- Is Your Sadness Normal?
- Deepak Chopra: How to Get Out of Sad Gear
- The 5 Fundamental Differences Between Sadness and Depression
- Sadness vs. Depression – The Essentials
- #1 Sadness is an emotion. Depression is a mental illness.
- #2 Sadness is brief. Depression persists much longer.
- #3 Sadness is a specific reaction. Depression is an abnormal general state.
- #4 Sadness temporarily changes your mood. Depression changes your life.
- #5 Sadness is subjective. Depression is diagnosed.
- 10 Scientific Reasons You’re Feeling Depressed
- Symptoms of Depression
- Depression overview
- Common symptoms of depression
- Suicide prevention
- How sad is too sad?
- What’s causing my sadness?
- I feel so alone
Is Your Sadness Normal?
Everyone experiences bouts of sadness. In fact, sadness is a completely normal and healthy response to life’s inevitable adversities — layoffs, breakups, breakdowns. Depression, on the other hand, is a serious condition that often requires treatment.
Feeling down and feeling depressed share similar symptoms, but clinical depression is the term that doctors use to describe a chemical imbalance that results from a combination of possible causes (including your genes, your brain chemicals, and your emotions). And though depression can be triggered by many of the same events that cause normal sadness, it is an illness that requires treatment — not just an emotional reaction.
How can you tell the difference? “The difference between normal sadness and depression is in the duration and intensity,” says Irina Firstein, LCSW, a mental health counselor in New York City. “Sadness is a normal human reaction to an event or experience that is unwanted, painful, or unfortunate. Usually these feelings will lessen or lift with the passage of time, processing of the event, and seeing it in perspective or as a continuum of life.”
Tearfulness Triggers: What Makes Us Sad?
Why do we get bummed out? “Rejection by an important person in one’s life, being passed over for a promotion, not getting the job one was hoping for — these can all lead to a sense of sadness,” says Firstein. “Usually sad feelings will last a few days or maybe a week, and during this time a person is able to function normally in their life, fulfill duties and tasks or daily activities, eat, sleep, and coexist with others.”
These common sadness scenarios can certainly invoke tears — but some of them may also put you at risk for depression:
- The death of a loved one. Grief is a process that everyone must work their way through at some point in their lives. It may take years — but grief does not normally lead to clinical depression.
- Bad breakups. A breakup or a divorce — even the loss of a friendship — can lead to feelings of loneliness, and split-ups have actually been shown to potentially trigger episodes of depression.
- Job loss. Beyond feelings of rejection, losing your job can lead to financial stress and can send your self-esteem through the wringer. And this combination of pressure, sadness, and anxiety may also lead to depression, says Firstein.
- Bad health. Prolonged illness and chronic pain commonly lead to isolation and loss of independence. While these stressors are especially common in the elderly, it’s important to know that depression is not a normal part of aging.
- Seasonal sadness. Winter blues are a common cause of sadness in younger people who live in northern climates. Also called seasonal affective disorder, winter blues is a type of sadness that usually clears up with exposure to sunshine.
When Does Normal Sadness Turn Into Depression?
“When feelings of normal sadness or winter blues don’t go away and, in fact, get deeper and more intense, and there is a difficulty or major effort in carrying out daily activities, they can be signs of depression,” warns Firstein.
If you have five or more of these symptoms for at least two weeks, you could be at risk for depression.
- Extreme restlessness or anxiety
- Big changes in your weight or appetite
- Constant fatigue
- Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Inability to think clearly
- Trouble sleeping
- Thoughts of death or suicide
How to Get Beyond Depression
“If you’re getting mired in a long-lasting sadness, it’s a good idea to pay attention,” says Firstein. “Aside from seeking professional help, you should talk to those close to you about what you are feeling, try to understand your feelings, and to make sense of them,” she says.
These tips may also help:
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Increase your exercise routine.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol.
- Postpone important decisions.
- Be patient with yourself and set reasonable goals.
Sadness is a completely normal reaction that begins to fade over time — it should not keep you from functioning and behaving normally. And remember: It will get better. But if you think you have symptoms of depression, it’s important to ask for help. With the right treatment, depression will get better, too.
