Depression is a heaviness of the soul. When I feel depressed, my entire body feels its weight plus more. My arms dangle because if I try to lift them, it takes all my energy. My core feels like a dull rod has been staked through it. I muster my strength to do what […]
Depression is not sadness. You might feel very sad and believe you’re depressed. You’ve probably said at one time, “ I’m so depressed” when actually you’re only sad. So what is the difference between depression and sadness?
Depression versus sadness
Depression is a mental health condition. It’s as real as any medical condition. Sadness is a passing emotional state that happens for a short period of time. Sadness is realistic in thinking. Depressed thoughts can be unrealistic or distorted. There’s no hope in depression. Sadness has hope.
Sadness is emotional pain triggered by a painful, difficult, challenging, or disappointing experience. You feel sad about something. Your dog ran away. You loved your dog and now you feel sad the dog is missing. Your sadness will fade either because of time or, because you get a new dog. In other words, sadness is temporary.
Sadness is a healthy release of despair. Despair cramps your muscles, dampens appetite, and creates restless sleep. Sadness creates chemical changes in your brain that affect your body. Crying brings your serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate levels back to normal.
Sometimes you feel sad for no reason. There may be a subconscious reason for your sadness. The brain is a marvellous machine, capable of storing vast amounts of information and memories. A moment or experience can be so powerful, it’s stored as body memory. Life goes on and distracts you. When a trigger happens, the subconscious memory flies to the surface and suddenly you feel sad.
You might be empathetic and taking on someone else’s sadness. You might be going through the seven stages of grief. Either way, you will move past sadness and experience joy again.
Depression is more than emotional pain. Depression affects every part of your life. You feel sad about everything. It is pain felt throughout the body. It is feeling worthless and guilty. These feelings are excessive or not based on fact. You have recurrent thoughts of death or suicide. Life sucks.
Depression doesn’t need a trigger. It can be genetic. It can be caused by seasonal changes in daylight. Chronic bullying or abuse will create depression. Complicated grief and spousal death also cause depression. Depression can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe. Depression is different in men and women.
Depression literally changes brain structure. Depression affects memory, attention, how you interact with others, time management, and energy. You don’t enjoy things you used to enjoy. This is called anhedonia. You self harm. You lose hope.
The DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is used by mental health practitioners in the United States and worldwide to diagnose mental health disorders. It’s what doctors use to diagnose depression.
According to the DSM-V, in order to have depression, five to nine symptoms need to prevail during a two-week period. The symptoms must cause significant distress or obvious changes in functioning.
The symptoms of depression are:
- Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day (this may manifest as irritable mood in children)
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities previously enjoyed
- Appetite changes with significant weight loss or gain
- Sleeping too much or insomnia
- Slowing or speeding up of physical activity (e.g. feeling restless)
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
- Difficulty concentrating or being indecisive
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation
At least one symptom needs to be:
- A depressed mood
- A loss of interest or pleasure in something you previously enjoyed
To find out if you are depressed and not sad, you need to be evaluated by a mental health professional. You may need to take a physical exam to make sure there’s no underlying disease making you depressed. Family history is also important as is your history of medications. If you suspect you are depressed, please get help. There’s no shame in being depressed.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. ( )
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