Am I Depressed or Sad?

It is common to feel sadness as a reaction to emotional upset or pain. There are varying degrees of sadness. But, sadness is temporary and fades over time. In contrast, depression is consistent and lingers.

Everyone processes emotions differently. Emotional pain can range in intensity from small losses to heartbreaking tragedies. Depression is not an emotion, but rather a mental health disorder.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 5% of adults worldwide suffer from depression. It is a common but serious mood disorder. As such, it leads to severe symptoms that can affect every aspect of someone’s life, sometimes in unexpected ways.

Depression is not a one-size-fits-all condition and as such, symptoms vary widely. So, if someone is wondering, “Am I depressed or sad?” there are some common signs and symptoms of a depressive disorder they can explore to help tune into their feelings.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Depression?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the following are common signs and symptoms of depression.

Persistent Sadness

This is a sadness that never goes away and may include feeling anxious or “empty” inside. Often people have great lives. They may wonder why they are feeling so sad and empty for no reason. Also, this may be prolonged grief after a loss that doesn’t lessen over time.

Hopelessness or Pessimism

Depression can make someone feel hopeless and that their life will never get better. These are false assumptions about circumstances in life. They may feel it is pointless to try to change anything. Additionally, someone may be pessimistic and unable to see the good in the world.

Irritability, Frustration, or Restlessness

Frequently, friends, family, and co-workers may notice when someone seems grumpy all the time. Depressed people may do or say things that are out of character for them. As such, this can lead to angry outbursts or even aggression.

Feelings of Guilt, Worthlessness, or Helplessness

People may feel guilt at times for various reasons. But, with depression feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness are usually excessive and unwarranted. 

Loss of Interest or Pleasure in Hobbies or Activities

This can sometimes be one of the first signs that lead someone to ask themselves, “Am I depressed?” They may wonder why they cannot enjoy things like they once did. As a result, they will experience disappointment from what their expectations were.

Decreased Energy and Fatigue

Someone struggling with depression usually has noticeable fatigue and less energy. This may appear to those around them as a lack of motivation or laziness. They may neglect their personal hygiene, household chores, and other responsibilities. Because of this, they may experience relationship and financial difficulties. In some cases, they could even lose their jobs or homes.

Difficulty Concentrating, Remembering, or Making Decisions

Depression can affect someone’s ability to think or focus. And, this affects their executive function. The extent of a person’s lack of function usually depends on the severity of their depression. This can greatly affect someone’s daily life, or even be a safety issue.

Sleep Disturbance

One of the most common symptoms of depression is a disturbance. They may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Especially when under stress. Also, people who have insomnia are at a higher risk of developing depression. On the other hand, many people sleep too much and may have trouble getting out of bed.

Appetite and Weight Changes

Some people with depression may feel hungrier than normal. They may emotionally eat or eat for comfort. This is especially true during the winter months. Still, others will have less appetite, which can lead to unintentional weight loss.

Physical Symptoms

Depression and pain share chemical messengers in the brain. Someone who suffers from a chronic illness or pain disorder often experiences depression. Likewise, someone who suffers from depression may experience a wide range of pain symptoms. This may include headaches, muscle, and joint pain, or gastrointestinal issues.

Suicide Attempts or Thoughts of Death or Suicide

All depression should be taken seriously. But if someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts they must tell someone and seek immediate depression treatment. People can also chat, text, or call 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline to be connected to trained counselors.

I am Depressed—What Do I Do?

First, and most importantly, if someone is struggling with depression, it is imperative to seek help from a mental health professional. Equally important, they should see their primary care physician who can perform a physical exam and lab tests to rule out other possible causes.

Depression is not a weakness or character flaw. In fact, it is a chemical balance in the brain. It can happen to anyone at any time. Keep in mind, depression affects everyone differently. At Neuroscience Institute, we offer different treatment options to accommodate each client’s specific needs.

How Can I Take Care of Myself?

If someone is depressed, they can’t just “snap out of it” or control their mood. In addition to seeking professional help, there are self-help steps people can do to help their depression recovery. The things that can help the most are also the most difficult to do for someone who is depressed. Taking the first step is the hardest.

Depression drains a person’s energy and motivation so they may have to force themselves to do the things that can help them feel better. For example, playing music or going for a walk might lift their mood enough to try another activity. 

Things to Do

  • Get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat healthily
  • Spend time with friends
  • Play with a pet
  • Former hobby or sport
  • Volunteer or help someone
  • Go to a concert or movie
  • Get daily sunshine and enjoy nature

Things Not to Do

  • Isolate 
  • Use drugs or alcohol
  • Ignore being depressed
  • Play sad music
  • Feel guilty about depression
  • Fixate on sad news and media

Why am I Depressed?

There are several forms of depression. The two most common forms are major depression and persistent depressive disorder. Other forms include postpartum depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and depression with psychosis. Additionally, individuals with bipolar disorder also experience depression. 

Depression can sometimes co-occur with other mental health disorders, such as anxiety and mood disorders. Also, depression and other mental health conditions can be hereditary. It can also come about due to someone’s environment, traumatic events, or as a result of substance abuse.