Depression is characterized by low mood, loss of energy, and lack of enjoyment that affects daily functioning. If someone is experiencing depressive symptoms related to a recent event or experience, this depression may be situational and potentially temporary. However, many individuals experience depression that is more lasting and less inclined to resolve itself by changing habits or thinking more positively. This clinical depression impacts daily functioning for long or continuous periods of time and typically requires professional intervention and assistance to find a way to balance it with life.
Clinical depression is not a bad mood and someone with this diagnosis cannot “snap out of it.” People with clinical depression do not suffer from a lack of will power to be happy, but rather have imbalanced chemical properties in their brain that impact their mood. The difference between experiencing depressive symptoms and being diagnosed with depression is that the first is a feeling while the latter is a medical condition. And like any medical condition, there are professional health interventions that can be useful in managing clinical depression.
Many people struggling with depression believe that they should be able to pull themselves out of this experience, but that is not the case. Longstanding, clinical depression benefits most from therapeutic services and oftentimes, medication. In therapy, clinical depression is met with skills, education, and interventions to help the individual learn about and understand their depression. These services go beyond “work out to boost your mood,” “get out of the house when you feel sad,” and “self-care” and instead look at the underlying currents and experiences connected with depression. In many cases, medication is also helpful as it regulates chemicals in the brain to create balance and improve mood regulation.
Unfortunately, a stigma continues to exist around taking medication for depression. Clinical depression is a medical condition - much like diabetes, ulcerative colitis, or migraines. Individuals with these diagnoses who use medication to manage these conditions often find the quality of their life improves and they feel more capable and more confident. There is no shame or stigma in taking medication for these conditions, and people with clinical depression who take medication deserve to be met with the same kind of understanding and acceptance.
If you or someone you love are experiencing sustained low mood, loss of enjoyment, fatigue and low energy, difficulty concentrating, social withdrawal, feelings of hopelessness or helplessness, or changes in appetite, it is worth exploring if depression is at the root of that experience. And if you or someone you love has been diagnosed with depression, please understand this: