Feeling sad and helpless? You may have major depression, also known as clinical depression. People with major depression feel a deep and constant sense of hopelessness and despair.

With major depression, you may have symptoms that make it difficult to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy friends and activities. Some people have clinical depression only once in their life. Others may have it several times in a lifetime.

Most people feel sad or low at some point in life. But clinical depression is marked by a depressed mood most of the day, particularly in the morning. In addition, according to the DSM-IV — a manual used to diagnose mental health conditions — you may have other symptoms with major depression. Those symptoms might include:

  • Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
  • Impaired concentration, indecisiveness
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day (called anhedonia, this symptom can be indicated by reports from significant others.)
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation (restlessness or being slowed down)
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide (not just fearing death)
  • Significant weight loss or gain (a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month)

To distinguish your condition as major depression, one of your symptoms must be either depressed mood or loss of interest. Also, the symptoms must be present for most of the day every day or nearly every day for at least two weeks.