Many experience sadness but feel that they are in depression, and many who are actually clinically depressed infer that they are just terribly sad or unhappy. Or are made to feel so.
There is a stark difference between being sad and depressed which is not easily understood. This confusion and blurring of lines between the two emerge from associating the term depression with sadness in every instance.
So, what is sadness?
Sadness is a normal human emotion. We’ve all experienced it and we all will again. Sadness is usually triggered by a difficult, hurtful, challenging, or disappointing event, experience, or situation. In other words, we tend to feel sad about something. This also means that when that something changes, when our emotional hurt fades, when we’ve adjusted or gotten over the loss or disappointment, our sadness also gets erased.
And what is depression?
Depression is entirely a different beast. It is not just feeling unhappy about oneself; depression is a mental illness that does not follow any emotional rules. It wrecks havoc in a person’s life because the duration usually extends more than two weeks over 6 months. It is tinged with feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and worthlessness. Depression saps our energy, motivation, and ability to experience joy, pleasure, excitement, anticipation, satisfaction, connection, and meaning.
Among medical professionals, depression is called Major Depressive Disorder, and it comes with a combination of nine different symptoms, ranging from weight loss to fatigue. To qualify, you must have experienced as least five of them, and must experience them every day for a sustained period of time.
One of the most important distinctions between sadness and full-blown depression is the broadness of its effects on the body and mind.
We’ll get into the nitty-gritty in this list, but one thing to take away from this is that depression is a far more of an overarching experience than sadness.
So How Does Depression Feel Like?
To understand better whether one is suffering from depression or is just going through a spell of sadness, look through the following questions and ask yourself does that happen to you?
1:- Can you enjoy things you like?
You may feel bouts of unhappiness but doing things you like watching your favourite shows, cooking or reading a book will alleviate your pain and sadness for awhile. It takes some effort but once you delve in the tasks you enjoy it.
One of the most important aspects of depression is the experience of anhedonia, or a lack of interest or enjoyment in things and activities you once got a lot of pleasure from. If you absolutely loved kickball/writing/graphitising haunted buildings at night, and now you can’t seem to get through the fog of sadness to feel excited about them again (in fact, they likely seem pointless), you’re probably experiencing depression.
2:- Are Your Emotions About A Specific Event Or Thing?
Often sadness is specific in its cause: the death of a relative, an upheaval or change, homesickness, a friend’s illness, you name it.
Let’s be clear here: depressive episodes can still be triggered by specific events. Scientific America in 2013 reported on studies examining what precisely these triggers are, and how they work in the depressive brain. But the depressed person is uniquely primed to react badly to a negative event, and after it occurs, they often experience a deeper, more general feeling of depression and misery that lasts beyond “normal” boundaries. Plus, depression can turn up for no apparent reason at all.
3:- Are You Maintaining Normal Eating And Sleeping Habits?
In a general manner even if you are sad about your breakup, you still follow the normal routine of having breakfast, lunch and dinner and also maintaining a roughly 5-6 hours of sleep.
In depression, according to Diagnostic Statistical Manual, the Bible in the field of Psychology, people suffering from depression experience disturbances in their sleep patterns, like insomnia, or sleeping most of the day. Also, experiences changes in appetite like “what is the point of eating?’’ or even eating more than usual.
4:- Do You Experience Punishing and Extremely Self Critical Thoughts?
While you might feel responsible and sulk a bit for something bad you might have done, you often don’t experience any permanent sense of worthlessness or guilt.
One of its most distinctive features is that your thoughts often become incredibly self-punishing; it’s difficult to see yourself as anything except rotten, bad, worthless and to blame for everything.
5:- Have You Had Self Harming Thoughts?
Suicidal ideation is not typically associated with normal levels of non-depressive sadness.
People suffering from severe depression actually feel like their life is not worth living. Some attempt self harming actions like slashing their arm, or thighs, or have constant thoughts in lines of suicide or contemplate ways to harm themselves that may act as an outlet for their pain. Suicidal ideation is prevalent, and this is one of the most distressing symptoms to experience.
These are few of the symptoms a person experiences on a consistent basis from 2 weeks lasting more than 6 months to reach a diagnosis. These symptoms may vary in severity depending on the level of depression the person is experiencing.
It is hard to live with such symptoms so it is absolutely vital to recognise these signs and differentiate between sadness and seek immediate professional help.
The Silent plea of any person going through this is “help me through this ever growing gloom and darkness”. But generally it is difficult to understand the difference and seek help in the right places.
Sadness is a small part of Depression; this is a serious but treatable Mental illness, whereas Sadness is a normal reaction or response to tough times.