How do you know that you're sad or depressed?

The good news is, both are treatable.

09 July, 2024
How do you know that you're sad or depressed?

Feeling overwhelmed, upset, or hurt are all underlying emotions that stem from sadness. You could be sad about the death of a dear one, a breakup, or missing your friend who lives far away, the list is endless. And while things do improve with time, feelings of sadness can develop into depression if unaddressed. But it is important to distinguish between the two. Knowing and understanding this difference can help people realise when they should seek professional help (and for which one).

So what is the difference between sadness and depression?

Tracing the root cause

Sadness and depression both involve feeling low. However, there is a difference in the duration, intensity, and how it impacts daily function. Sadness is a part of depression, but is more temporary. When we talk about sadness, it is a response to an event or situation. On the other hand, depression may not always have a clear and definite cause. It can also be triggered by a host of psychological, biological, genetic, and environmental factors. 

Differing in timing and intensity

Sadness is an emotional state of unhappiness. It’s a feeling that can last for a short fleeting moment or it can be intense and long-lasting. Depression, on the other hand, is much more than that. It is neuro-toxic meaning it’s a disorder that eventually leads to the death of neurons in the critical memory of the reasoning areas of the brain. When you’re depressed for a long time, it changes the way you perceive things. If it lasts longer any than two weeks, it needs to be addressed to a doctor. 

It’s tough to snap out of depression and it can’t be done immediately. People who are depressed cannot identify themselves with people and vice-versa. They refrain from sharing things because they don’t want to add to someone else’s problem, which can be a dark space.

The symptoms

Long-lasting sadness is often a symptom of depression, but it’s not the only one. People with depression often feel hollow, empty, and dark inside, and over time, this feeling becomes their new normal. There’s also anhedonia, a symptom where there is a complete lack of energy and excitement to do anything. The person has lost interest in the activities they once enjoyed to such an extent that they no longer feel happy and positive. There are weight issues, where people experience a loss of appetite and lose weight over time. Add to that, people suffering from depression can also have trouble falling asleep or tend to oversleep because they don’t feel like getting out of bed. In the worst-case scenario, leaving aside the complete lack of self-care and anger issues, the person suffering from depression could also start to develop suicidal thoughts, in which case, immediate assistance is reccomended. 

What you should do?

Keeping these things to yourself is only good till a point. As mentioned earlier, the feelings of you feeling down, low, and dejected have lasted well beyond two weeks. While conversations with friends, family, and loved ones, surely help, it is best advised that you speak to a health-care provider, such as a doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Here, they will ask you about your case history and its details—when and where did it start, what are the symptoms, how long they last, frequency, and the ways in which they stop you from doing your normal activities. Seeking professional help is just a call away. One of the many helplines that exists is the 24x7 Toll-Free Mental Health Rehabilitation Helpline KIRAN (1800-599-0019) launched by DEPwD, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in 13 languages to provide relief and support to persons with Mental Illness.  

Inputs by Sherene Aftab, Psychologist and founder at Serene Hour Counselling & Career Advice Consultancyand Mehezabin Dordi, clinical psychologist, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai

Lead image: Netflix

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