What is subclinical depression?

According to the WHO, depression is the number one cause of disability worldwide. Many people experience low mood in the form of chronic sadness and associated behavioral, cognitive and emotional issues that prevent them from leading full lives.

The DSM-5 very clearly defines the diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder, indicating that the patient should have at least five of the nine symptoms specified in this manual for depression.

But … What about those who show symptoms but do not meet this minimum? These people would fall for the idea of subclinical depression, a problem without as many symptoms as major depression but just as debilitating and causing discomfort. Let’s dig deeper into this health problem.

    Subclinical depression: what is it?

    Depression is a psychological problem with different symptoms. Among the most characteristic are the drop in mood, a reduced ability to feel pleasure and a decrease in self-esteem, all accompanied by affective, cognitive and behavioral manifestations of agreement.

    According to the WHO (World Health Organization), depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Its milder variant, subclinical depression, also has a significant impact on the quality of life of those affected..

    The term “subclinical” refers to the fact that the person exhibits symptoms similar to those of the disorder, but not enough to make a diagnosis of a particular syndrome, disorder or disease. Applied to mood disorders, subclinical depression is a condition in which certain symptoms of depression are present, but not enough to make a diagnosis. People with subclinical depression they may experience brief, recurring episodes of depressive symptoms.

    Subclinical depression is a condition that has important implications for the functioning and well-being of those who suffer from it. Although this condition is milder than in cases of major depression, people with subclinical depression are known to experience significant deterioration in their lives and poorer professional, academic and social performance. In addition, they are at risk of developing into a more serious depressive disorder and falling into an addiction.

    There are no uniform criteria for defining what subclinical depression is. In fact, there is no unequivocal terminology regarding this condition, finding all kinds of names in the trade literature for what we are calling subclinical depression here, such as subclinical depression, minor depression, and nonspecific depressive symptoms. Despite this disparity in the name, in most cases, subclinical depression is considered to be depression in which the patient exhibits at least two symptoms characteristic of major depressive disorder.

    In the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), subclinical depression is classified as “other specific depressive disorder” and “depressive episode with insufficient symptoms”.

      Symptoms of this condition

      Symptoms of subclinical depression coincide with those of major depressive disorder, the main difference between the two health problems is that at the subclinical stage fewer symptoms occur or present themselves in a milder manner.

      • Depressed mood most of the day
      • Significant decrease in interest or pleasure in almost all activities
      • Significant weight loss or gain
      • Insomnia or hypersomnia (too much sleep) almost every day
      • Restlessness or psychomotor retardation almost every day
      • Fatigue or loss of energy
      • Feel useless
      • Concentration problems
      • Recurrent thoughts of death and thoughts of suicide

      To be diagnosed with major depressive disorder, at least five of the symptoms mentioned above must be present., and the patient indicates that he or she presented within the past two weeks. In the case of subclinical depression, these symptoms are reduced to a minimum of two and a maximum of four.

      Early detection is the key to successful treatment. In the case of subclinical depression, treatment aims to ensure that the symptoms do not worsen and escalate into a case of more serious depressive disorder. As mild as they are, the symptoms of subclinical depression are symptoms that can be very debilitating.

        Causes of subclinical depression

        Depression is a very complex mental state, which can be influenced by several different factors. Certain risk factors can increase the likelihood of a person showing symptoms of depression, including genetics, family history, history of abuse and trauma, use of certain drugs, major changes in life, stress, medical illnesses and drug addiction.

        Subclinical depression is nothing less than mild depression, with fewer symptoms. Thus, the causes of this minor depression would be the same as for major depression, except that they would not have acted so strongly or the person would have some sort of protective factor that would have prevented them from having the severe disorder.

        However, it should be emphasized that the idea of ​​having mild symptoms of depression is in itself a risk factor for developing major depression later on.

        Psychology and psychotherapy Miquel Àngel

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          Diagnostic

          As we have said, subclinical depression is a case of depression in which the criteria are not sufficiently met to be diagnosed as such. Many people have depressive symptoms, but if they are not provided in sufficient numbers, they will not be diagnosed with major depressive disorder..

          Several studies suggest that subclinical depression can have as much of an impact on a person’s functioning as major depression. Subclinical depression can have the same negative effects on the patient’s overall health as major depression, but less intensely. In this regard, some experts and researchers on this issue believe that depression is more of a spectrum, a continuum of fewer and more depressive symptoms.

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