What is Clinical Depression?

Understand the nature, symptoms, and internal experience of the most common mood disorders.
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  • Lectures 13
  • Length 2.5 hours
  • Skill Level All Levels
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
    30 day money back guarantee!
    Available on iOS and Android
    Certificate of Completion
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About This Course

Published 4/2014 English

Course Description

Join our community of over 1700 students learning about the nature of depression!

Depression, by some estimates, is the leading cause of disability in the developed world. Millions of people experience it each year. Yet many people who have depression have never been told much about it.

This course describes the nature of the most common mood disorders - including major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder. We review the symptoms used in making the diagnosis, and the challenges in properly diagnosing a problem for which there is no simple blood test.

The course provides a model - the Floating Diamond - for breaking down and understanding the various elements of the depressive experience. Using it, we discover that depression is not, in fact, a mood disorder. It is a disorder of virtually everything: physiology, thoughts, behaviour, and, yes, emotion.

We explore a central problem in depression: the fact that symptoms (such as sleep disruption) tend to feed back and intensify the disorder. Depression is not simply a vicious circle - it is a COLLECTION of vicious circles, all working at once.

We move beyond the diagnostic criteria to discuss the additional symptoms and aspects of the depressive experience, exploring factors such as brain fog, memory disruption, sexual problems, and more.

CAUTIONS: Depression is an enormous topic, and in this course we are mainly focussed on the experience of the problem. We do not go into detail about either causes or treatment approaches - these will be covered in other courses. As well, this course is not a substitute for treatment, which should be carried out with the help of a qualified healthcare professional. We also caution against any attempt at self-diagnosis.

30 Day Guarantee: Not sure? You don't have to be. We have a 30-day complete money back guarantee, no questions asked. Some of the lectures are also available as free previews, so you can get a sense of the course before you buy.

What are the requirements?

  • An interest in mood and mental health.
  • Willingness to spend a bit more time than the quick "symptom list" types of online resources usually provide.
  • A desire to learn about some of the controversies in the field.
  • And that's it: You don't need any particular educational background, or any special supplies. We'll provide you with a complete set of course notes that you can print out and use to follow along with the lectures.

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Learn the distinction between depression and "the blues."
  • Learn the "Floating Diamond" model of depression symptoms.
  • Learn how symptoms feed forward, including the concepts of snowballs and reverberations.
  • Learn how depression is diagnosed - the symptoms examined and their intensity and duration.
  • Learn about other symptoms that are not a part of the diagnostic criteria, but which are a part of the depressive experience.
  • Learn about other mood-related problems, including dysthymia, mania, hypomania, cyclothymia, and bipolar disorder.

Who is the target audience?

  • Anyone interested in learning more about the nature and symptoms of clinical depression and related disorders.
  • This includes people directly affected by depression, and their family and friends.
  • And others who deal with depression, including employers, human resources staff, and healthcare personnel.

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: The Nature of Clinical Depression

People frequently talk about being depressed - but what is the difference between this and clinical depression? This lecture provides an introduction to the course, the notes package, and the sequence of topics.

22 pages

The 22-page course notes for the entire "What Is Depression?" course. Use it to follow along as you work through the course.


Depression can feel like a confused mass of experiences, so it's helpful to tease the symptoms apart. The Floating Diamond divides symptoms into behavior, thought, emotion, and physiology while showing how these realms are all interconnected.


There are nine diagnostic symptoms for major depressive episodes, and an individual must have at least one of the first two. This lecture discusses the cardinal emotional symptoms of low mood and anhedonia.


We've covered two of the symptoms of major depressive episode, now it's time for the other seven.


Major depressive episode describes a period of depression - but the actual diagnosis of major depressive disorder is a bit more complicated. While covering it, let's consider one or two of the controversies about diagnosis and depression.

Section 2: Beyond the Diagnosis - The Experience of Depression

The symptoms used in the diagnosis of depression aren't the only ones people experience; there are many more. Using the Floating Diamond, let's identify additional aspects of the depression experience.


Depression differs from many other health problems because its symptoms become new causes, thus perpetuating itself. Snowballs are symptoms that feed back to magnify the depression generally, whereas reverberations bounce from node to node of the floating diamond, like a pinball machine.


The name "Major Depression" begs the question: Is there such a thing as Minor Depression? Yes, there is - and probably most of us will experience it. But is it a disorder, and does it need treatment? Here we tread into tricky territory, and consider a debate about diagnosis and the medicalization of normality.

Section 3: Additional Mood Disorders

What happens if a lower-grade depression carries on and on and on? This problem, called dysthymia, brings its own challenges. In particular, as time passes a person may adopt a lifestyle that supports and fits the mood problem more than it fits them. As well, the low mood can become part of the self-image, making change a daunting concept.


For some people the mood goes not only unusually low, but also troublingly "high." This lecture describes the nature and diagnosis of mania and hypomania, and bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 disorder. We consider the startling upswing in bipolar 2 diagnosis in recent years, which leads us once more into controversy in the field.

Section 4: Epidemiology and Course Wrapup

How common is depression? Are men or women more likely to get it? At what age does it generally appear? Is depression becoming more prevalent over time? How expensive is depression relative to other ailments?


So that's our course. But let's touch very briefly on some recommendations about managing depression (more about this will come in another course). Above all, we recommend consulting a healthcare professional and learning about depression.

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Instructor Biography

Randy Paterson, Psychologist and author (Your Depression Map & others)

Randy Paterson is a psychologist and author in Vancouver Canada. His most recent book is the popular How to be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use. He is the Director of Changeways Clinic and writes a blog called PsychologySalon. His work emphasizes the treatment of problems related to stress, anxiety, depression, and significant life change. His previous books include The Assertiveness Workbook, Private Practice Made Simple, and Your Depression Map, as well as a variety of resources and protocols for mental health practitioners. He conducts workshops on mental health issues for the public and for mental health professionals within Canada and internationally.

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