There’s no shortage of things in life that can bring us down. A failed subject, a lost job, a breakup, the death of a family member. We all go through unpleasant things that make us feel sad. Sadness is a very common human emotion. Sometimes, it can make us lose perspective of what’s important in life and have us spend a lot of time reevaluating our past choices. Things we could have done differently. But, for almost all of us, this only lasts a short while.
With time, usually a few days, we start feeling like our old selves and start to see the world through lighter eyes. We may have found a solution or we stared to see the silver lining. The sadness wanes and life returns to normal. However, if you have been sad for quite some time and have been wondering if you may actually be suffering from clinical depression, this article will help you understand the difference between the two.
Are you sad or depressed?
As mentioned earlier, sadness is a ubiquitous human emotion. Clinical depression, on the other hand, is a mental health issue. Sadness is a low feeling that hangs around for a short duration. It is an appropriate response to unpleasant events and is in fact healthy. It helps us in feeling empathy for our self and what we are undergoing. It also helps us relate more personally to other people’s life events, their feelings, and suffering.
However, if these mood disruptions last for two weeks or longer, you may be suffering from depression as this is a diagnostic criterion to qualify for depression. Feelings of listlessness, hopelessness follow with depression. It can wreak havoc on one’s personal life.
Causes of depression
It may be brought about by traumatic events. Depression may also have biological, social or psychological roots. Sometimes there may not be a trigger at all. It is also accompanied by changes in specific neural circuits in the brain. People who have suffered from depression have a higher tendency of getting depression again.
Symptoms of depression:
People suffering from depression experience a lot of different problems such as:
- Feeling hopeless and helpless: Things that you used to enjoy aren’t enjoyable anymore. You don’t feel motivated to take steps to make your life better. While a sad person may not go to work, he will still go. However a depressed will not have the power to talk himself into going to work unless the stakes are high. There is a feeling of emptiness and nothing seems to make life better. The brain is inundated with negative thoughts.
- Loss of energy: The energy seems to have been sapped out. Fatigue and numbness take hold. You may not even want to get out of bed.
- Changes in appetite: You may find yourself skipping meals or always wanting to eat. Sometimes even when you’re not hungry at all. Your weight changes noticeably every month.
- Feeling worthless or unusually guilty
- Altered Sleep pattern: You may be sleeping too much or too little.
- Reduced concentration
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
If you have at least five of these symptoms, you qualify for depression according to psychiatric guidelines.
Depression brings about physical changes in the brain such as reduction in the amount of specific neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Hormone abnormalities like high cortisol (stress hormone) and thyroid hormones along with smaller frontal lobe and hippocampus volumes.
Depression is a disorder that can be treated just like asthma or other illnesses. Unfortunately, it takes the average person ten years to ask for help when it comes to mental health issues. People feel uneasy admitting they have mental health issues. If they were only a bit more informed, they would know that there are very effective treatments available. Medicines that help with restoring brain function coupled with talk therapy works best. And this does not mean you will be in therapy for the rest of your life. You can, in fact, get rid of depression in a few months, sometimes without even medication. Hence, people suffering from depression are advised to seek mental health professionals as soon as possible.
Because of depression being intangible, it is rarely understood by people around the victim. The symptoms and manifestations of depression are very real and must not be ignored. The opposite of sadness is happiness, while the opposite of depression is vitality. Reach out for help so you can start living the life you deserve.