Deepak Chopra: How to Get Out of Sad Gear
We live in a society where a high value is placed on being positive. Yet sometimes this simply isn’t possible, and people find themselves facing temporary or long-term sadness. Just telling yourself to “be positive” isn’t much help, because moods can have a life of their own. One of the pitfalls of positivity is that people tend to fantasize about a perfect life instead of realistically facing the fact that no life is perfect. Everyone’s existence contains challenges, disappointments, frustration and failed expectations. Further, what usually happens is that most of us become passive. We distract ourselves by watching more television or spending more hours on the computer. We wait for sadness to pass and we behave as if nothing bad is going on. Keeping up a good front is important in most people’s lives, yet behind the facade can lurk a good deal of fear. Instead of positivity, what’s needed is reality. Being realistic means that you drop the main defense that all of us are tempted to employ: denial. The only reason to deny your sadness is if you feel that you can’t do anything about it. But there are concrete ways to cope with sadness and gain control over it:
Step 1: Identifying Your Kind of Sadness
It’s perfectly normal to have sadness in your life. Some kinds, however, can be a cause for concern. If you are feeling sad at this moment—or have been experiencing a down mood for a while—look honestly at your situation. There are three types of sadness most of us fall into: Short-term sadness: This is a passing mood, lasting a few days or, at most, a week. It sometimes has a cause and sometimes not. The best remedy—as we all know but, sadly, often fail to remember—is to lower your stress, go to bed early and get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, make sure you exercise and break up your normal routine a bit. Boredom, lack of sleep, being too sedentary and excess stress are all associated with a sad mood.
Triggered sadness: This includes a downturn in mood because something undeniably bad has happened to you, such as losing your job or the death of someone close to you. In such a situation, you will generally know what the trigger is. The problem is that most people feel helpless when they enter extended sadness, even when they know there is a good reason for it. In this case, you need to process your sadness, let nature take its course and share your feelings with someone who can counsel and console you. Bottling up your feelings and feeling victimized are never helpful. Triggered sadness lasts an unpredictable length of time, yet in an emotionally healthy adult, within six months there is a return to the level of emotions that existed before the trigger was set off.
Depression: If you feel sad, exhausted, helpless, hopeless and unable to sleep, eat or enjoy sex for a period of time lasting more than a few weeks, you should suspect that you are depressed. There is often a trigger for this condition, but it is usually something that you could normally cope with. When coping breaks down, depression takes over. So if you feel that you can’t cope, even with minor stress and ordinary setbacks, mild to moderate depression may be indicated. This is a complicated mood disorder that varies from person to person. If you suspect that you or someone close to you is depressed, a doctor’s care is needed.
Step 2: Banishing the Enemies of Happiness
Let’s say that you fall into the first two categories of short-term and triggered sadness (we won’t discuss depression here; that must be handled by a health professional). If so, there are things you can do to change the situation.
It surprises people, but, in fact, the best cure for sadness is happiness. Anything that diminishes your ability to build your own happiness must be avoided or eliminated. For example, don’t hitch your happiness to external rewards or postpone being happy until sometime in the future. Don’t expect someone else to make you happy. Don’t allow your emotions to become habitual and stuck or close yourself off from new experiences. Don’t ignore the signals of inner tension and conflict, dwell on the past or live in fear of the future. Most of all: don’t equate happiness with momentary pleasure.
In a consumer-driven society, it’s all too easy to fall into all the don’ts on this list, because they share the same element: linking happiness with temporary pleasure and external rewards. Of course, we all live for the pleasure that life brings. No one is saying that you must deny yourself. But the most satisfying project you will ever undertake—and a mark of a complete human being—is to discover how to build a sense of happiness that no one can take away from you, because you have taken total responsibility for it. The journey to such happiness takes a long time, yet every step is one of fulfillment.
Step 3: Building Well-Being
Passively accepting your sadness is the same as forgetting to build your own happiness. Happiness is more than a mood. It’s a long-lasting state that is more accurately called well-being. Well-being is a balanced state of mind and body that you feel subjectively as contentment, peace of mind and emotional freedom. Well-being opens the door to joy and deep satisfaction with your life. There are practical things you can do to help cultivate it such as: give of yourself (in other words, take care of others, and care for them); work at something you love; set worthy long-range goals that will take years to achieve; be open-minded; learn from the past and then put it behind you; plan for the future without anxiety, fear or dread; nurture close, warm social bonds; and develop emotional resilience.
