Clinical depression or sadness? – what are the significant differences?
It’s normal to feel sad when you’re faced with stressful or emotional situations, but how can you distinguish feelings of sadness from the symptoms of clinical depression? The answer is complex.
Sadness or “the blues” might disappear soon after the onset, perhaps a few days later. Clinical depression will usually last for two weeks or longer and cause noticeable changes in your lifestyle.
During periods of sadness or stressful situations, you might be able to pull yourself out of the mood by talking to a trusted friend, getting away for awhile or simply taking better care of yourself. Clinical depression is signified by feeling like you’re in an unfathomable abyss that you can’t climb out of no matter what you do.
Because of where you’re at with your depression, you may become upset when friends or family attempt to cheer you up or reach out to you in some other way and have feelings of irritability, stomach problems, changes in sleep patterns or an inability to cope with even the most menial tasks or dilemmas. Clinical depression might mean that you have thoughts of death or suicide, that life just isn’t worth living anymore or that you’re worthless and don’t deserve anything good.
GENDER DIFFERENCES: Women experiencing these symptoms usually don’t have as difficult a time reaching out for help, but men might consider it a sign of weakness to admit that they’re depressed. They may lose perspective and attempt to live with the debilitating symptoms rather than asking for assistance. Clinical depression isn’t something that can be worked through without help.
The most solid difference between “just” feeling sad and clinical depression is that sadness is fleeting and the feelings usually disappear after you cope with whatever problems are causing the distress. You can go on living with sadness, working every day and dealing with the lingering thoughts that are causing the “blues.”
Clinical depression persists until your life becomes a living hell. Well meaning friends and family might tell you to “snap out of it,” or “get over it,” but you just can’t make that transition. Turning to drugs and alcohol or other medications to feel better, even for a limited amount of time, is a choice that could harm you or affect the rest of your life in a negative way.
Talk to your healthcare person about what’s going on
Prescription drugs for a medical condition might also be causing clinical depression as it chemically changes your body’s makeup. If you suspect that prescription medications might be the cause of your depression, speak to your physician about changing the dosage or the type of prescription you’re taking.
If you’ve tried everything to make your depression go away, but feel locked into the emotional roller coaster of sadness and despair, you may have clinical depression. Clinical depression can be treated with a number of options that you can discuss with your doctor.
Could you be living with severe depression?
If you’re feeling emotions that seem to be beyond sadness or that you’re stuck in a world that seems like a dark hole of despair, you could be dealing with symptoms of severe depression. Severe depression can permeate your entire life and those around you. You may become unable to function in normal activities and severe depression could eventually affect your health.
Many people who are suffering from severe depression find themselves unwilling victims of today’s tumultuous events such as the downturned economy, job loss, house foreclosures and health care issues. It’s a domino effect that could also threaten relationships, work, school, diet and sleeping habits.
Symptoms of severe depression can worsen if not properly addressed. Some may experience signs of a condition called psychosis and suffer hallucinations or delusions. Thoughts of worthlessness, self-hatred, guilt and feelings that life isn’t worth living become a 24/7 occurrence, and the hole becomes deeper and more difficult to wrench yourself from.
Side effects of severe depression include inability to concentrate, sleeping too much (or too little), reduced libido and withdrawal from normal activities such as socializing with friends and family. Extreme fatigue is a debilitating effect of severe depression and this can sometimes be accompanied by headaches and stomach problems like indigestion.
Many people suffering from severe depression find they have no appetite for the foods they once really enjoyed and end up losing an alarming amount of weight that could affect their health and well-being. Others eat too much, often bingeing and suffer from rapid weight gain.
What the professional will look for
To be formally diagnosed with depression, the clinician will look for:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, with or without tearfulness.
- A clear lack of interest in pleasurable activities.
- If both of the above are present, this is usually classed as severe depression (or major depression or clinical depression). If only one, it’s probably mild depression.
They’ll also ask about these factors because they often accompany depression:
- Sleep pattern disturbances.
- Change in appetite.
- Sluggish movements or agitation.
- Difficulty in concentrating or solving simple everyday problems.
- Feelings of guilt and/or worthless. [Source]
CHILDREN: Severe depression can affect people of all age groups, including children and the elderly. Children suffering from severe depression often exhibit lethargy and a decline in the quality of school work. They may also become insecure, cling to parents or develop whiney and moody habits. Most children display these symptoms at times, but if they begin to indicate a real decline in quality of life, a health care provider should be consulted.
OLDER PEOPLE: Older folks may experience signs of severe depression that include cognitive problems and memory loss. Health problems may exacerbate severe depression, especially if the problems affect the person’s lifestyle. Changes are especially difficult for the elderly. Losing a spouse, moving from loved ones and friends and other transformations of lifestyle may bring on severe depression in the elderly.
Psychologically, severe depression can be persistent, and negative thoughts may be difficult to banish from your mind. Coping skills might become non-existent, plunging a person with severe depression even deeper into despair.
If you think you or a loved one may be living with severe depression, seek help before the symptoms begin to devastate your health and your life.
And here is part 5 of this series: What Are The Symptoms of Different Kinds of Depression?
DEPRESSION: Need to learn more? Discussing causes, symptoms & treatments for the 6 types. Tips for managing. Natural treatments, too!
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