Depression v. the Blues

Are you wondering if your sadness is just a case of the blues or true depression? If you need professional help or not?

Bad things happen, and we all experience periods of sadness in life. Sadness is a normal, healthy reaction to many events, and most people start to feel better over time as they deal with their emotions. But people who are depressed can't beat their feelings of extreme sadness, no matter what they do, and their depression symptoms can continue for a long period of time. Depression is not just a matter of feeling blue; it’s an illness that needs treatment.

Depression Symptoms: Are You Depressed or Just Sad?

Many things can cause sadness — a divorce or a bad breakup, losing a friend or loved one, financial troubles, and other stressors that are difficult to accept and deal with. Over time, your mind and body begin to cope with what's happened and make adaptations, and the feelings of sadness diminish.

Depression: The Emotional Symptoms

What does depression feel like? Common emotional depression symptoms include:

•          Always feeling sad

•          Constantly thinking negative thoughts that you can't stop or control

•          Feeling hopeless, guilty, or worthless as a person

•          Being extremely irritable

•          Thoughts of suicide

•          Problems concentrating, remembering, or thinking

•          Anxiety

•          Finding no enjoyment in anything, even things you once liked to do

•          Crying a lot

Depression: The Physical Symptoms

How does depression affect you physically? Here are some of the physical depression symptoms that often accompany the emotional ones:

•          Sleep problems, either sleeping too much or too little

•          Eating issues, like having no appetite or overeating

•          Weight fluctuation, either losing or gaining a lot

•          Aches and pains in your joints and muscles

•          Frequent headaches

•          Feeling exhausted and lacking energy, even when sleeping a lot

•          Abdominal pain or problems with digestion that don't get better with treatment

Depression: How Symptoms Can Vary

Depression symptoms can be different for men and women, old and young, and even from person to person, so if your symptoms don't perfectly match those listed, it doesn't mean you aren't depressed. Symptoms can be severe or relatively minor. What’s important is how often you experience them.

Any combination of these symptoms must be present for at least two weeks, on just about every day for most of the day, for them to be considered depression symptoms.

If symptoms like these — save for suicidal thoughts — appear on occasion or when you’re having a bad day, you probably aren’t depressed. Ongoing symptoms might indicate that you are.

Depression: Getting Help

Depression is serious. People with depression have an imbalance of chemicals in the brain that trigger sadness, sleep problems, and other symptoms, and keep them from getting better on their own.

The important thing is to recognize depression symptoms and get help, especially if you are having suicidal thoughts. Contact a friend, family member, or suicide hotline immediately, and learn about depression treatment.

 Depression can be managed with medication, psychotherapy, or both, but you have to start by asking for help.

Written by: Nancy Cofran, M.Ed, LPC Intern