Telling the Difference Between Depression and the Blues

Every person in the world becomes unhappy at some point in their lives. You really can’t expect someone to greet events such as the death of a pet or the loss of a job with singing and dancing.

Aside from sadness, we are all sometimes victims of other negative emotions – feeling empty and without hope, regretting things we have no power to change, fearful of a future we cannot predict – which is only marginally under our control. Occasionally, these feelings persist for weeks or longer. At times they are unbearable. Is it just a mere passing feeling or something more? Read more about how therapy sessions, even if they are free, can help in this article focused on free online therapy benefits.

Characteristics of Depression

Major depression is certainly no joke, with anywhere between half and three-quarters of all suicides occurring among depressed people. At the same time, it is also highly treatable if recognized in time. By far, the majority of patients respond positively to treatment. Depression also tends not to stand still. Unless it somehow gets better by itself, it tends to worsen over time if left untreated, whether by medication, talk therapy or in some other way.

The major feature of clinical depression is its pervasiveness in a person’s life. If someone is feeling sad, there is usually a clear cause and effect relationship involved: they feel sad because. The particular reason is up to the individual. Nobody else is in a position to tell them not to feel bad about the fact the Falcons lost or their boss yelled at them. Any reason may be valid for that particular person, however trivial it may seem to others.

As told by Kurt Smith, Psy.D., LMFT, LPCC, AFC,  “Depression is different from passing sadness or temporary frustration with life’s issues. There are number of common signs for depression and they tend to be persistent.” The point is that the reasons for sadness are clear in that person’s mind, but they are still capable of feeling happy about other things. In the case of major depression, there need not be any because involved. A person just feels sad, not only about one event or situation but about most things. Even those activities that would normally bring joy to them seem unexciting, and what is normally important to them, less significant.

Symptoms of Depression

In fact, a gloomy emotional state is only one of the possible manifestations of depression. Some people who are depressed “switch off” emotionally, feeling no happiness, anxiety or even sadness. Others may become very volatile in their feelings, easily turning angry or irritated. Undirected, irrational guilt or anxiety is also common. The inner lives of human beings are complicated, and it would be a mistake to think that everyone should feel the same under the same circumstances.

How a person feels is only one symptom of major depression. One of the most important indicators that a person is depressed is a change in behavior, such as withdrawing from their normal activities or eating much less or more than they used to. Insomnia, constant tiredness and difficulty concentrating can have literally dozens of causes but may be related to depression if found in combination with some of the other symptoms.

However, the most important distinction between normal, healthy sadness and depression as a mental illness is the amount of time they persist. According to Simon Rego, PsyD, associate professor of clinical psychiatry. “Depression symptoms are particularly troubling if someone displays more than one, or if they persist for more than two weeks,” I might feel sad for half a minute if I discover that I’ve run out of coffee, while it would take months or years to recover from the loss of a loved one. The initial emotional dive is rapid, and while the path back up is not always smooth, it at least trends generally upward.

With depression, generally regarded as a condition which lasts for at least two weeks and can become permanent, there may be periods of improvement followed by recurring declines. This means that a person’s emotional state has become disconnected from the event which caused it, and clinical depression is the most likely explanation.

When to Seek Help

“A stressful change in life patterns can trigger a depressive episode. Such stressful events may include a serious loss, a difficult relationship, trauma, or financial problems.” Ben Martin, Psy.D. said. 

Self-diagnosis is rarely a good idea when it comes to serious medical issues and is notoriously difficult in the case of psychological conditions. Many people have consulted a therapist for depression only to realize that they were actually just experiencing normal emotions, while a large number of those suffering from depression refuse treatment because they think that they are merely sad. Someone who believes they may be suffering from depression, or know someone who does, would be well advised to seriously consider getting a professional opinion rather than hoping it will all just work out, somehow.