What is Mild Depression?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

Mild depression is a psychiatric condition with symptoms similar to major depressive disorder (MDD), commonly called major depression, clinical depression, or simply depression. However, mild depression differs from MDD in that the symptoms are of reduced intensity and often of shorter duration. Minor depressive disorder is characterized by the persistence of at least two symptoms of depression for two weeks. A low-level depression that persists for at least two years is defined as dysthymia.

An SSRI for mild depression.
An SSRI for mild depression.

Major depressive disorder is characterized by major depressive episodes, in which at least five symptoms of depression, necessarily including either depressed mood or decreased interest or pleasure, must persist for two weeks. If less than five symptoms are present, and the patient does not experience major depressive episodes as defined in the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), then the patient is suffering from mild depression. The symptoms of depression as defined in the DSM are depressed mood, loss of pleasure and interest, significant changes in appetite or weight, excessive or inadequate amounts of sleep, abnormally agitated or slowed movement, fatigue, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, delusional feelings of guilt or worthlessness, and thoughts about death or suicide.

Mild depression can make it hard to get out of bed in the mornings.
Mild depression can make it hard to get out of bed in the mornings.

Minor depressive disorder differs from MDD in that fewer symptoms are present, while dysthymia is characterized by fewer or less intense symptoms that persist for much longer. A patient suffering from dysthymia must experience at least two symptoms of depression regularly for at least two years. The patient must be affected for the majority of the time, with relief from symptoms lasting no longer than a two-month period.

The symptoms of mild depression are often shorter than those of clinical depression.
The symptoms of mild depression are often shorter than those of clinical depression.

Mild depression, like MDD, may be treated with psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. Dysthymia is sometimes treated medically as well, usually in combination with psychotherapy. Medication usually takes the form of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), a type of anti-depressant, sometimes in combination with a mood stabilizer or an anti-anxiety medication. Natural therapies such as the supplement St. John's Wort are sometimes used to manage mild depression as well.

Mild depression can cause people to spend a lot of time laying around.
Mild depression can cause people to spend a lot of time laying around.
A low-grade depression that lingers for at least two years is often termed a mild depression.
A low-grade depression that lingers for at least two years is often termed a mild depression.
Patients with mild depression may benefit from antidepressant medications and cognitive therapy.
Patients with mild depression may benefit from antidepressant medications and cognitive therapy.
Even mild depression can affect a person's ability to sleep.
Even mild depression can affect a person's ability to sleep.
Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

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Discussion Comments

Drentel

When I was in college, I dated a girl who had mild depression. I dated her for several months before I had any idea that she was having trouble. Then one weekend she went to bed and she didn't leave her room again for a week. She simply couldn't make herself get out of bed.

This was a long time ago, and not many of us on campus had enough information to know what she was going through back then. Last time I spoke with her she was with her grandchildren. She told me she has suffered with chronic depression since she was a teenager, but she has learned to live with the condition with the help of therapy and medications.

Laotionne

Do you know that one out of 10 people in the U.S. suffers with mild depression or severe depression? Maybe this doesn't seem like a great number of people when you say it represents only 10 percent of the adult population, but when you look at the real number this is a lot of people, millions of them.

It's scary to think how many people have symptoms of depression, and so many of them don't ever receive treatment. They simply live their lives with this condition as the norm.

Animandel

As someone who has been diagnosed with mild depression, I have to say that this condition is poorly named. There is nothing mild about any form of depression. In my case, I was simply going through the motions in my daily life.

I would get out of bed in the morning because I knew that was what was expected of me. This was what I had always done. I would take care of my family and go to work. I would even spend time with friends, but I was getting very little joy out of any of this. The symptoms that go along with depression can be difficult to understand and even more difficult get control of.

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