Clinical Depression vs. Situational Depression; What's The Difference?

Clinical Depression vs. Situational Depression; What's The Difference?

Clinical depression is a form of depression that has plagued the earth and humans for many years. 

Over 200 million people suffer from depression, and 700,000 commit suicide every year due to it.

Depression comes in various forms, situational and clinical depression will be our focus. 

These forms are sometimes mistaken for one another, and some people cannot tell the difference.

Depression Therapists in Colorado

Sydnee Wheeler, LPCC

Sydnee Wheeler, LPCC

Aurora, Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Seth Boughton, SWC

Seth Boughton, SWC

Aurora, Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Jasleen Karir, SWC

Jasleen Karir, SWC

Aurora, Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Brenda Hermosillo, SWC

Brenda Hermosillo, SWC

(720) 449-4121
Sarah Tapia, LPCC

Sarah Tapia, LPCC

(719) 602-1342
Katie Bennett, LPCC

Katie Bennett, LPCC

(719) 345-2424
Katie (Kate) Castillo, MS, LPCC

Katie (Kate) Castillo, MS, LPCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Shannon Hamm, LPC, CCTP

Shannon Hamm, LPC, CCTP

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 452-4374
Bonna Machlan, Ph.D., LPC, CAS

Bonna Machlan, Ph.D., LPC, CAS

(719) 452-4374
Meghan Purcell, LPCC

Meghan Purcell, LPCC

Pueblo, Colorado
(719) 696-3439

Situational Depression

This is also known as reactive depression.

Situational depression is a short-term, transitory form of depression that occurs when an individual suffers from a traumatic experience, major event, or change. 

It is an adjustment disorder. It is seen as an adjustment disorder because as time passes, the individual can adjust to the new change, and their negative mood can be lifted. 

This adjustment usually occurs within a few weeks. 

If it doesn't, it could eventually turn into a more severe form of depression– clinical depression.

Clinical Depression

This is also known as major depression or major depressive disorder. 

This is a more severe form of depression that results in a daily loss of interest in any form of activity and relationship.

20% to 25% of adults suffer from clinical depression in their lifetime.

Clinical depression doesn't stem from losing a loved one, family, job, or health issues.

Now that we have identified the meaning of these forms of depression, how do you diagnose them?

What symptoms do they have? 

Symptoms Of Clinical Depression

The American Psychiatric Association published the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which contained the symptoms of major depressive disorder or clinical depression.

  • Outbursts of anger over trivial issues.
  • Inability to sleep(insomnia) or sleeping too much.
  • Attempting suicide, or having suicidal thoughts.
  • Dull thinking, movements
  • Unexplainable body problems like body aches and headaches.
  • Having feelings of guilt and worthlessness
  • Focusing on past failures and self-blaming
  • Problem concentrating, remembering, thinking, and making decisions
  • Loss of appetite and weight or increased appetite and weight gain
  • Anxiety, agitation, or restlessness
  • Feeling sad, hopeless, empty, and tearful
  • Lack of interest in pleasurable, regular, and fun activities

Symptoms Of Situational Depression

  • Hopelessness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Crying regularly
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Avoiding social gatherings and interactions
  • Problems sleeping
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Trouble paying attention or carrying out essential tasks

Causes Of Situational Depression

Situational depression is usually caused or triggered by sudden/significant changes or stressful events.

  • The death of a loved one could be a family member, spouse, or close friend
  • A medical illness or severe health condition
  • Lose of job or negative financial situation
  • Situational changes like change of location, going to school
  • Retirement

Some individuals are at a higher risk of suffering from situational depression. This is usually due to biological factors or past traumatic experiences.

  • Existing mental illness
  • Numerous life-altering circumstances happening at once
  • Hormonal and brain abnormalities
  • Changes in genetics

Causes Of Clinical Depression  

 Clinical depression can be triggered or caused by a variety of reasons.