Developing emotional resilience is perhaps the most important, because that’s the ability to bounce back from bad things in your life. How do you encourage it? By being present with your feelings instead of fearing them, by getting past victimization or “poor me” thinking, by making a plan of action when things go wrong and sticking with it, by associating with people who are emotionally mature and seeking counsel from someone who has managed the same kind of crisis that you now face, by focusing on the times you have survived and thrived in the face of tough circumstances, and by appreciating and rewarding yourself for dealing with your difficulties.
Working on long-term, emotionally mature happiness is the best way to insulate yourself from downswings in your mood. Sadness comes and goes. Well-being can be made to last a lifetime. It doesn’t matter how close you feel to this highly desirable state or how far. For everyone, well-being is a journey. All it requires is the right vision and devotion to personal growth. You have the inner guidance to support you. The secret is committing to that journey and taking those first steps with hope and belief in yourself.
Deepak Chopra, MD, is the author of You Are the Universe: Discovering Your Cosmic Self and Why It Matters, What Are You Hungry For?: The Chopra Solution to Permanent Weight Loss, Well-Being, and Lightness of Soul, and many more books. He’s the founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center.
The 5 Fundamental Differences Between Sadness and Depression
Sadness vs. Depression – The Essentials
Sadness: You are sad about something for a few hours at a time. After a negative experience your mood changes, at most for a few weeks. Over time it gets a little better by itself.
Depression: Most areas of your life are affected, and you show a combination of depressive symptoms for most of your day during at least two weeks, causing general distress.
#1 Sadness is an emotion. Depression is a mental illness.
Sadness is a basic emotion and a part of what makes us human – everyone knows what it feels like. Experiencing sadness might even be helpful in working through difficult experiences in life, such as rejection, a breakup or disappointment.
Depression, on the other hand, is a mental illness. This means that it shows itself in many different depressive symptoms for at least two weeks. The things that once brought you joy or cheered you up don’t help anymore. You feel constantly exhausted and at a loss of motivation.
Persisting sadness is only one part of depression! It is likely that some of your thoughts, behaviors, and even physical experiences have changed alongside with your emotions, causing general distress and a fundamental change in your perception and attitude towards life.
#2 Sadness is brief. Depression persists much longer.
Emotions are momentary conscious experiences. They fade with time. If an emotion continues during a phase in life, it does so in lapses. Thus, it can last for a few hours before decreasing, at least a little. Even during a sad period, there are moments in your day where you feel ok. You are able to laugh, enjoy your favorite song, or the presence of a friend. Sadness fades with time – that’s its job.
Depression lasts longer however, without proper attention: It persists for most of your day for at least two weeks, to be exact. “Snapping out of it” is not an option. All the symptoms you are having appear to be constant, although they might be worse during the morning. Nonetheless, depression defines your entire day. It seems unthinkable that you will ever feel better again.
#3 Sadness is a specific reaction. Depression is an abnormal general state.
Sadness usually is a reaction to something, for instance a painful event. Your sadness is caused by this particular experience and it is a normal and healthy, nonetheless often unpleasant, emotion. But Depression often occurs without any apparent reason.
Maybe your life seems like it should be fine. During depression, your symptoms don’t only occur when thinking of a certain event or person. They are present within nearly every situation. Your concentration might be lower. You have a negative view on the future, you possibly feel unreasonably guilty or suffer from a helpless feeling of being out of control.
If depression begins after a specific event, it was probably the trigger rather than its sole cause. In this case, your behavior and reaction are out of proportion with the event and it is harmful to you. If disregarded, it can turn into a downward spiral.
The loss of a loved one causes a severe grieving response that goes beyond what we call sadness. It is hard to distinguish from depression because symptoms such as loss of appetite and sleeping problems can be a part of grieving. Grief tends to be a long process that comes in waves. Like sadness, grief tends to fluctuate from day to day. Depression does not so much.
Usually, grieving individuals tend to accept help and support, whereas people with depression pull back and isolate themselves. Additionally, people with depression can experience feelings of guilt or a decline in self-esteem, while sad or grieving individuals usually do not.
#4 Sadness temporarily changes your mood. Depression changes your life.
During a sad day or week your mood changes. Your mind might be preoccupied and you can find yourself falling back to sad thoughts. However, you can still go about your day normally. When you are clinically depressed, however, your daily life has become difficult to endure.
Your life has changed. Maybe your friends are noticing it too. You might be having a harder time falling or staying asleep. Maybe your appetite or your sex drive has gone down. You might be experiencing lower self-esteem. You have lost interest and joy in your favorite activities, constantly feeling weary and without energy.
