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Common Questions About Depression, Grief, & Loss

  • How do I know if I am “depressed” or just “down”?
  • Can medication cure depression?
  • People tell me I can “snap out of it”, but I can’t. What’s wrong with me?

What the experts say: Depression, Grief & Loss

Everyone feels sad at some point – it’s only natural. But what doctors call “clinical depression” is very different from just being “down in the dumps”. During periods of depression a person may experience a change in appetite, sleep, energy level, concentration, and low self-esteem. There are several categories of clinical depression.

  • A “Major Depressive Episode” is a period of at least two weeks, during which there is either depressed mood or the loss of interest or pleasure in nearly all activities. In children and adolescents, the mood may be irritable rather than sad.
  • A “Minor Depressive Episode” occurs when some people, with milder symptoms function fairly normally, but doing so requires a markedly increased effort.
  • A “Dysthymic Disorder” is defined by a chronically depressed mood that has been occurring most of the time for at least two years.

“Grief and Loss” is a specific type of depression that occurs in response to a significant separation, loss, death or ending. It is normal to feel “depressed” at this time, and experts often feel that if symptoms do not begin to diminish by 9-12 months following the loss, treatment may be helpful.

What Else You Should Know About Depression, Grief, & Loss

Everyone feels sad from time to time. That is natural and healthy. However, to many, the term “depression” suggests a person who is suicidal or “crazy.”  This is far from the truth. Depression actually is a wide range of symptoms and feelings and most people fall within the “mild to moderate” end of the scale. Therefore they mistakenly believe they don’t need help.

At Birmingham Maple Clinic and most similar outpatient therapy clinics, treatment for some form of depression is the most common reason people seek therapy.

People often ask if they have a “chemical imbalance.”  This term can be misleading because it suggests that depression is only a biological or chemical problem. It is usually difficult to determine which came first: a stressful event or a chemical change in the brain. What’s certain is that depression can become a vicious cycle in which stressful life events continue to affect body chemistry, and body chemistry changes continue to impact our ability to handle stressful life events.

Overall, it is very important to realize that both chemical and interpersonal factors play a role in creating and maintaining depression. That’s why medication alone does not always cure depression and why, for some, medication may be little help. That is also why many mental health professionals recommend that depression be treated with both medication and therapy. A therapist will work with you to help you decide which approach is best for you.

For more information visit HelpGuide.org.

Birmingham Maple Clinic | Michigan Mental Health