Recognizing Low-Grade Depression and What To Do About It


Is there a state of being between ordinary sadness and a diagnosis of clinical depression?

According to Shelley Carson, Ph.D., and Jefferson Prince, M.D., there is. They refer to this state of subclinical depression as "almost depression."

Almost Depressed

As many as 12 million people in the U.S. may struggle with low-grade symptoms of depression that are not intense enough to qualify for a clinical depression diagnosis. The individual does not have a deep sense of hopelessness or thoughts of death or suicide, but he or she is living in a less-than-happy state of subclinical depression.

People who are almost depressed often report dealing with drooping marriage or relationship satisfaction, lower job satisfaction, feeling like they have less control over their lives, increased anxiety and a diminished sense of well-being.

You may be "almost depressed" if:

  • You are easily irritated and are making mountains out of molehills.
  • You are not enjoying activities you used to think of as fun.
  • You feel as if you are "going through the motions," and every day seems like a struggle.
  • You are avoiding social activities.
  • You feel highly stressed and it seems you will never catch up and get everything done.

While none of these things may seem overwhelmingly serious, about 75 percent of people with a low-grade depression end up clinically depressed if their "almost depressed" issues are left unaddressed.

Countering 'Almost Depression'

The most effective ways to counter subclinical depression are:

  1. Managing your stress levels on a day-to-day basis.
  2. Getting sufficient exercise.
  3. Participating in activities you have enjoyed in the past.
  4. Stopping critical self thoughts and practicing more positive self-talk.
  5. Examining how you are interpreting events.
  6. Expanding your social support network.
  7. Adopting the practice of mindfulness: being attentive in the present moment.
  8. Using creative pursuits to express negative feelings (e.g., writing, singing or painting).
  9. Exercising excellent self-care, such as eating well and getting plenty of sleep.

If you feel that you or a family member have "almost depression” and nothing you do seems to make a difference, you may want to make an appointment with your doctor to rule out any health problems. If there are no health issues, seeing a mental health professional, either in person or online, may be your best bet for resolving the issues and feeling better.

Sources: Shelley Carson, Ph.D., and Jefferson Prince, M.D., Almost Depressed: Is My (or My Loved One’s) Unhappiness A Problem? Hazelden, 2013.;


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