Am I just sad or depressed?

Theresa Nguyen, LCSW, Mental Health America

If you’re feeling sad, you might be wondering if its just normal sadness – or is it depression?

Depression is about being sad – but its definitely more than just your normal sadness. If you’re sad because you lost your job, are going through a breakup, or lost someone in your life – it’s ok to feel sad about these things and it doesn’t mean you have Depression (with a big D). It does mean your depressed because of grief or a life change.  If you're sad and it's during a hormone shift - that's not depression - it could be puberty or some other physical change.

Can normal sadness become depression?

Yes, and here are some signs that you might have "clinical depression."

1) If you're feeling sad and its starts with grief or some life change, but things don't seem to get better even though you tried to work through stuff, sometimes these life circumstances can trigger clinical depression. 

2) If you don't know where your depression comes from, but it feels over overwhelming and uncontrollable - it could be clinical depression. For people who don't really know where depression comes from - this feeling might be a sign that depression is genetic and you might have people in your family who also struggle with depression.  Is there someone you can ask about that?

3) If it lasts longer than it should and starts to affect your life. Clinical depression doesn't just come and go. You have to experience them for at least two weeks and it gets in the way of your life. These are clearer signs that something else is going on. 

People who have "clinical depression" often feel overwhelming sadness, numbness, irritation, loneliness, trouble thinking, and trouble sleeping. Here's an article on a scientific breakdown of clinical depression.

If you haven’t already done so – consider taking a screen. If your depression is worse than you thought it was – maybe your brain is trying to tell you something about taking steps to feel better.

Depression is an illness, not a choice. It’s not likely you woke up one day and had it. Depression can start slow and before you know it – it’s taken over. Depression is definitely not something you have to live with – and getting better is totally possible. Doing something is better than doing nothing.

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