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Ask the Experts

Question:

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.