How To Identify And Treat Mild Depression

Reviewed by Laura Angers, LPC

Published 12/29/2020

Mild depression… is that even a thing? Does depression come with different levels, or is it that you’re either just depressed or not depressed? The stigma surrounding mental health challenges, like depression, causes people not to talk it about that much. And that gets in the way of people having access to get the help they need.

Yes, society has come a long way in discussing mental health in public, but we’re still not where we need to be. The term “depression” is used frequently, but it tends to be used in a somewhat generic way, not referring to a mental health disorder.

For example, you may have heard a friend say they’re “feeling depressed.” However, they just mean that they’re feeling down or sad about something. They don’t have the symptoms that come with depression.

What Is Depression?

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The first step to understanding how to identify and treat mild depression is to learn the difference between real depression and what many people think it is.

Everyone is going to go through periods in life where they feel down. Many times, this is connected to a situation they’re facing in life. It could be the end of a relationship, the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a job. When you experience painful or difficult situations, it’s normal to feel kind of bad.

You may not feel upbeat or as happy as normal; you may feel sad and cry. Or it may even be that you just feel down.

When people feel like this, many of them will describe themselves as “depressed.” But when the time has passed, and some of the newness of the situation or trial is gone, things return to normal. While people in these situations could be experiencing depression, it doesn’t automatically mean that they are.

Depression is a mental health disorder that can be diagnosed by a doctor or mental health professional. There are different types of depression, from mild depression to severe depressive disorders such as severe clinical depression.

While there are different types and levels of depression, proper treatment is important for each of them.

Signs And Symptoms Of Depression

Diagnosable depression, including mild depression, can have the following symptoms:

  • Feeling unmotivated, hopeless, or struggling with guilt
  • Being more angry or irritable than normal
  • Insomnia or feeling fatigued regardless of how much sleep you get
  • Changes in your appetite
  • Struggling with memory or concentration
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Being uninterested in hobbies and activities that you normally enjoy
  • Unexplained physical pain

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Then, there are also more serious symptoms of depression that come with different types of depression, such as engaging in reckless behavior. This could include things like driving too fast, drinking, or doing drugs. You may find that you’re making poor financial choices. And you may find that you just don’t feel like yourself. The most serious symptom of depression is having thoughts of suicide.

But even if you’re not having suicidal thoughts, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t experiencing symptoms of depression. And it doesn’t mean that you should ignore your symptoms and not seek help.

If you’re wondering if you’re struggling with depression, you can take this depression quiz to see if you’re at risk.

The Different Types Of Depression

Below will cover some of the more common types of depression. If you have any questions about the types of depression or if you’re wondering if you might be experiencing symptoms of it, reach out to your physician or a mental health professional like a therapist or psychiatrist.

Mild Depression

The basic symptoms of depression listed above are the symptoms to watch for with mild depression. This can be one of the toughest types of depression to recognize and identify because the symptoms are mild. It’s easy to write the symptoms off as just feeling “a little down.”

You probably aren’t experiencing strong enough symptoms to impact your daily life in a big way. This makes it easier to just learn to live with the symptoms. For example, you may just stop spending time with people or believe that you’re just a low energy person.

It can also be easy to try to link some of the symptoms to other things. For example, you may just keep telling yourself that you’re so fatigued and tired because you have a busy day or didn’t get a great amount of sleep.

Your symptoms may bother you and be things you notice, but they also feel like things you can manage. While it’s good that you’re not experiencing more severe symptoms, this can also be negative because it can make you less likely to reach out for help.

Treatment For Mild Depression

The good news is mild depression, like all types of depression, is treatable. And the milder your symptoms are, the easier they tend to be to treat. There are plenty of lifestyle changes you can make or habits you can implement that can help address the symptoms of depression. These include things like:

  • Creating an exercise routine, even if it’s just walking regularly
  • Changing your food to get the nutrients that your body needs to perform at its best
  • Journaling at the end of your day to release stress and/or keep track of things that you’re grateful for
  • Spending time with your inner circle of family and friends on a regular basis
  • Practicing deep breathing, yoga, or mindfulness meditation
  • Creating a sleep routine that helps you optimize the rest, you get each day

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You may find that being intentional about doing these things in your life results in a positive change in your mental health and wellness. However, if they don’t and you feel that things could be better, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help. A licensed therapist can help you explore your depression and what treatment options can help you feel your best.

While this information is focused on mild depression, it can also help understand other types of depression as well. That way, if you find yourself thinking, “My depression is getting worse.” it can help you know what steps to take and have a clearer understanding of what you may be experiencing.

Moderate Depression

There are many similarities between mild depression and moderate depression; however, moderate depression takes it up a notch. The symptoms may feel slightly more severe, or you may also experience things like:

  • Being less productive than normal
  • Feeling anxious and worried
  • Lower self-esteem or confidence challenges
  • Feeling like you’re worthless

If you notice mild depression getting worse, you may be dealing with moderate depression. The symptoms begin to interfere with your life. You may still be able to manage them somewhat, but it’s becoming a bigger challenge.

Severe Depressive Disorder

The original symptoms of depression described at the beginning of this article still apply to severe, clinical depression or major depressive disorder; however, they are much worse. You’re unable to hide the symptoms, and others around you are noticing them.

Your depression impacts your daily life to the point where you may not be able to participate in activities you used to. Things like going to work, taking a shower, or replying to text messages can feel like too much to handle.

You may also experience symptoms such as hallucinations, being delusional, or having suicidal thoughts.

While lifestyle changes can help with some symptoms of depression, they will not be enough to eradicate severe depression; however, there are other treatment options available. You may find medication helpful in getting your symptoms under more control.

You must seek professional help from your doctor or a trained and experienced mental health professional. They can help you get on the right track to overcoming your depression symptoms and finding relief.

Other Types Of Depression

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There are other forms of depression, too, which can rank at different levels of severity. Some of the other more common types of depression include:

  • postpartum depression
  • borderline depression
  • seasonal affective depression
  • persistent depressive disorder
  • bipolar disorder
  • atypical depression
  • situational depression

It’s important to know that all forms of depression are treatable. There are many forms of treatment available based on the symptoms you’re experiencing and their severity. Many people benefit from using more than one form of treatment. For example, you may see the most results by working with a therapist and making lifestyle changes. Or it may be best for you to be on medication while also meeting with a therapist.

If the first form of treatment you try doesn’t help you feel better, keep working with your doctor or therapist until you discover the right combination to help you start overcoming your symptoms. Even if you think your symptoms are mild, they shouldn’t be ignored. You want to take care of yourself, including your mental and emotional wellness.