Sadness is a normal reaction to grief, loneliness, and other difficult experiences. When you’re going through a hard time, or have suffered an especially devastating emotional blow, sadness can last a long time and be deep and painful. Grief and sadness are powerful emotions, but they are different from clinical depression. How can you tell when sadness becomes depression?
Symptoms of depression can mimic expressions of sadness, but they don’t dissipate over time. These symptoms often include the following:
Change in Appetite
This may mean under or over-eating, but both can be symptoms of depression. A change in appetite may indicate a depressive episode if you are either gaining or losing a significant amount of weight without trying.
Change in Sleep Patterns
Again, this may mean sleeping more and having difficulty waking up in the morning, or experiencing restlessness and insomnia. Either way, if it interferes with your daily activities, it is a symptom to consider when trying to determine if you are depressed.
Feeling Worthless, Hopeless, or Guilty
Everyone gets discouraged, but when these types of negative feelings persist and begin to color your outlook on life, it may indicate more than a fit of the blues.
People vary in their tolerance levels, and we all have bad days. If your bad days are starting to outweigh the good ones, pay attention to whether a consistently short fuse or uncharacteristic irritability may be more than a normal reaction to circumstances.
Lack of Energy
People suffering from depression often feel slow, tired, and unmotivated. If you haven’t been sleeping or eating well, you may think it’s simply a result of these physical factors, but if lack of energy accompanies other symptoms, don’t ignore it.
Depression can interfere with a person’s ability to think clearly, focus for any length of time, and make decisions.
Loss of Pleasure
Most of us have an activity that we find absorbing and enjoyable, something that takes our mind off our troubles. For people with depression, those pleasurable activities may no longer hold the same satisfaction.
Loss of Interest
Closely linked to a loss of pleasure is a loss of interest in daily activities. If you are suffering from depression you may feel that much of daily life is insignificant, making it hard to take an interest in things like conversing with others, making plans, or accomplishing daily tasks.
Thoughts of Death or Suicide
Whether you have a plan for committing suicide or not, recurring thoughts of death or suicide are a red flag. Thoughts like these are an indication that depression may be clouding your judgment.
When to Seek Help
Mental health professionals generally agree on a diagnosis of depression if you experience at least five of these symptoms on most days for two weeks or more. However, if you suspect that you or your loved one may be suffering from depression, it’s always a good idea to seek help. A professional can help you determine whether you are dealing with sadness or clinical depression. More importantly, they can give you the tools and support to manage your symptoms and improve your mental and emotional health.
It’s important to know that depression is a treatable condition. By knowing the signs you can help yourself or others get the help needed to improve.