Am I Sad or Depressed?

Sadness and unhappiness are emotions that can strike at any time. Whether it be over the loss of a loved one (bereavement), financial difficulties, or even disappointment over a bad grade, periodic sadness and unhappiness is a normal part of everyday life. But what if the feelings of sadness and unhappiness aren’t periodic? Can you imagine being in a chronic state of emotional and mental distress to the point of not being able to shower, eat, or do any of the tasks associated with daily functioning? For those with depression, this is just a glimpse into what they may be experiencing.

Depression is an abnormal and often unwarranted emotional and mental state that persists past what is considered a ‘normal’ period of time. Depression affects the way a person thinks, behaves, and feels and drastically impedes daily functioning. This illness can be characterized by low energy, fatigue, less enjoyment in once desirable activities, and even insomnia. Although there are key symptoms to look for, not everyone with depression share the same symptoms. While one individual may find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning or at all during the day, another may refrain from interacting with others and become closed off.

Although an individual who is depressed will likely experience sadness, being sad doesn’t imply depression. A key difference between sadness and depression is duration. While sadness will usually go away on its own (within a time-frame specific to the trigger), depression is a condition that can arise for no reason at all, persists for more than 2 weeks, and typically doesn’t go away without treatment. Symptoms associated with depression are persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, unwarranted guilt, worthlessness, and even thoughts of suicide.

However, many assume that depression is obvious in others (and even themselves), but this isn’t always the case. Depression doesn’t always manifest as blatant sadness and can occur in people that seem to have life completely figured out. The complex nature of depression can seem helpless, but treatment is possible. The first step is seeking help if you feel that you may be experiencing any depressive symptoms.


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