Distinguishing Between Normal Sadness and Depression
We all have days or periods of time when we feel down or sad. Sadness is a normal and even healthy response to circumstantial difficulties. The loss of a loved one, a bad break up, long bouts of stress or even not enough sun exposure can all be cause for the blues. For some people, though, the sadness lingers; for weeks, months, or for what seems like a lifelong battle. There are several ways to know if you or a loved one may be depressed.
It is important to understand what depression is and is not. Like earlier stated, sadness is a normal human emotion. Depression, however, is an abnormalemotional state (Winch/Psychology Today, 2015). Depression is not just “feeling sad.” Depression spills over into every area of life, affecting relationships, physical health, even performance on the job or at school. This is why it is crucial to be able to differentiate the two, in order to be able to manage mental health accordingly.
A few red flags that may signal that you or your loved one is struggling with depression*:
Sadness is persisting/constant for an extended period of time
Rather than feeling sad for a few weeks over a tough situation, depression can last for an abnormal period of time, and may have no specific cause.
Fatigue or inability to stay awake accompanies feelings of sadness
Wanting to sleep allof the time and having an extremely hard time staying awake during work, school or in general throughout the day even if properly rested. Feeling sluggish and slow.
Feelings of hopelessness or pointlessness
Having recurring feelings that life is hopeless/pointless and that it will never get better, feeling no interest in hobbies or activities that would usually be exciting.
Having trouble focusing
Difficulty staying on top of tasks, conversations, or losing train of thought on a regular basis.
Thoughts that life is not manageable or that your friends and family wouldn’t miss you, or that you are a burden to them.
If you or a loved one is showing some or all of these symptoms, seek professional help. It is important to understand that sadness is a normal and manageable feeling that typically does not require medical attention. Depression is nothing to be ashamed of, however, it is a condition that requires the assistance of trained professionals for treatment and management in order to improve overall health, wellbeing, and longevity as it can be detrimental and life-threatening if neglected.
There are resources for those who think they may be struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts at: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline.
*These statements are not meant to diagnose, treat, or manage depression. Seek help from a medical professional if you feel that you are having suicidal thoughts or experiencing depression.