Sad or Depressed?

Sad or Depressed?

I was having a conversation the other day with a client about depression and sadness. I said to my client that it is important remember that these two things are not the same thing, though people often use one term to describe the other. Sad people often describe themselves as depressed but that is not necessarily clinically so. They may have a sad or depressed mood but depression is much more than sadness. To say it another way, I told my client that experientially, when I see sadness in my office, I’m usually not too worried about what I will need to provide. I feel capable of helping people work through their sadness. When I encounter a client who is suffering from actual depression, my anxiety level goes up in terms of the need to provide enough and high quality care to make a difference.

So what’s the difference, you might ask. To get a better answer I looked to some people who have much more expertise that I. A lot of this is from Guy Winch, PhD, who has written some excellent books and articles as well as a TED talk that is very informative. Dr. Winch says that the most basic difference between depression and sadness is that that sadness is a normal human emotion. It is something we all have had and will have. Depression, on the other hand, is an abnormal emotional state and presents with much more than just feeling sad. That is not to say that feeling sad is a bed of roses but rather to say that depression can be sadness but is also a lot more.

According to the DSM-V, which is the diagnostic manual for psychological disorders, a basic diagnosis for a Major Depressive Disorder starts with having five or more of the following symptoms.

  1. A depressed or irritable mood most of the time.
  2. A loss or decrease of pleasure or interest in most activities, including ones that had been interesting or pleasurable previously.
  3. Significant changes in weight or appetite
  4. Disturbances in falling asleep or sleeping too much.
  5. Feeling slowed down in your movements or restless most days.
  6. Feeling tired, sluggish, and having low energy most days.
  7. Having feelings of worthless or excessive guilt most days.
  8. Experiencing problems with thinking, focus, concentration, creativity, and the ability to make decisions most days.
  9. Having thoughts of dying or suicide.

If you are sad, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Find a friend or therapist to help you get through it. You might even be aided by a short run of anti-depressants. On the other hand, if the above symptoms sound like you and you can pretty clearly identify with several of them, PLEASE SEEK HELP and the sooner the better. You may be suffering from the dangerous and challenging disease of depression. Talk with your doctor. See a therapist. Tell your spouse or parent. You are not alone and you are not without hope but you need to take even a small step toward getting treatment as soon as you can.