#5 Sadness is subjective. Depression is diagnosed.
It is up to you to say that you are sad. No one can deny that you are sad, it is something you experience subjectively and independently. Depression, on the other hand, has set criteria and requires an official diagnosis. After all, not only the time period is key to the diagnosis, also a specific combination of core and additional symptoms. Consequently, a depression test is necessary.
If you are still uncertain, keeping track of your emotions, cognition, and physical experiences can support the detection of depression. Moodpath regularly measures all depressive symptoms. The app, created to help you detect depressive symptoms and episodes, will ask you questions three times a day over the course of two weeks, giving you a sound doctor’s letter at the end of that period. This way you’ll be able to rule out any remaining doubts and gain a deeper understanding of what it is you’re experiencing.
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I’m mostly a happy and positive person. Sure, I lose my temper and get frustrated and fed up, but mostly I stay positive and cheerful. It’s part of how I see myself and how I present myself to the world.
But sometimes I get sad.
Sometimes I don’t know why I get sad. I just do.
It’s a dark cloud but I don’t feel it around my head, I feel it around my heart. It seems to constrict it, squeezing out the positivity and the optimism and the self love. It leaves behind a tainted mush that makes me feel unsettled.
Makes me feel sad.
It isn’t a big deal for me – I am fortunate that my sadness is not depression and I have a good life so it isn’t situational. Sometimes I just have waves of unhappy.
The thing about waves of sadness is that they’re just like waves of joy – they are transient. Both extremes wash over you, pulling you into the riptide or sometimes just lapping in the shallows. But they go. They might leave you surf battered, or in a beautiful floaty tranquility – but they go.
Sadness comes. It comes for all of us and we often don’t know why.
A friend once told me that sadness and happiness often don’t have a reason. They just are.
So what do you do while you wait for the tide to recede?
If it’s a particularly dark bout you might need to hang on to something or someone. Get some help to pull you back to shore.
If it’s the kind of sadness that makes you wonder if you need some sleep – you probably need more sleep.
Other things we can do to combat the sadness is to let it out – like writing this post – or combat it with active focus on the good things – like the Happy Jar, or talking with people we love.
I think, for me, the biggest thing is recognising sadness for what it is – an emotion that will come in, muck things up a bit, and then, after a short or long while, go away.
10 Scientific Reasons You’re Feeling Depressed
Are you waking up most days just feeling “blah”? Perhaps you don’t want to do anything except lie like a couch potato and watch TV—and even that is unsatisfying. You not only feel low energy, but kind of miserable. Perhaps you’re mad at yourself for not getting the house cleaned, not getting your work done, or not getting those papers filed. Perhaps you’re feeling a bit lonely, left out by friends or unsupported by family. You may dwell on mounting bills or the fact that you’re 10 or 20 pounds overweight. You may feel aches and pains in your neck or back. Or you may just may feel grouchy and want to remain undisturbed by life’s demands and conversational opportunities. You may compare yourself unfavorably to your friend, roommate, cousin, or neighbor, who always seems to be on time, well-groomed, and on track to meet her goals. We all have those “blah” days—but why do they happen, and what can we do about them? Below are ten scientific reasons why you may be feeling out of sorts.
Some of us have brains that are more sensitive to the effects of stress. Researchers are just beginning to uncover the biochemistry behind this differential. The most common forms of antidepressants target the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine because some research concludes that low levels of these chemical motivators are part of what makes us depressed. However, only some people respond well to the most common forms of antidepressants, while others try drug after drug with no substantial mood improvement. A recent research study, published earlier this year in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may reveal the reason why. The research suggests that differences in the way our brain’s process a chemical called galanin may make some of us less resilient and able to bounce back after difficult experiences.
Less sunshine during the winter months can give us the blues, and this effect is more pronounced for some people than others. Researchers Keller and colleagues studied hundreds of people and found that during the spring, moods improved; participants also reported more outdoor activities. We may also be more cognitively flexible and able to think creatively about solving our problems in the spring, compared to winter. A subgroup of people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, a condition in which the winter blues turn into full-blown depression along with associated changes in sleep, appetite, and motivation. Sufferers are more likely to be women. Exposure to outdoor sunlight also provides us with vitamin D, a substance with clear links to depressed mood.
