How can you be certain that the person is not just in a normal state of depression and not clinically depressed?

Answered by: Michael Terman

It is hard to know what you mean by a "normal" state of depression, but probably you are referring to a mild, down mood state that a mental health specialist would predict will pass quickly without treatment.

More severe clinical depressions are divided into several diagnostic types, depending on the particular symptoms, how they occur over time, and whether they alternate with periods of elevated, "high" mood.

If you're having trouble coping with family and work responsibilities because of low mood, or having very low motivation to get anything done, you might indeed be experiencing a clinical depression.

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Michael Terman, Ph.D.
Professor, Dept. of Psychiatry 

Dr. Terman is Professor of Clinical Psychology in Psychiatry at the College of Physicians & Surgeons. He heads the Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and the Clinical Chronobiology Program at New York State Psychiatric Institute.

His fields of interest include depression, sleep, clinical chronobiology, photobiology, melatonin, instrumentation, psychiatric diagnosis and assessment. He was graduated from Columbia College in 1964 and received a doctorate in physiological psychology from Brown University in 1968. With his career-long c...
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