Counseling and Clinical Depression

What is clinical depression?

Clinical depression is also known as Major Depressive Disorder, Depression or Unipolar Depression. It is a state of intense sadness, melancholia or despair that has advanced to the point of being disruptive to an individuals social functioning and/ or activities of daily living. It is called clinical depression because it is a clinical diagnosis that is not the same as what we say everyday, “I am feeling depressed.” Clinical depression is serious than normal depressed feelings. Clinical depression can lead to negative thinking that can easily trigger substance abuse in a bit to carry out self treatment to raise one’s mood. Severe depression can result to attempting or committing suicide.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Clinical Depression?

  • Intense feelings of overwhelming sadness and /or fear, or the seeming inability to feel emotions (emptiness)
  • Melancholia
  • Feelings of despair
  • Lacking motivation to do anything (feeling tired, sad, irritable, lazy, unmotivated and apathetic)
  • Decrease in interest or pleasure in all or almost all daily activities.
  • Change in appetite and marked weight gain or weight loss
  • Disturbed sleep pattern e.g. lack of sleep (insomnia) or excessive sleep (hypersomnia)
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day
  • Fatigue, mental or physical, also loss of energy
  • Intense feelings of guilt, nervousness, helplessness, hopelessness, worthlessness, isolation, loneliness and / or anxiety
  • Poor concentration, keeping focus or making decisions or a generalized slowing and obtunding of cognition, including memory.
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, desire to just “lie down and die” or stop “breathing”, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
  • Feelings and /or fear of being abandoned by those close to one.


How can you tell if you or someone else is depressed?

If for a period of two weeks or more one has been experiencing depressed mood, or anhedonia and any other five signs and symptoms from the list above, then one should suspect that they may be suffering from clinical depression. However, one should get in touch with their doctor or the UNON staff counselor for further assistance.

A word of caution here!!!  DO NOT DIAGNOSE YOURSELF or SOMEONE ELSE.

In addition Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ) is a two question questionnaire that may help you reflect back to your feelings over the past one month. Thus:

During the past month, have you frequently been bothered by:-

  • “Little interest or pleasure in doing things?”
  • “Feeling down, depressed or hopelessness?”


If you have answered either question positive, then take the following (SALSA) questionnaire. A positive result is a positive response in one of the above two questions and two of the answers below positive:

  • Sleep disturbance nearly every day for the last 2 weeks?
  • Have you experienced little interest or pleasure in doing things nearly every day for the last 2 weeks (Anhedonia)?
  • Have you experienced Low Self esteem nearly every day for the last 2 weeks?
  • Have you experienced decreased Appetite nearly every day for the last 2 weeks?"

What causes Clinical Depression?

  • Genetic Predisposition, about 40 – 70 % inheritable
  • Neurological – recent researches tend to suggest that there is a link between depression and neuron-genesis of the hippocampus (center for mood and memory in the brain).
  • Some medical conditions e.g. cardiovascular disease, hepatitis, hypothyroidism etc.
  • Certain prescription drugs e.g. hormonal contraception methods and steroids
  • Dietary – reduced levels of omega-3 fatty acids in intensively farmed food and processed foods has been linked to depression
  • Alcohol and other drugs – Alcohol can have a major effect on mood, and misuse of alcohol, benzodiazepines based tranquillizers, and sleeping medications can all play a role in the length and severity of depression.
  • Sleep quality –individuals suffering from major depression have been found to have abnormal sleep architecture.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – a type of depressive disorder that occurs in winter when day light hours are short
  • Postpartum depression – a type of depression experienced by women after giving birth
  • Low – self esteem, self defeating or distorted thinking
  • Poor stress coping methods
  • Life events e.g. losses in form of deaths of parents, spouse, siblings, close friends or family members, abandonment or rejection, neglect, chronic illness, physical, psychological or sexual abuse and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Life experiences – Loss of a job, poverty, financial difficulties, gambling addiction, long periods of unemployment, divorce, termination of a committed relationship, inability to have proper sex or premature ejaculation, involuntary celibacy and long term-stress.

Do Children suffer from Clinical Depression?

Yes, children can suffer from depression, however, the signs and symptoms of depression in children are not as obvious as in adults, and therefore they can suffer unnoticed. Symptoms in children may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Sleep problems, such as recurrent nightmares.
  • Learning or memory problems where none existed before
  • Significant behavioral changes; such as withdrawal, social isolation, and aggression.

Is there any treatment for clinical depression?

Treatment of depression varies broadly among individuals. The individual’s level of depression, type and methods of intervention available within the individual’s locality determines the treatment approach. It is advisable to see your doctor or a counselor for further assessments and assistance.
Note: Do not engage into self – medication in an attempt to lift up your mood or improve your situation, instead reach out for professional help.

Click here to learn more about depression from WebMD.
Slideshow: Tips for recovering from Depression.
Slideshow: Myths and Facts About Depression

Depression Talk Presentation Download (245 KB)

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