How Do I Distinguish Pandemic Blues From Clinical Depression?

As seen in the December 2020 Issue of Advancing Care.

“I think that just about everybody at one time or another would experience pandemic-related blues,” says Stephen Ferrando, MD, Director of Psychiatry, Westchester Medical Center. “That would consist of stresses related to the pandemic, such as social isolation, quarantine and the persistent uncertainty and lack of clarity about the future.”

However, according to Dr. Ferrando, there are several key differences between pandemic-related blues and clinical depression. “The blues wax and wane, and they’re not necessarily severe or persistent. Typically, they are related to the stressors of the moment.” In contrast, he explains, “Clinical depression is an illness that is severe, persistent and impacts one’s functioning.” Other telltale signs include “hopelessness, inability to experience pleasure and lack of motivation.”

So, when is it time to seek help? “The diagnostic criterion for depression is experiencing a sad or depressed mood for two weeks.” However, if you are feeling these symptoms consistently for a week, Dr. Ferrando suggests seeking professional help. “A good place to start is calling WMCHealth’s Behavioral Health Hotline,” he says. “It’s staffed by licensed and accredited members of our Behavioral Health Center team and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; just call 914.216.7733.”


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