Everyone gets the blues at some time or another. Sadness is a natural emotion and an expected response to setbacks such as a romantic break-up, a demotion at work, or the loss of a friend or relative. Grieving is a process that we all must acknowledge and experience. But since, at first glance, sadness and depression share some of the same symptoms, how do you know when your blue mood is a sign of something more serious?
Sorrow is usually a response to a specific, disheartening event, a natural emotion that follows personal loss or change. It can continue for a long time, but, in general, the intensity of the experience ebbs, evolves, becomes intermittent, or eases over time.
Depression, although it can be triggered by a single event, is far more stubborn. The duration and intensity of the sad feelings (among other emotions) are markers that determine the difference. Depression doesn’t easily ebb and can quickly change for the worse.
Although sorrow is one of the emotions that the clinically depressed can experience, it is only one of many. Sufferers of this malady often express feelings that go far deeper than what would necessarily be expected of someone grieving a particular event or series of events. Some of those feelings include:
Although sorrow can surely cause a loss of appetite, insomnia, and many other physical symptoms, red flags should fly if those symptoms persist and multiply to the point of inhibiting normal function. One of the hallmarks of clinical depression is a raft of physical conditions, such as:
- Ill-defined maladies, such as headaches, backaches, cramps, etc.
- Sleep pattern changes, including fatigue, restlessness, insomnia, oversleeping
- Appetite changes, to the point of sudden weight gain or loss, or digestive issues
Whether we’ve experienced it or not, we’ve all seen people grapple with sadness. We expect tears, withdrawal, and a period of mourning. But those who suffer from clinical depression often exhibit mood and behavioral changes that aren’t usually expected from someone with “just” the blues. These may include:
- Cognitive trouble, such as difficulty in making decisions, remembering things, and concentrating for any length of time
- Personality changes, such as becoming withdrawn or irritable and losing interest in what once brought joy
- Self-harm (such as cutting) or suicidal thoughts
Grief is an emotion, but depression is a mental health issue that can be treated by medical professionals. If you believe that you may be experiencing some of the signs and symptoms of depression, never hesitate to call a mental health professional to get the help you deserve and need.