There’s a rise in depression across America, and that’s indisputable. Documented cases of depression are on the rise among almost every age group, with teens having the highest documented spike.
It’s hard to say what is causing this rise. It could be the influx of social media into people’s lives or the difficult and often divisive political climate. Regardless of the cause, hard times are clearly here.
But how do you know if you’re experiencing depression if you’ve never experienced it before? Is what you’re feeling clinical depression, or is it just the blues? Sometimes it can be hard to differentiate depression vs. sadness.
If you’ve been feeling down and want to know if it’s depression or just sadness, read on. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know.
The Symptoms of Depression
When true sadness overtakes an individual, it can feel all-encompassing. It can be difficult to see the positive side of life, and negative thoughts can plague the mind. But is this the same thing as depression?
Someone who is feeling sad may also have moments where they feel like they can laugh or feel comforted. Depression typically chokes out such moments from a person’s life. While sadness emotion, depression is not. Depression is a mental illness.
Understanding the symptoms of depression can help you to differentiate it from more traditional sadness.
Depression symptoms include constant feelings of sadness, loss of interest and enthusiasm, and feelings of worthlessness. It frequently brings on irritability, fatigue, and changes in sleeping patterns.
A depressed person might also experience head and body aches that have no obvious cause. Feelings of unwarranted guilt, or of death or even suicide, are also known to plague those dealing with depression.
Some of these symptoms could overlap with an individual who is feeling sad. But with sadness, these symptoms should come and go, or fade with time. If you’ve been feeling some or all of the above symptoms for two weeks straight, you might be depressed.
Walking Through The DSM-5 Criteria
Depression can be hard to diagnose. The medical community has worked diligently in recent years to better recognize and treat depression in individuals.
Most mental health professionals now use the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Because of its very long title, most people refer to it as DSM-5.
DSM-5 is a set of criteria that can be used to determine if an individual is depressed. It contains nine symptoms of depression. If a person is exhibiting a number of the symptoms, especially in severe amounts, a diagnosis can be made.
The DSM-5 criteria are:
1. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all activities most of the day
3. Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain
4. A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement
5. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
6. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
7. Diminished ability to think or concentrate nearly every day.
8. Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan
As a patient works down the list of criteria, the symptoms become more indicative of clinical depression. The DSM-5 is the medical standard for diagnosing clinical depression.
Someone who is feeling sad is not likely to score highly on the DSM-5 criteria.
Causes of Depression Vs. Sadness
No demographic is immune to the effects of either depression or sadness. Both the emotion and the mental illness has a recorded effect on all humans, regardless of ethnicity or socioeconomic background.
There are a number of common factors associated with depressive episodes. If you’ve experienced one or more of such risk factors, you may be more likely to experience depression in your life.
Such risk factors include childhood trauma, substance abuse, or low self-esteem. History of mental illness in one’s family is also frequently indicative of the potential for depressive episodes.
Sudden and dramatic life changes, like the loss of family member or serious injury or medical conditions, can cause depression. Depression can also be the side-effect of a number of medications. These include hormonal medications and beta-blockers, but others as well.
If you’re concerned that a medication may be causing depressive episodes, you should speak immediately with your doctor.
The above risk factors do not always cause depression. The loss of a family member, for example, can and will cause extreme sadness for many people. But for those prone to depression, such a loss can send the brain down the path towards developing an actual illness.
Seeking Help When You’re Feeling Down
If you’re unsure if what you’re experiencing is sadness or depression, you should never be afraid to seek professional help. Medical professionals and therapists can help diagnose what you’re experiencing and can help guide your next steps.
All you need to do is communicate with them.
Many people wait too long to get help with depression. Depression symptoms provoke guilt and fatigue, which can make it difficult for a person to feel like they can reach out. But communication and acceptance of such a condition is an important first step towards recovery.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts often associated with depression, it is essential you reach out to a medical professional immediately. The Suicide Hotline can also provide assistance around the clock.
Understanding Sadness & Depression
Though the two frequently overlap, it’s important for all people to understand depression vs. sadness. There are a number of differences between the two. Our ability to understand our emotions and mental health can be incredibly valuable and help us live richer, better lives.
Need more mental health advice or information? Check out our blog for more.