Most people in the US have insufficient or deficient levels of Vitamin D. The reasons are not clear, but could be related to nutrition and insufficient sun exposure. People with dark skin are more vulnerable to vitamin D deficiency, due to a decreased ability to process vitamin D from sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency has been statistically linked to depression. In a large Dutch study by Hoogendijk and colleagues (2008) of over 1,200 persons aged 65 and older, levels of vitamin D were 14 percent lower in persons with minor or major depressive disorder when compared to those not showing depressed mood.
Hormones are substances produced by the endocrine glands that influence many bodily functions, including growth and development, mood, sexual function, and metabolism. Levels of certain hormones, such as those produced by the thyroid gland, can be factors in depression. In addition, some symptoms of depression are associated with thyroid conditions. Hormones fluctuate during the menstrual cycle and may create vulnerability to sad or depressed moods in the premenstrual period, as well as during peri-menopause, and menopause. There are individual differences in how much our moods are vulnerable to the effects of hormones. If you are more vulnerable, you may want to consult a physician to see if medications are needed to help regulate your hormones. You could also try alternative medicine treatments, such as acupuncture, to reduce hormone-related mood imbalance.
Our moods are not only a function of what happens to us, but also of how we view the events in our lives and the meanings we assign to them. There are stages in most of our lives in which we seem to be working hard and doing all the right things, but don’t see many external rewards coming our way. We may not be paid what we feel we are worth or be able to afford as nice a house, car, or vacation as our friends. We may struggle to find the right partner, while our friends or siblings seem to have no problem finding love. We may have to work longer and harder than our friends to get the same grade on a test or earn a living. We may experience a difficult breakup or loss. Life naturally isn’t fair; periods of struggle, suffering, and loss are inevitable. If we expect fair or special treatment all the time or expect things never to change, we are bound to be disappointed. So if you’re feeling sad because of recent events, remind yourself that hard times are part of life and will pass. You can also try to deliberately broaden your view and focus on the good parts of your life or the experiences you are proud of.
Childhood Adverse Events
Stressful life events can wear down our physical and mental resources, making us more vulnerable to both depression and physical illnesses. A history of childhood trauma, including abuse, poverty, or loss of a parent, can reset our developing brains to be less cognitively flexible. It seems that our brains naturally go into a “fight, flight, freeze” response to stress or a threat, and we often have to use our prefrontal cortex or executive center to get out of this state. Prolonged stress in childhood can make our brains less interconnected and resilient; our brains can more easily get “stuck” in negative thinking patterns or stressed out states, resulting in us being less able to change tracks.
Stresses Piling Up
As Robert Sapolsky argues in his book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, our human stress response systems were designed to respond to acute, time-limited stressors that normally require a physical response. When our ancestors had chased off that marauding tiger, they could relax and eat. The stressors in today’s world are much more chronic and less able to be controlled by taking action, and we often don’t get the break afterwards to recover and regroup. Financial stress, loneliness, constant fighting with loved ones, being bullied, long commutes, academic or job demands, or unemployment can drag on, triggering a cascade of effects across many areas of our lives. When stresses hit us one after the other without time for recovery, they can leave us depleted and despondent, with insufficient pep to bounce back.
You may be feeling bad because you’re sitting around brooding about life’s disappointments or trying to find a reason why things aren’t going your way. Research studies by University of Michigan psychologist Susan Nolen-Hoeksema and colleagues show that sitting around thinking about about your negative mood or negative events just makes everything worse. One negative thought leads to another, and then another—until you get buried in a mountain of problems and negative predictions. This can easily lead to a loss of perspective and motivation, one that can interfere with actually taking action aimed at addressing the problem. If you find yourself in a negative thinking cycle, get up immediately and do something else pleasant or neutral to engage your mind. This can be as simple as emptying the dishwasher, rearranging your closet, going for a walk, talking to a friend or getting on with a work project.
Your Inner Critic
Do you have a critical inner voice constantly judging and criticizing everything you do, especially when things don’t go your way? The inner critic compounds the effect of anything negative in your life by blaming you for it. It keeps drawing your attention to the negative and spoils your pleasure when something positive happens by telling you that ”it won’t last” or “you don’t deserve it.” This negative dialogue takes you out of the moment and makes you feel depressed. Negative thinking can be a symptom of depression, and may be a causal factor in interaction with negative life events.
