Section Author: Dan Strunk (Ohio State University)
Original Section Author 2008-2010: Adele Hayes (University of Delaware)
Clinical depression is more than just feeling blue or down. People who are clinically depressed feel down, sad, and hopeless most of the time, for weeks on end. They often become disinterested in things they used to enjoy. In addition to feeling low all the time, those suffering from depression often have trouble sleeping or eating. They find that they have trouble with their thinking; they may not be able to concentrate well enough to read or even watch television. Those who are depressed often spend a lot of time thinking about death, or thinking that they would be better off dead. The symptoms of depression can be similar to those experienced by someone who is grieving the death of a loved one. However, in depression, these feelings can arise without such a loss, and they last much longer than normal grief.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder is given when five or more of the following symptoms have been present during a consecutive two-week period:
- Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities most of the day, nearly every day.
- Significant weight loss when not dieting or a decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
- Difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much nearly every day.
- Noticeably physically agitated or slowed down, as observed by others nearly every day.
- Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt nearly every day.
- Diminished ability to concentrate or make decisions nearly every day.
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
- Behavior Therapy/Behavioral Activation (strong research support)
- Cognitive Therapy (strong research support)
- Cognitive Behavioral Analysis System of Psychotherapy (strong research support)
- Interpersonal Therapy (strong research support)
- Problem-Solving Therapy (strong research support)
- Self-Management/Self-Control Therapy (strong research support)
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (modest research support)
- Behavioral Couple Therapy (modest research support)
- Emotion-Focused Therapy (Process-Experiential) (modest research support)
- Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (modest research support)
- Reminiscence/Life Review Therapy (modest research support)
- Self-System Therapy (modest research support)
- Short-Term Psychodynamic Therapy (modest research support)
For more information on depression and its treatment, please visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.
Note: Other psychological treatments may also be effective in treating Depression, but they have not been evaluated with the same scientific rigor as the treatments above. Many medications may also be helpful for depression, but we do not cover medications in this website. Of course, we recommend a consultation with a mental health professional for an accurate diagnosis and discussion of various treatment options. When you meet with a professional, be sure to work together to establish clear treatment goals and to monitor progress toward those goals. Feel free to print this information and take it with you to discuss your treatment plan with your therapist.