Sadness or Depression? How to Recognize the Signs and Symptoms

As humans, we go through a lot of emotions during our lives, and sadness is one of them. It’s a normal, valid emotion, and we should never suppress it. Allowing ourselves to fully embrace sadness and feel it is a good thing, and actually speeds up the process of getting over something difficult that just happened to us or someone we care about. It’s usually a scary emotion to process, however, once we come to understand it, it becomes easier to deal with it.

Everyone experiences sadness throughout their lives. We can feel sad when we lose a loved one, go through a nasty breakup, or even something as trivial as watching a sad movie and shedding a tear. It’s a healthy emotion, and depending on the situation, the feeling usually passes within several minutes, days, or two weeks, at most.

Sometimes, if people feel sad for more than a few days, they might say they are “depressed,” however, it could just be a phase and they could be experiencing sadness for a prolonged time. Saying you are “feeling down” or “feeling low” is also common. If these feelings last more than two weeks, and the negative emotions are starting to affect your work and personal life, there might be more to it than just sadness.

Sadness can be a symptom of depression

Sadness is temporary and transitory. The difference between sadness and depression can be easy to miss; however, the distinction lies in the amount of time a person might feel sad or down. Sadness can ultimately develop into depression, although there are multiple factors that can cause depression. Feelings of sadness can be symptoms of depression, though not always. 

So, what is depression, exactly?

Depression is more than just a sad phase. It is a serious and real mental illness. It affects our mood, it can cause problems in our personal and professional lives, and it can seriously alter the way we view ourselves and others, and the way we relate to the world. Depression is hard to describe, because it’s not just one feeling. It’s a combination of multiple feelings and moods, which can negatively impact our day-to-day lives. If left untreated, and depending on its severity, it can cause serious problems.

Depression can leave us feeling hopeless and worthless. We might also experience feelings of extreme sadness, unreasonable guilt or anger, and it can completely drain us of all our energy. Some people also lose interest in the things they once loved, they can have a hard time making decisions, and some might even isolate themselves altogether. In the most severe cases, people have intrusive thoughts about ending their lives. In such cases, it’s critical to seek help from a trained professional. 

Here are some of the main symptoms that come with depression:

  • Feeling sad and depressed almost every day for a prolonged time
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Lack of energy and constant tiredness 
  • Changes in appetite: undereating or overeating
  • Changes in sleep patterns: oversleeping or being unable to sleep
  • Feelings of restlessness, hopelessness and worthlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating and focusing
  • Pessimistic view of the world
  • Feeling “empty”
  • Suicidal thoughts 

What causes depression?

There are a few factors that can cause depression. Sometimes there’s only one element. Other times, there are several factors that can lead to such a diagnosis. A difficult childhood or upbringing, traumatic and stressful life events, the loss of a loved one or the loss of a job – these are some common triggers that may, in time, lead to depression. A family history of mental illness can also be an influencing factor, as well as substance abuse or poor self-esteem. People who go through depression often have a hard time pinpointing the events or factors that triggered this condition. That’s where a trained professional or counselor can help find the source of these feelings and help sufferers cope with and overcome this situation. 

How can I help a loved one who is suffering from depression?

Being a good listener is always a good start. If somebody tries to open up about their depression, make sure you listen, without judging or trying to ‘fix’ them. Telling someone who is struggling to just ‘get over it’ is the worst thing you can do, as it may push them even further into isolation and make them feel inadequate. Listen, be compassionate, take it seriously, and offer to help without being pushy or aggressive. It’s always a good idea to recommend they see a therapist, and even offer to go with them or help them choose the right professional for them. 

On the flipside, if you suspect your close friend or family member might be depressed, but they deny it, isolate themselves, or refuse to open up, it’s best to tread lightly. Try starting conversations when both of you are calm and relaxed, and possibly share vulnerable stories of yourself first, in order to gain their trust. In some cases, there is no getting through to someone, but that doesn’t mean you should just back off completely. Oftentimes, friends and family will benefit from staging an intervention with a trained specialist, to try to offer support and specialized help for someone they care about. Do not try to stage an intervention without the support of an intervention specialist, as you might end up making matters worse. Our team at Miracle Activation Center has a lot of experience dealing with interventions, so if you or someone you care about is in need of support, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. 

Is depression treatable?

Depression doesn’t have to be a sentence. As any illness, it can be treated or improved through individual or group therapy, medication, or a mix of both. Lifestyle changes such as exercising more, being outside in nature, spending time with loved ones, yoga and meditation, can also help. One should not attempt to self-medicate when struggling with depressive thoughts and feelings; it’s important to always talk to a licensed therapist and/or psychiatrist who can prescribe the right treatment. 

One more thing…

Depression can be a debilitating illness, and unfortunately there is still a lot of stigma surrounding it. However, nobody should suffer alone. This illness is way more common than most people think, but speaking openly about it helps tremendously. Many people feel reluctant or ashamed to open up about depression or mental health struggles, because they don’t want to seem weak or vulnerable. But depression is not a choice, it’s a mental illness, so there is nothing to be ashamed or guilty about. 

Raising awareness and eliminating the stigma around depression can start with each and every one of us. If you suspect someone you love might be suffering, try to reach out and offer support, be there for them without judgement and let them know that they’re not alone in this fight. If you’re not sure how to approach someone or you have trouble making someone open up, reach out to a professional to find the help your loved one needs. 

At Miracle Activation Center, we’re committed to helping anyone who feels lost in their journey. If you or your loved ones feel that you need guidance, or just someone to listen to you and understand what you’re going through, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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