symptoms may include:

Depressed mood, including feeling sad, "empty" or tearful; (in children and teens, this can appear as constant irritability)

Significant loss of interest, or feeling no pleasure at all in activities;

Significant weight change, either increase or decrease, or loss or increase of appetite; (in children, failure to gain weight as expected)

Change in sleep patterns, including insomnia or increased need for sleep;

Change in physical behavior, with either slowed movements or restlessness;

Change in energy levels, with fatigue or loss of energy;

Change in self-esteem, with feelings of excessive or inappropriate guilt, or feelings of worthlessness;

Inability to concentrate, make decisions or think clearly;

Suicidal ideations, including recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts.

For the diagnosis of depression to be made, any of the symptoms above must have an impact on your daily living, causing problems with family relationships, friends, work or school.

What Living with Depression Means
Every year 5% to 8% of adults in the United States experience depression. Only half of these adults will receive treatment. Without treatment, episodes of depression become more frequent, last longer and are more serious.

Depression may occur only once in a person's life, or recur frequently. More than half of the people who experience depression once will have a second episode. Some people may have several episodes each year, and others will have continuous symptoms. Untreated episodes can last anywhere from a few months to a few years.

Clinical depression (also known as major depressive disorder, major depressive illness, major affective disorder, unipolar disorder) left untreated can be crippling.

It might also lead to suicide. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, and researchers believe that at least half of suicide deaths are the result of depression.

Depression is a treatable disorder, usually responding well to prescription antidepressants, psychotherapy or a combination of the two. It is important to promptly seek medical or mental health care if you are experiencing two or more of the symptoms listed above.

Sources: NAMI.org and Mayo Clinic

Image courtesy Rhoda Baer

 
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