Depression or Just Sadness?


Experiencing a loss may make you sad, but if the sadness becomes out of proportion to the event then you fall into depression. Sadness is a normal reaction, but depression is not.

Depression differs from sadness in its intensity, frequency, and duration.

Intensity. While the event would make most people sad, you respond with a much deeper level of sadness. It is too intense. Your sadness moves outside the normal range of response.

Frequency. Your sadness may not be out of proportion, but it is recurrent. You seem to get over it, and then it comes back. This repetitive cycle becomes a pattern in your life.

Duration. Your sadness comes and it stays and stays. The sadness lasts much longer than it does for most other people in similar circumstances.

People with depressive illnesses do not all experience the same symptoms. How severe they are, how frequent, and how long they last will vary. It depends on the individual and his or her particular illness.

Here are common symptoms people with depression experience:

Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions

Fatigue and decreased energy, feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness

Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism, insomnia, early morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping, irritability, restlessness, loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex

No pleasure left in life any more, overeating or appetite loss, persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment, persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings, thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

Signs of Depression

Recognizing depression starts with knowing the signs and symptoms. Depression red flags include:

An “empty” feeling, ongoing sadness, and anxiety
Abandoning or losing interest in hobbies or other pleasurable pastimes
Feeling guilty, helpless, worthless, or hopeless
Social withdrawal and isolation
Weight loss; loss of appetite
Sleep disturbances
Loss of self-worth
Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
Fixation on death; suicidal thoughts or attempts
Crying too often or too much
Aches and pains that don’t go away when treated
A hard time focusing, remembering, or making decisions
Being irritable