Have you been feeling terrible today? Did you feel the same way the day before? What about the week before that? Have you been constantly feeling this way for over two weeks?
If you have answered yes to the first three questions, you might be just sad. If, however, you have answered yes to the last question, it might be a good time to seek professional help.
Depression vs. Sadness
Many people who feel sad for a while tend to think that they are suffering from depression. Alternatively, people who are possibly suffering from depression slide it off as ‘just sadness’. Understanding the difference between the two is very important because sadness is very reasonable and temporary, whereas depression poses extreme risks if left untreated.
What is Sadness?
It is a normal human emotion that every human being feels during various times in their life.
What can Cause Sadness?
Many life events can leave people feeling negative. Some instances are:
- Death of a loved one
- Getting fired from a job
- Failing an exam
- Getting divorced
- Breaking up a relationship
- Bouts of financial trouble
- People talking to you rudely
How can a Person Get Relief from Sadness?
You can get relief from sadness by crying, talking about what is troubling you, and venting out in general. Doing things that make you happy will also work in your favor.
How Long Does Sadness last?
No matter how sad you feel, it passes with time. However, if the low mood keeps getting worse or lasts for more than 2 weeks, you should talk to a doctor.
What is Depression?
Sadness is a tiny part of depression. Depression is a mental disorder and not a normal human emotion like sadness. Depression affects every aspect of a person’s life. In 2016, the National Mental Health Survey in India had revealed that one out of every 20 Indians suffers from depression.
What are the Symptoms of Depression?
The symptoms of depression aren’t always easy to spot. Some of them might seem like sadness. However, depression makes it almost impossible to find moments of happiness, unlike sadness. Depression affects all aspects of life in an extremely negative way and persists for a very long time if left untreated. Symptoms of depression are:
- Feeling empty and sad constantly
- Irritable mood most of the time
- Feeling extremely tired and sluggish on most days
- Very slowed down on some days and extremely restless on others
- Losing interest in every activity that was once pleasurable
- Significant changes in appetite leading to weight gain or loss
- Feeling excessively worthless and guilty on most days
- Withdrawing from social circles
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Headaches and body aches with no specific causes
- Decreased levels of enthusiasm
- Disturbances in sleep cycles
- Inability to work or study
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide resulting in carelessness and suicide attempts
Have you been experiencing any five or more of these symptoms for longer than 2 weeks? If yes, the doctor might rule it to be a medical problem and not just a prolonged period of sadness.
Risk Factors that Might Result in Depression:
There are various risk factors for depression. Having one or more from the list below doesn’t ensure that you are depressed. Circumstances and coping mechanisms vary from person to person. Some risk factors that result in depression are:
- Childhood or teenage trauma
- Low self-esteem in people of ‘self-critical’ personality type
- A devastating life event like the death of a spouse or child
- Substance abuse
- Family history of mental illnesses
- Some medical conditions like cancer, heart disease, psoriasis, and neurological problems
- Lack of acceptance by family or community especially in the case of people of the LGBTQ community
- Unable to cope with wounds and injuries that result in paralysis, loss of body parts
- Lack of a support system like family and friends
- History of prior mental illnesses like anxiety disorder, bulimia, and anorexia.
Also Read: 7 Different Types of Depression
Who To Seek Professional Help From?
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (M.D. or D.O. ). A psychiatrist is specialized in preventing, diagnosing, and treating mental illnesses. They can prescribe medicines for psychiatric disorders.
A psychologist holds a doctoral degree ( PsyD, Ph.D., or EdD). They specialize in the study of mind and behavior. A licensed psychologist can provide psychotherapy, psychological testing, and counseling. If medication is required, psychologists refer their patients to a psychiatrist.
3) Licensed Mental Health Counsellor:
This is a mental health professional who holds a master’s degree (M.A.) in psychology, counseling, or a related field. A counselor can provide advice or psychotherapy after evaluating the patient.
4) Clinical Social Worker
They have a master’s degree in social work and training. Clinical Social Workers can assess and treat mental illnesses. They can provide psychotherapy, case management, hospital discharge planning, and can act as an advocate for patients.
5) Psychiatric or Mental Health Nurse
Some nurses have special training in mental health services. Depending on their training, these nurses can evaluate patients and provide treatment in the form of psychotherapy. In some states, mental health nurses are licensed to prescribe medications to patients. A prescription may be made independently or under the supervision of a medical doctor. They also provide case management services and serve as advocates for patients.
Also Read: How to Help Someone With Depression?
Why is Depression Much Worse than Sadness?
1) Depression is a serious illness, unlike sadness. Sadness is a temporary feeling that is reversible. Depression is an illness than can be combated only with medical attention.
2) Depression overpowers life quality and affects every possible aspect of a person’s life.
3) Depression may or may not have an identifiable cause. Self-diagnosis and treatment is never an option. Just as you wouldn’t treat a case of spine injury on your own, you should seek professional help for depression.
4) If left untreated, depression will make drastic changes to the body and may lead to more destructive ends like suicide.
Sadness and depression aren’t the same and should be treated differently. Distinguishing between both is essential to lead a healthier life. If you are sad, resort to happier measures or wait for the feeling to pass away. However, consult a doctor if you spot the signs or symptoms of depression.