Do Adults Experience Multiple Levels Of Depression?

Updated October 4, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Depression is a mental health disorder that can have a massive impact on an individual’s life. While a depressive disorder differs from a depressed mood, some symptoms can make depression hard to diagnose. Understanding the symptoms of both the disorder and feeling depressed and the various levels of depression can help to identify the best course of action for treatment. Adults are capable of feeling depressed just as they can have a depressive disorder. Treatment, commonly with counseling, can help individuals to feel more like themselves again. However, until a diagnosis has been made,, and an effort is put into healing, depression can reach worsening levels.

What’s The Difference Between Feeling Depressed And Depression?

Article Visual

Depression Is Tricky, But You Can Learn to Manage It Healthily

Depression and other depressive disorders often include feeling sad or depressed, in the list of symptoms. What is the difference between a feeling of sadness and depression and an actual depressive disorder? There are a few factors that turn feeling sad into having depression. For one, an individual experiencing depression has likely been in a depressive mood for months. This is not to say that they can never experience a sliver of happiness during that time, but it does mean that they have been sad more than anything else.

A person that has a depressive disorder also tends to experience a loss of interest in the things they once enjoyed. When this symptom is coupled with the feeling of sadness over an extended period, depression is the likely cause. Those with a depressive disorder may also notice a change in their weight, appetite, and sleeping habits. Although the difference between feeling sad and having a diagnosable depression can be spotted by keying into the symptoms, there are also three different levels of depression that should be identified.

Chronic Depression As Mild Depression

Chronic depression, also known as dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder, is a mild form of depression that often exhibits fewer symptoms than other forms of depressive disorders. Although symptoms are fewer, the time in which an individual experience them is usually longer. Typically, a patient with chronic depression displays symptoms for more than two years. Symptoms can disappear temporarily, but a person with this form of depression does not get a break from symptoms for more than two months at a time.

Chronic Depression Symptoms To Lookout For

The symptoms for chronic depression are very similar to that of many other depressive disorders. The main difference lies in the intensity and the time a person has to deal with them. Those diagnosed with chronic depression may see one or more of the following:

  • Feelings of sadness, low self-esteem, and/ or guilt
  • Fatigue and an overall sense of low energy
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Little to no interest in formerly enjoyed activities and events
  • A noticeable change in diet
  • Feeling irrationally irritable or angry
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much

It’s unlikely that a patient with chronic depression is experiencing every symptom at once. However, they may notice that each of the symptoms makes an appearance over time. It is also possible that only a few symptoms have been present. Because of the less intense nature of the symptoms, this level of depression is often harder to diagnose than more severe forms.

Treatment Options For Chronic Depression

Article Visual

When a diagnosis has been made, various treatment options are available to those with chronic depression. Psychotherapy and medication are the two most common forms of treatment. In most cases, a mental health professional will recommend therapy prior to medication. Many practitioners will take your opinion into consideration when determining the best treatment. For example, if you wish to avoid medication, they will likely steer you toward counseling or therapy.

Therapy is effective when it comes to various forms of depression because it aims to teach patients how to handle their thoughts healthily. It also serves as a tool to help individuals to change how they think. Instead of focusing on the negative parts, a therapist can help you to see the positive light. However, there are some ways that medication can help that makes it valuable.

Despite the potential side effects of medication, the benefits outweigh the possibility of an adverse reaction for many patients. If you and your mental health professional decide to opt for medication, you must use it as directed. Missing doses or stopping the medication without your doctor’s consent can lead to dangerous results. Antidepressants aim to diminish the symptoms of depression, so when the medication is halted too quickly, those symptoms can come back in full force. Always discuss medication changes or treatment options with your mental health provider before making any decisions.

Major Depressive Disorder Or Clinical Depression

Major depressive disorder, also known as clinical depression, is a severe form of depression that can make a significant impact on your life. In most cases, major depression changes life in such a way that daily activities can feel impossible to complete. Whether its personal hygiene, household chores or spending time with family, major depression can make you feel as though you can’t do anything. Some individuals can reach the point of suicide, so major depression must be treated quickly. If you think you may have a major depressive disorder, confirming some symptoms might encourage you to seek help.

If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255, and is available 24/7.

Clinical Depression Symptoms To Lookout For

Many of the symptoms for major depressive disorder are the same as chronic depression. The difference, in most cases, is the level of intensity that an individual experiences the symptoms. Additionally, a person with major depression tends to encounter intense symptoms over a shorter period of time than those with chronic depression. Typically, this means longer than a few weeks but usually less than two years. Be on the lookout for the following symptoms:

Article Visual

Depression Is Tricky, But You Can Learn to Manage It Healthily

  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, guilt, or anxiety
  • Change in sleeping patterns, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Irritability, anger, and outbursts
  • No longer interested in previously enjoyed activities
  • Fatigue and an overall lack of energy
  • Diminished appetite or increase in hunger
  • Unintentional change in weight
  • Inability to concentrate or think clearly
  • Physical pains not attributed to other illness or injury
  • Reoccurring thoughts of suicide or self-harm

If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255, and is available 24/7.

If you are feeling any of the symptoms associated with significant depression, seeking help is imperative in healing and moving forward. Ask a mental health professional, your primary care doctor, or a trusted friend for help to begin seeking treatment.

Treatment Options For Major Depression

As with other forms of depression, the most common treatment options are therapy and medication. However, with the presence of major depression, it may be necessary for you to have a hospital stay for some time. There are also outpatient programs that can help you to get past the worst of the symptoms before seeing a therapist. Antidepressants are commonly used in conjunction with other treatments.

If therapy is a treatment option that you desire to try, it may be easier to use modern forms of counseling. There are various ways to attend counseling or therapy sessions online or by phone. When it’s too difficult to leave your home or if you’re uncomfortable sitting in an office to talk, online therapy can offer a solution. Therapy through online messaging, emails, phone calls, and video chats can be just as effective as those in person. This is a decision that you may want to discuss with your doctor.

Article Visual

Your doctor may also recommend other forms of treatment. Exercise, exposure to sunlight, eating a healthy diet, and journaling are some common options that have helped depression patients in the past. Some people have found success in meditation, breathing techniques, and various stress-relieving activities. Finding the treatment that is best for you is reliant upon discussing all options with a mental health professional. If you find that your doctor is unreceptive to your ideas for treatment, see if another doctor is more willing to listen. Ultimately, you are the one that has to stick out the treatment plan. If you are not committed, you may not experience the results desired.

Can Your Level Of Depression Change?

Although you may have started with chronic depression, you may not stay on that level of depression forever. Without treatment, depression can always worsen. To get better, those going through any form of depression have to put in the effort to heal. Chronic depression can become a major depressive disorder, which means the less intense symptoms the patient once felt will become more severe and life-changing.

Getting your life back starts with seeking help. When you’ve put forth the effort in therapy and used medication as directed, you may start to notice that you enjoy activities again. You can enjoy a baseball game, spend quality time with friends and family, and go to work as per usual. Life doesn’t have to stay in the same depressive state, whether chronic or major depression is present. Get proper treatment and start living life again.

Other Commonly Asked Questions

What are the 5 levels of depression?

Can you have multiple forms of depression?

What are the 3 levels of depression?

What does moderate level depression mean?

What is the most severe form of depression?

What is the final stage of depression?

What are the 7 forms of depression?

What are the 8 forms of depression?

Can you have waves of depression?

How is depression severity measured?

You Don’t Have To Face Depression Alone. Our Experienced Counselors Can Help.

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
You don't have to face depression aloneGet Started