In my practice, I have seen many people being extremely sad and others being extremely depressed, but they are unable to tell the difference. Knowing the difference can surely change or even save your life!
According to Guy Winch (2015), sadness is a normal human emotion. We’ve all experienced it and we all will again. Sadness is usually triggered by a difficult, hurtful, challenging, or disappointing event, experience, or situation. In other words, we tend to feel sad about something. This also means that when that something changes, when our emotional hurt fades, when we’ve adjusted or gotten over the loss or disappointment, our sadness remits.
Depression is an abnormal emotional state, a mental illness that affects our thinking, emotions, perceptions, and behaviors in pervasive and chronic ways. When we’re depressed we feel sad about everything. Depression does not necessarily require a difficult event or situation, a loss, or a change of circumstance as a trigger. In fact, it often occurs in the absence of any such triggers. People’s lives on paper might be totally fine—they would even admit this is true—and yet they still feel horrible.
Depression colors all aspects of our lives, making everything less enjoyable, less interesting, less important, less lovable, and less worthwhile. Depression saps our energy, motivation, and ability to experience joy, pleasure, excitement, anticipation, satisfaction, connection, and meaning. All your thresholds tend to be lower. You’re more impatient, quicker to anger and get frustrated, quicker to break down, and it takes you longer to bounce back from everything.
Major Depression is a medical condition that does not allow you to simply “pull your life together” and treatment with medication and counseling of often the key to recovery.
If left untreated, symptoms of depression may get worse and can last for several months or even several years causing major suffering, a reduced quality of life and may lead to suicide. Not getting psychiatric treatment can be life threatening. More than 10% of people who have depressive symptoms commit suicide.
What are the symptoms of depression?
A diagnosis of depression requires that there be several persistent symptoms along with a low mood that are present for at least two weeks, other important considerations include:
- Not everyone will experience every symptom, some may have a few, while others will have many
- The signs and symptoms of depression can be severe or mild
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the symptoms of depression may include any of the following:
- Suicide attempts or thoughts of suicide
- Sad, “empty”, or anxious feelings
- Ongoing aches and pains, digestive problems, and headaches that don’t ease even with some type of treatment and have no known cause
- Appetite loss or eating too much, including a 5% bodyweight loss or gain over a month’s time
- Anger, irritability, agitation, low tolerance level, short temperedness and everything and everyone getting on your nerves
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, even sex
- Restlessness and irritability
- Insomnia, excessive sleeping, or early morning wakening
- Feelings of pessimism and hopelessness
- Feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, or guilt
- Tiredness and decreased energy
- Restlessness and restless behavior such as the inability to sit still
- Problems concentrating, making decisions, or remembering details
What are the warning signs of suicide with depression?
People who are depressed are at a greater risk of being suicidal. Anyone who has suicidal thoughts or ideation should be taken extremely seriously. Help is available from your local suicide or crisis hotline. Suicide Crisis Line South Africa 0800 567 567.
How Depressive Symptoms Are Treated
If a physical cause for the depressive symptoms is ruled out, your physician may begin an initial treatment or may refer you to a psychiatrist of a psychologist.
This mental health professional will help you understand ways you can feel better with treatment, such as with the use of psychotherapy or antidepressant medication. Sometimes both things may need to be utilized for the treatment of depressive symptoms.
At this point, if you are worried that you might be depressed, it is time to seek help from a doctor. Your primary physician is a great place to start, and he or she can screen you for depression or refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist so that you can get the help you need.
This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy. This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.