Depression symptoms can be unique and don’t always look or feel the same to everyone.

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We often speak of depression in severe terms, but is it possible to just experience depression slightly? The short answer is yes.

Even mild depression is different from just feeling a bit tired, sad, or irritable. After all, you’re human! Fluctuations in mood are common, and it’s natural to have days where you feel worse than usual. 

But what about when those emotions don’t go away after a couple of days, or even a couple of weeks? Maybe you can’t even point to exactly what’s wrong, only that you don’t feel like yourself.

While everyone’s experiences and symptoms can and usually do differ, you could be going through a mild depression.

What is mild depression?

According to the World Health Organization, there are approximately 280 million people worldwide who have depression. Of the millions of individuals living with this condition, each person’s experience can vary in both symptoms and intensity.

“Mild depression” refers to the level of the condition’s severity rather than a specific depression type. Many people with mild depression are able to function in everyday life but may have a lower energy reserve or deal with chronic feelings of melancholy.

Shagoon Maurya, a counseling psychologist and psychotherapist in Adelaide, Australia, explains that “a person with mild depression experiences irritability, tiredness, hopelessness, and sadness with the other symptoms of depression, but with less intensity.”

Because these emotions aren’t extreme or can be brushed aside, you might not even realize that you have depression.

Maurya lists common symptoms of depression (including mild depression) as:

With mild depression, you could experience any number of the above symptoms — but with less or minor intensity.

To be diagnosed with clinical depression, otherwise called “major depressive disorder,” symptoms must be present for 2 weeks or more. 

Other kinds of depression

Clinical depression is a formal diagnosis by a doctor defined by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIHM) as a common but potentially serious mood disorder. This condition may carry symptoms that affect how you:

  • feel
  • think
  • handle daily activities, like sleeping, eating, or working

Other types of depression may also present with mild symptoms. If you think you may have depression, regardless of the type or severity of symptoms, consider talking to your doctor as a first step.

Persistent depressive disorder (with dysthymia)

Persistent depressive disorder (with dysthymia) is a chronic, long-term form of depression that can last 2 years or more. With this condition, you may lose interest in activities you once enjoyed or find it challenging to be happy in joyful situations.

One of the biggest differences between persistent depressive disorder (with dysthymia) and mild depression is that these feelings could last for years as opposed to weeks or months.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Another example is seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is classified by seasonal changes to your mood and behavior.

Symptoms of SAD typically last about 4 to 5 months per year, according to the NIMH. Although they could happen at any time of the year, late fall and early winter are the most common seasons for SAD.

Is mild depression the same as languishing?

Languishing and mild depression are not the same thing. While languishing could leave you feeling “off,” empty, or unlike yourself, it is not a formal mental health condition.

Languishing likely won’t cause you to experience extreme negative emotions and generally doesn’t include feeling sad, but rather feeling just “blah.”

However, that doesn’t mean that languishing is harmless or that you don’t deserve help. If you think you may be experiencing languishing, it may be important to:

  • validate your feelings
  • seek stress relief options
  • reach out to others and let them know what you’re going through

How to treat mild depression

Mild depression is not something you need to just “get used to” or be swept under the rug out of shame or fear.

If you’re experiencing mild depression, you’re not alone. All degrees of depression are treatable, and there are plenty of treatment options to help you get your spark back.

Therapy

Talk therapy is effective for treating and managing a wide range of mental health conditions, not just depression.

Therapy can help ease negative feelings in the moment and can also help you notice harmful patterns or behaviors in your life that can be addressed and changed. Therapists can help you work on:

“Sometimes you are unaware of the issues which can pile up and become a threat to your mental health, and a professional can help you effectively deal with what’s truly troubling you,” explains Maurya. “Therapists can help in identifying underlying issues which are creating problems in one’s life.”

If you’ve tried therapy before and didn’t think it was for you, try not to let that discourage you from going again when you’re ready.

There are many different types of therapy, and finding the right therapist can make all the difference.

Medication

Your doctor or mental health professional could recommend medication to treat your mild depression. Medications can help correct chemical imbalances in your brain in order to stabilize your mood.

There are several types of medication used to treat depression, and each have different benefits and side effects. The most commonly prescribed medications include:

While some people might need to take medications long term, others only need to take them temporarily. No matter what, it’s important to take your medication as directed, and try to be as honest as possible with your doctor.

Getting results from a medication could take time. If you don’t feel results right away, try not to become discouraged.

You might need to try a few different medications before finding the one that works best for you.

Mental health professionals usually pair medication with other treatment options, including talk therapy, to provide the most effective care.

Self-care 

As American poet Audre Lorde once put it, “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation.”

Just because your depression may feel mild, that doesn’t mean self-care is overindulgent. Self-care is proactively taking care of your well-being. 

Whether you choose to adjust your sleep routine, add more exercise to your week, or change what you eat, taking care of your body can help you take care of your mind, too.

Let’s recap

If you’re living with mild depression, that doesn’t mean that you always will, or that it will necessarily get worse. It means you have the opportunity right now to care of yourself and find your balance again. 

Depression is treatable, and the first step to wellness is acknowledging you deserve and need help. There’s a world of resources and support out there to help you get back to feeling your best. 

No matter how minor your symptoms may be, there is nothing minor about your mental health. Your mental health — and you — matters.

If you’re ready to reach out for support, visit the Psych Central guide to finding mental health help.