Feeling sad is a normal and healthy response to many different situations in life. For example it would be well within the range of normal to feel sad in response to the death of a friend or family member, the end of a romantic relationship, an unexpected move, a difficult career transition, etc. Many people struggle with how to know when sadness may actually be depression, or when sadness has turned into depression over time. Depression is conceptualized as a more chronic and pervasive state of sadness. Major Depressive Disorder is the current DSM diagnosis for clinical depression. Review the following signs to determine whether it might be time to seek professional help for your depression:
- You feel sad almost all of the time: In addition, your sadness does not seem to be in response to a recent event (like the recent death of a family member or friend). Or the event occurred long enough ago that the intensity of your emotions may no longer seem to fit the situation today. For instance if your father died a year ago, of course you will still be sad. However, if you feel just as sad and upset as you did when it first happened, this could be a sign of depression.
- You are no longer interested in activities you once enjoyed: You find you do not have the motivation or desire to participate in social events, hobbies, sports, your relationship or even your job. You may also notice a loss of sexual desire too.
- You do not see a future: You feel hopeless about the future or may even have difficulty imagining a future for yourself. You may even feel suicidal. If you do feel suicidal you should seek help immediately by calling 911 or going to your nearest emergency room for an evaluation.
- You feel exhausted: Depression does take a physical toll on the body. Feeling fatigued and tired is common. Depression can also disrupt your sleep patterns. You may find yourself sleeping too much or too little, or have trouble falling or staying asleep.
- You feel anxious: Depression and anxiety often present together and may feed off of each other. Pay attention to symptoms of anxiety such as rapid heart rate, irritability, nausea, feeling on edge, sweating, shaking, etc.
- You are noticing changes in your appetite: Some people with depression will each more, while others eat less. This may also cause significant weight gain or weight loss.
- You hurt (physically): People with clinical depression often report muscle aches and other chronic body pains.
- Your emotions feel out of control: Some people with depression may feel “flat” meaning they do not feel much of anything at all. Others express their emotions more outwardly and may have outbursts of anger or crying. Despite their very different presentations, both could be signs of depression.
If you recognize some of these signs of depression, consulting with a therapist or counselor would be an appropriate next step. There are many treatments for depression including lifestyle changes, cognitive behavioral therapy and medication.