Sadness and depression are two terms that are oftentimes used interchangeably. And while it’s true that sadness and depression are in some ways related, there are important distinctions that you should be aware of if you think you may be suffering from depression. Some sixteen million people in the US alone have been affected by this condition -- so awareness certainly does matter.
Sadness and depression share a lot of qualities (most notably a sad mood). However, there are a few areas where they have obvious differences. Asking yourself the following questions can help you discern a sad mood from possible depression -- and empower you to make the decisions you need in order to feel better.
Can you see a light at the end of the tunnel?
One thing that characterizes depression over regular sadness is that those stuck in the depths of depression often feel a sense of unsettling permanence. To them, it seems that things will never change and that there’s no possible event or action that will help in any way. A typical period of sadness, however, is often accompanied by the knowledge that the sadness will end (think of someone who’s sad because they lost their job, but understands that they’ll soon find a new one).
Are you able to distract yourself?
Can your friends still take you out to get your mind off things? Does a random encounter with a golden retriever puppy still bring you a moment’s respite from your negative feelings? If so then true depression is less likely. Those who suffer from depression are often unable to find joy in their favourite things, and no activity is able to distract them from how they feel.
Are you experiencing physical symptoms?
Depression hits more than just a person’s mental wellbeing. Very often a host of physical issues come along with it. Left untreated, depression can take a significant physical toll on a person’s body. If you’re experiencing any combination of physical symptoms along with a depressed mood, then it is likely evidence that you’re going through more than a normal bought of sadness.
These are just a few of the most common physical symptoms that come with depression. The National Institute on Mental Health keeps a more complete list, which you may find informative.
Can you still see the good in yourself?
Regular sadness doesn’t usually lead to self-loathing. Sometimes a person may be feeling sad and guilty about a bad thing that they did, but the feelings are unlikely to be permanent or all-consuming. You may feel like a jerk for that fight you started with your spouse, but at no point would your guilt over that make you feel like even your own parents have no reason to love you.
Depression, on the other hand, does exactly that. It can convince a person that they have no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and that no one in their lives truly enjoys having them around. An intense self-loathing can be a very serious sign that not only are you depressed, but you need help fast.
Sometimes it can help to lay all your symptoms out at once, and see them all together to get a good idea of the scope of your situation. Depression screenings offered by hospitals or online resources are a good way of doing this. These are not a replacement for a medical diagnosis, but they can give you an idea of whether or not you should be seeking professional help.
There’s a wide array of options to treat depression. Sometimes changes in daily routine can be helpful. Other times, a psychotherapist or psychiatrist might need to come on board. Many people are reluctant to begin treatment for depression, but it is truly more effective the earlier you start. And remember that most treatments, including medication, do not need to continue for the rest of your life. Recovery time is different for everyone but most people can get better from depression, and get back to living their lives.
Oakville Wellness Center