Feelings of sadness and unhappiness are common experiences that can last for varying lengths of time. It is not unusual to find that many people experiencing this may feel inhibited and unable to live their lives as they normally would. While these feelings can be hindering, they are often short-lived and pass with time. Although many people use the term “depressed” to describe their state of wellbeing, there is a significant difference between feeling sad and clinical depression.
Recognizing Symptoms of Depression
While feelings of sadness and depression have similar symptoms, depression is a persistent feeling that does not necessarily get better with the passing of time. Depression is a mental health disorder that can manifest in a number of ways. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), chronic depression, and bipolar disorder are just some of the many subtypes of depression. Because symptoms of depression can manifest differently from person to person, receiving a diagnosis from a medical professional is the first step in identifying and treating the disorder.
A doctor can help identify whether symptoms experienced are the result of depression or another underlying condition. Lab tests, family history, and an evaluation of the person’s individual history can ensure a proper diagnosis is made. Symptoms that may identify depression include:
- Loss of enjoyment from things that once brought joy
- Persistent feelings of sadness that last for most of the day on a consistent basis
- Significant changes in weight and/or appetite
- Loss of energy
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Persistent thoughts of self-harm, suicide, and/or death
The presence of these symptoms alone does not necessarily indicate depression is the root cause. In order for depression to be diagnosed, several of these symptoms must be present simultaneously and be recurring for multiple weeks. Depression itself can occur in episodes that may last anywhere between several weeks to months or years.
Depressive episodes can reoccur and may be chronic in nature. Episodes can be triggered by significant life events, but they may also manifest for an unknown reason. Depression can be debilitating and interfere with a person’s ability to live a normal life. They may find themselves struggling with work or personal relationships. In some cases, it can interfere with a person’s ability to care for themselves, making it hard to even get out of bed.
Although depression is diagnosed through emotional and behavioral symptoms, there are some physical symptoms that can manifest as a result. Some of these include:
- Slowed body movement
- Lack of eye contact
- Slowed speech or long pauses
- Appearing preoccupied
- Sad facial expressions
- Pacing or fixation on pulling hair or clasping hands
- Digestive problems
- Pains or headaches that do not go away
In some cases, substance abuse disorders can develop as a form of self-medication. While using drugs or alcohol may provide temporary relief, it ultimately worsens a person’s overall physical and mental health, exacerbating symptoms of depression and leading to the development of other health issues.
Mental Health in the Age of COVID
Now, more than ever, many people are struggling with mental health. In the face of a pandemic, many people are struggling with fear and uncertainty about their future and the safety of their loved ones. Although social distancing is an important aspect of flattening the curve, many people are struggling with feelings of loneliness and isolation as a result, which can increase feelings of anxiety and stress. The stress associated with the current state of the world can cause symptoms of depression to develop. Everyone responds differently to these challenges and theses differences can be due to individual factors including physical health, mental health, financial security, and where someone lives.
During this time, it is especially important to prioritize your mental and physical health. Maintaining social connections during this time can help reduce feelings of isolation and strengthen a sense of community. Phone calls and video chats are excellent ways to stay connected to loved ones during this time. It is also important to ensure you are staying active, eating a balanced diet, and maintaining a regular sleep schedule. You can help protect your physical and mental health by:
- Making time to engage in activities that help you unwind
- Taking breaks for the news and social media
- Taking care of your body by stretching, meditating, and exercising
- Avoiding excessive use of alcohol or other substances
- Talking about how you are feeling with loved ones
Is it Depression?
Identifying the difference between sadness and depression can help you take the steps needed to begin healing. While depression cannot be cured, treatment options make living with this condition better. If you are unsure whether or not you have depression, reflect honestly on the below questions and consider if it is time to seek professional help.
- Have you lost interest in activities or hobbies you once enjoyed?
- Do you often feel hopeless?
- How often do you feel sad?
- Do you often look forward to things?
- Do you feel like you have control over your life or future?
- How often do you feel optimistic?
- Are you frequently overwhelmed?
- Do you use substances to escape negative feelings?
- Do you feel like you can talk about your feelings?
- Do you have unexplained pain or aches?
- Do you struggle emotionally or mentally or a regular basis?
- Have you ever had suicidal thoughts or ideations?
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call 800-273-8255 for help. If you think you may be struggling with depression, even if it is not suicidal thoughts, it is important to reach out for help. Give us a call at (310) 403-1032 to speak with one of our recovery advisors.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 310.403.1032 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.