The first step to combat an inner critic is to become aware of what it’s saying; the second step is to externalize it. You could give your critic a name and imagine what it looks like—picturing it as a grumpy old crone, for instance, or a vicious barking dog. Then begin talking back to it, and telling it to back off. The inner critic generally has a negatively biased perspective and overestimates your responsibility for—and control over—outcomes in your life. It also often has perfectionistic expectations. Tell it to give you a break for a change!
Our human brains are wired to be part of a social group, and we experience loneliness as chronically stressful and depressing. Unfortunately, some of us have toxic or neglectful families that don’t provide support or presence when we need it. Similarly, we may feel that our friends are moving on—finding romantic relationships or having kids, for instance—and leaving us behind. Research using fMRI brain scans shows that even minor social rejection lights up the same areas of our brains as physical pain. Feeling left out, rejected, or excluded makes us sad; it can also lead to rumination about our faults, further darkening our moods. We become scared of further rejection and isolate ourselves, perpetuating the negative cycle. While there may not be an immediate cure for loneliness, it helps to get out in the world and pursue your natural interests, which can lead to expanding your social network. Staying in touch with old friends or family and deliberately seeking opportunities to connect may help as well.
The reasons for a down mood are often multifaceted and can be difficult to determine. If you feel depressed for two weeks or more, seek a medical consult to rule out or treat underlying biological factors. Consider consulting a mental health professional for help in managing stress and expectations, negotiating life changes, or dealing with the emotional aftereffects of past traumas and dysfunctional families. If you can’t afford therapy, antidepressants may still help to change the underlying biology. Exercising outdoors can provide both sunlight and mood elevation. Develop a toolkit of stress-reducing activities, such as regular exercise, yoga or meditation, watching funny movies, playing team sports, doing something creative or novel, and hanging out with and/or confiding in understanding friends.
Symptoms of Depression
While everyone feels sad from time to time, major depression is very different. Major depressive disorder or clinical depression causes you to experience feelings of sadness, loneliness, or a loss of interest in things you once enjoyed. When these feelings occur for more than two weeks, doctors may diagnose this as major depressive disorder. These symptoms are a sign that you need to seek professional help. Talk to your doctor if you have symptoms that may indicate depression.
Common symptoms of depression
Symptoms of depression can vary. They may manifest themselves differently from person to person. However, for most people, depression symptoms affect their ability to perform daily activities, interact with others, or go to work or go to school. If you suffer from depression you may often experience several of the following:
The most common symptom of depression is a feeling of sadness or emptiness that lasts for more than two weeks. A person may describe this symptom as a feeling of “hopelessness.” They may feel as if life will not get better and that this intense level of sadness will last forever. If this feeling lasts longer than two years it’s known as dysthymia. This is a type of chronic depression in which a person’s moods are consistently low.
Continual feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or helplessness often accompany the condition. People tend to focus on personal shortcomings or past failures. They often blame themselves when their life isn’t going the way they would like. Teenagers who experience depression commonly report feelings of worthlessness. They may report feeling misunderstood and start to avoid interactions with others.
Depression may cause people to get easily frustrated or angered, even over small or insignificant matters. This often relates back to a person experiencing levels of tension and fatigue that makes it difficult to get through the day. Men and women may display irritability symptoms differently from each other. Women often report feeling angry at one moment, and then tearful at the next. Men may appear volatile or aggressive due to their depression. Traditional male roles in society may also mean that a man displays irritability for not being able to “get it together” and overcome depressive symptoms.
People with depression often experience lack of energy or feel tired all the time. Small tasks, like showering or getting out of bed, may seem to require more effort than one can muster. Fatigue can play a role in other symptoms associated with depression, such as withdrawal and apathy. You may feel overwhelmed at the mere thought of exertion or going outdoors.
Depression is often the result of imbalanced chemicals in the brain. However, people experiencing depression may blame themselves for their symptoms instead. Statements such as “I can’t do anything right” or “everything is my fault,” become the norm for you.
People who have depression may find themselves crying frequently for no apparent reason. Crying spells can be a symptom of post-partum depression, which can occur in a woman after she’s given birth.
People with depression commonly lose interest or stop finding pleasure in activities that they once enjoyed, including sex.
Anxiety is a feeling of impending doom or danger, even when there isn’t a justifiable reason. Depression can cause a person to feel anxious all the time. A person may say they are constantly tense, but there’s no direct threat or identifiable source for this tension.