Personality Traits or disorders

Individuals who suffer from personality traits or disorders like negative emotionality/neuroticism, positive emotionality/extraversion, conscientiousness, low self-esteem, and are introverted are at a higher risk of being clinically depressed. 

Most people develop these traits or disorders due to genetics or trauma from early life experiences. 


If someone from your family had previously suffered or is currently suffering from clinical depression– it could be a sibling or parent. 

You can suffer from clinical depression as well.


People with terminal diseases, diseases that damage or affect the pituitary gland, and head injuries can suffer from clinical depression. 

These illnesses can result in mood swings, emotional issues, severe weakness, and low libido. 

These issues can gradually aggravate and give rise to clinical depression.

Reliance On Alcohol and Drugs

Using alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism is a one-way ticket to depression. 

Depending on alcohol and drugs whenever you are facing challenges or experiencing hard times is not advisable, especially for teenagers. 

Alcohol can negatively affect the chemistry of the brain.


Being physically and emotionally distant from family, friends, and loved ones can bring about a feeling of loneliness. 

This feeling can sometimes become overwhelming and can gradually give way to depression.

How To Treat Clinical Depression

If you are suffering from clinical depression or you noticed you have most of the disorder's symptoms mentioned above, seek help as soon as possible. 

It would be best if you talked to a General practitioner. 

A General practitioner would run tests to ensure you have no underlying health conditions with similar symptoms like an underactive thyroid.

When you've been diagnosed with clinical depression by the GP, they will recommend one or more of these treatments. 


Doctors prescribe these medications to treat major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and some chronic pain conditions. 

Antidepressants work by increasing the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain.

Types Of Antidepressants

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Noradrenaline and specific serotonergic antidepressants (NASSAs)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
  • Serotonin antagonists and reuptake inhibitors (SARIs)
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT aims to help you understand your thoughts and behavior and how they affect you.

CBT tries to help you overcome feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, and sadness. 

It focuses on how to change the way you think, feel and act.

Sometimes a GP would recommend combination therapy. 

You would combine CBT with antidepressants. 

Combination therapy is known to produce faster and more positive results.

Online CBT is also an option if physical CBT isn't possible or is inconvenient. 

This type of CBT is delivered via a computer. 

Interpersonal therapy (IPT)

IPT is a short-term treatment that concentrates on your relationships with others - a lack there of or difficulties with communication.

Psychodynamic Psychotherapy or Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy

This is a form of psychoanalysis that aims to reveal the unconscious content of a client's psyche or mind to alleviate psychic tension.

A psychoanalytic therapist encourages you to speak whatever is running through or comes to your mind. 

This process brings out hidden meanings or patterns in what you do or say that may be contributing to your problems.

A psychoanalytic therapist uses various techniques.

  • Free association
  • Dream interpretation
  • Recognizing resistance


This is a form of talk therapy where you meet with a trained therapist or professional counselor who helps you deal with emotional issues.

Professional counselors or therapists assist clients in identifying goals and potential solutions to problems that trigger emotional issues. 

They aim to improve communication skills, and coping skills, promote behavior change and improve self-esteem and mental health. 

How To Treat Situational Depression

Situational depression occurs typically when an individual has experienced a significant lifestyle change or loss of a loved one. 

If your symptoms interfere with your work or daily activities, see a doctor to prescribe you the best treatment required.

In most cases, antidepressants are prescribed by the doctor, along with CBT. 

Supportive psychotherapy is said to be the best treatment for situational depression. 

It helps improve your ability to cope with challenging situations, and future challenges and prevent future outbursts of situational depression. 


Clinical depression is a more severe form of situational depression, but that doesn't mean you should treat one as less critical. 

These are both severe mental disorders that should be treated as it starts to interfere with your work and daily affairs.


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Comments 1

Nikko Sitton on Apr 18th, 2022

Incredible read, very informative!

Incredible read, very informative!
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March 2nd, 2024

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