Am I Depressed or Just Feeling Sad?

Everyone feels sad sometimes. It is not uncommon to have periods when you feel blue or a little bit down.  Often, those feelings of sadness are triggered by difficult events or experiences, such as losing a loved one, breaking up with a spouse or partner, or getting laid off at work. But, sometimes we feel sad when smaller things happen, after a bad night sleep, a stressful day at work, or a disagreement with a friend.  So, how do you know when your low feelings are just sadness versus clinical depression?

When sad feelings last for more than two weeks, and begin to affect how you function at home, at work, or in your relationships, you may be clinically depressed.  Below are the most common symptoms of major depression. If you are experiencing several of these symptoms in addition to feelings of prolonged sadness, it is important for you to seek help.

Depression Symptoms

Loss of interest in things that you used to enjoy. With depression often comes a feeling of numbness, apathy or indifference to the things that used to bring you joy. For example, if you are depressed, spending time with loved ones, participating in your favorite activities or watching a funny movie may no longer bring a smile to your face.

Changes in sleep patterns, appetite, or weight. If you are suffering from depression, you may notice changes in your everyday functioning. You may find that you sleep (or want to sleep) a lot more. Or, you may experience symptoms of insomnia and have difficulty falling or staying asleep. Depression also can trigger changes in appetite. Some people who are depressed eat more, while others find that they lose their appetite. With this, weight can change quickly and sometimes dramatically—either up or down.

Feelings of guilt, helplessness or anxiety. Often, depression is accompanied by an increase in anxiety or worry. Things that used to roll of your shoulders may feel heavier, more serious, and more worrisome. You may find that it feels difficult to quiet or slow down negative, guilty or anxious thoughts.

Hopelessness. People who are suffering from depression often feel hopeless or pessimistic. You may have difficulty seeing the positive, or believing that things (including your sad feelings) will ever get better.

Increased anger or irritability. Sometimes depression manifests as anger or irritability. These feelings may arise instead of or in addition to tearfulness and melancholy.  While anyone who is depressed can feel angrier or more irritable, men and children commonly express their depression through anger.

Difficulty concentrating or forgetfulness. Feelings of depression can be all consuming. They weigh heavy on you and often make it difficult to focus or concentrate on the business of day-to-day life.

Increased physical pain or discomfort.  Depression can cause painful physical symptoms in addition to emotional pain. If you are depressed, you may notice an increase in fatigue, headaches, back pain, digestive issues, or other uncomfortable physical symptoms.

Thoughts of suicide. If you think about suicide, you most likely are clinically depressed. While sometimes people do ponder the idea of death, if you think about ending your life, it is important for you to seek help immediately.

Depression is painful. It can impact every aspect of your life. It can affect your relationships, your job and your health.  Long or repeated cycles of depression can also trigger persistent feelings of worthlessness, increased thoughts of suicide, and chronic physical conditions.

If you are experiencing some or all of these symptoms and believe you may be clinically depressed, you do not have to continue to suffer. While it may not always feel like it, there is hope. With the right help and support, you can heal from depression. You get back the life you want.