Symptoms and Signs of Clinical Depression

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 8/6/2021

Doctor's Notes on Clinical Depression

Clinical depression describes feelings of sadness and other symptoms that last for more than a couple of weeks in a row and make it hard to get through the day. The term clinical depression is usually used to distinguish the illness of depression from less intense feelings of sadness, gloom, or the blues. There are several different types of clinical depression including major depression, dysthymia, bipolar disorder, seasonal depression (seasonal affective disorder, or SAD), and psychotic depression.

Symptoms of clinical depression include depressed mood along with feeling sad or blue, crying spells, loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities, significant appetite changes, significant weight changes, change in sleep patterns, agitation, irritability, fatigue or loss of energy, a tendency to isolate from friends and family, trouble concentrating, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, or thoughts of death or suicide.

Children with depression may also experience other symptoms including poor school performance, persistent boredom, frequent complaints of physical symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches, and in teens, more risk-taking behaviors and/or showing less concern for their own safety.

In the elderly, additional symptoms of depression may include diminished ability to think or concentrate, unexplained physical complaints (for example, abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, or muscle aches), or memory impairment (occurs in about 10% of those with severe depression).

What Is the Treatment for Clinical Depression?

Treatment for depression depends on the type of depressive disorder that is present as well as its severity. Certain treatments such as electroconvulsive therapy are reserved for severe cases that do not respond well to antidepressant medications. Typical treatments may include one or a combination of the following:

  • Psychotherapy or counseling, including individual or group therapy as well as family therapy
  • Lifestyle changes to promote good nutrition, sufficient sleep, and regular exercise
  • Antidepressant medications
  • Phototherapy
  • Electroconvulsive therapy
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation
  • Treatment of any concurrent illnesses or conditions

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.