Mild Depression, A Mild Problem?


More from Peter Cramer’s book Against Depression, which I heartily recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about depression.

We talked about the full blown diagnosis of depression. For a diagnosis of major depression you need 5 or more symptoms for at least 2 weeks. What if a patient has only 2 or 3 symptoms for 2 weeks? Is that a problem?

First of all these mild depressions can be the precursor or follow-up to major depression. So they are important for that reason.

But even if there is no major depression, mild depression looks like major depression. Mild depression runs in families where major depression is prevalent. Low level depression causes disability, absenteeism, more medical visits.

Another type of mild depression is dysthymia. Dysthymia means being sad at least 50% of the time, for 2 years or more. And dysthymia is not the same as unhappiness. Dysthymics suffer the same relentless internal stress, the hopelessness, sadness, and low self-esteem of the depressed. The fact that they may function well, or eat and sleep well, is of small comfort to them.

The problem with dysthymia and mild depression is that medications may be less effective with these conditions, and some types of psychotherapy, more effective. Although no one exactly knows, the general consensus is that dysthymia is less responsive to antidepressants than is major depression. But it may be more responsive to cognitive behavioral therapy.

In summary, even mild depression has serious impacts on people. Mild depression can be effectively treated with cognitive behavioral therapy, and responds well to it.

Copyright 2006 The Psychology Lounge/TPL Productions


Dr. Andrew Gottlieb is a clinical psychologist in Palo Alto, California. His practice serves the greater Silicon Valley area, including the towns of San Jose, Cupertino, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Los Altos, Menlo Park, San Carlos, Redwood City, Belmont, and San Mateo. Dr. Gottlieb specializes in treating anxiety, depression, relationship problems, OCD, and other difficulties using evidence-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a modern no-drug therapy approach that is targeted, skill-based, and proven effective by many research studies. Visit his website at or watch Dr. Gottlieb on YouTube. He can be reached by phone at (650) 324-2666 and email at: Dr. Gottlieb Email.

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