Agitation and restlessness, including pacing, an inability to sit still, or hand wringing, may occur with depression.
Lack of concentration
People with depression may have a difficult time remembering, maintaining focus, or making decisions. Fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, or feeling “numb” can turn decision-making into a talk that is difficult to accomplish. Friends or family members may discuss specific dates or events, but you may not remember just moments later due to concentrating lack of concentration. This inability to concentrate can lead to withdrawal in a depressed person.
Many people with depression shut themselves off from the world. They may isolate themselves, not answer the phone, or refuse to go out with friends. You feel as if you’re “numb,” and that nothing will bring you joy.
People’s sleep habits are likely to change as a result of depression. They may not be able to fall asleep or stay asleep. They may wake up in the middle of the night and not go back to sleep at all. You may sleep for long periods and find that you don’t want to get out of bed. These symptoms lead to fatigue that can exacerbate additional symptoms of depression, such as a lack of concentration.
Overeating or loss of appetite
Depression can often cause a lack of interest in food and weight loss. In other people, depression leads to overeating and weight gain. This is because a person may feel so frustrated or miserable that they turn to food as a means to escape their problems. However, overeating can lead to weight gain and cause you to exhibit low levels of energy. Not enough food can also cause you to also have low energy levels and feel weak.
Thoughts of suicide
Thinking or fantasizing about death is a serious sign that needs to be addressed right away. According to the Mayo Clinic, thoughts of suicide are symptoms common in older men. Loved ones may not initially notice this thinking and pass a person’s depression symptoms off as age-related mental health changes. However, depression and especially suicidal thoughts are never normal emotions.
If you or a loved one is thinking of hurting themselves, seek immediate medical attention. At the emergency room, a doctor can help you get mental health care until these feelings subside.
Physical symptoms, such as body pain, headaches, cramps, and digestive problems also can occur. Younger children with depression commonly report physical pain symptoms. They may refuse to go to school or behave particularly clingy due to the worry about their aches and pains.
If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:
- Call 911 or your local emergency number.
- Stay with the person until help arrives.
- Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.
- Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell.
If you think someone is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
Sources: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
When you have depression, treating your symptoms isn’t something you can easily overcome. You simply can’t will it away and “decide” to feel better one day. Instead, treating depression can require participating in psychotherapy or taking medications. These treatments (or a combination of these treatments) can help you feel better. If you experience depression symptoms, talk to your primary care doctor or mental health professional.
How sad is too sad?
Everyone gets sad sometimes; it’s a part of being human. But feeling sad for a long period of time makes life really hard and isn’t good for your overall health.
Here are some signs that sadness is taking over your life:
- You’ve stopped seeing friends and family.
- You get angry easily.
- You get emotional and/or cry for no apparent reason.
- You’ve stopped caring about stuff that used to interest you.
- You’re sleeping more, or less, than you used to.
- You’re eating more, or less, than you used to.
- You’re finding it hard to do all the things you used to do (such as work or chores).
What’s causing my sadness?
Not knowing what’s making you feel so crap makes it hard to find a solution. There are some simple things you can do to help figure it out. First up, it’s good to understand some obvious things that can get people down, such as experiencing grief or loss of a loved one, caring for someone who is unwell, being sick or having a medical condition or chronic illness.
Then there are other, less expected causes for sadness, such as:
- going through something stressful
- being around people who are going through a tough time
- having an argument with someone
- problems at school/uni/work
- big life changes (such as moving house)
- being bored
- not sleeping well
- not exercising enough
- hormonal changes.
Here are some things you can try to feel better:
- Talk to someone you trust, such as a friend or a family member. They might have some insights that you can’t identify yourself, which might help you figure out what’s causing your sadness.
- Write down your feelings. The causes of your sadness may become more obvious if you write about what’s happening in your life and how you feel about it.
- Face things head on. Try not to stay in bed all day avoiding things.
If you can work out what’s getting you down, then you’ll be in a better position to turn your feelings around. Problem-solving strategies can be really helpful in overcoming some issues. If the cause of your sadness isn’t really something that can be solved, though, you might need to focus on developing coping strategies instead.
I feel so alone
You never have to cope with emotional problems on your own. A counsellor can help you figure out what’s going on, guide you through strategies to overcome your sadness, and recognise if something more serious is going on.
ReachOut NextStep is an anonymous online tool that recommends relevant support options based on what you want help with. Try it to learn about the support options available for you.