May 17, 2022

Am I Depressed or Just Sad?

By: Design
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Medicially Reviewed By:
Dr. Priya Chaudhri
credentials here

How Do I know If I’m Sad or Depressed?

Maybe you have never felt so utterly down in the dumps. Still, you wonder, “Am I depressed or just sad?” Read on to learn how to tell the difference.

Let’s face it, sometimes we just feel sad. There are a number of things that can bring on a bout of the blues. When we suffer a loss, for example, it can make us sad. Maybe it is a job loss, a divorce, or the death of a loved one that prompts the sadness.

But is it sadness… or is it depression that we are experiencing?

The main telltale sign of depression is whether your daily life has been impaired by the mood state. Are you able to function at work? Are you getting quality sleep? Learning about the symptoms of depression can help you sort through what you’re feeling and get help if needed.

What is Depression?

When you are trying to determine if you are depressed or just sad, it helps to refer to the DSM-5. This is the manual used in the mental health field that outlines the diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder. If five or more of these symptoms persist for over two weeks, then you should see a mental health expert:

  1. Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or despair.
  2. Trouble concentrating or making decisions.
  3. Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once enjoyed.
  4. Change in eating habits; sudden weight gain or loss.
  5. Fatigue
  6. Slowed thinking or motor skills.
  7. Sleep problems.
  8. Feelings of guilt or shame.
  9. Thoughts of death or suicide.

In many ways, depression remains a mystery. Science has yet to be able to point to a definite cause of this complex mental health disorder. There are some risk factors, though, that are said to contribute to it, such as:

  • Family history. Genetics play a role in depression, as it this mood disorder appears to run in families.
  • Stressful events. Living through a trauma, ongoing abuse, death of a loved one, divorce, illness, or a job loss can trigger depression.
  • Brain chemistry. Mood regulation dysfunction may be caused by a brain chemistry imbalance.
  • Personality. Each of us has a unique personality that can influence how we manage stressful life events.
  • Health conditions. Certain illnesses can trigger depression. These include cancer, heart disease, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, HIV, lupus, or dementia. Also, sometimes the drugs prescribed to treat the health condition can cause symptoms of depression.
  • Substance abuse. When someone becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol it causes major mayhem in their life. As the consequences for the substance abuse pile up, it can lead to despair and hopelessness. These are hallmarks of depression.

5 Ways Depression Can Impact Daily Life

When you become trapped in the gray bubble of depression it can have an adverse effect on all aspects of your life. It is not yet understood why this mood disorder can become so debilitating, but it can truly disrupt functioning.

Some of the ways depression can impact your life include:

  • Disrupts relationships. When you are in a deep depression you don’t have the energy to nurture your relationships. This can cause loved ones to feel sad and even abandoned. Also, depression dampens libido, which has an adverse impact on a marriage.
  • Makes you feel unmotivated. Depression often causes intense fatigue, which zaps all energy and makes you feel lazy and unmotivated. You may struggle to even get off the couch or out of bed all day. This affects your work performance, too.
  • Causes weight changes. Depression causes changes in your eating habits. Some may lose their appetite and shed pounds, and others may soothe themselves with comfort foods and gain weight.
  • May lead to substance abuse. Some people may begin to access a substance as a means of self-medicating the depression. This can turn into a co-occurring substance use disorder.
  • Increases the risk of suicide. There is a heightened risk of suicide among those who suffer from depression. This is why the symptoms of depression should not be ignored.

Treatment Options for Depression

If you suspect you might be depressed, the first step to take should be a visit to the doctor. There may be a health issue that is causing the depression symptoms. The doctor can perform an exam and order blood tests to determine if that is the case.

Should the results come back negative, the doctor will then refer you to a mental health provider for further evaluation. After a thorough assessment, a diagnosis is made and a treatment plan is drafted.

At this time, the various levels of care are considered. These include outpatient, residential, or inpatient treatment settings. The severity of the symptoms and level of impairment influence the decision about which level of care is appropriate.

While most patients will begin with outpatient care with their private doctor or psychiatrist, some may need more intensive interventions. A residential setting provides a homey, comfortable treatment environment with a small number of patients. Inpatient care is reserved for those with more severe depression, such as those on suicide watch.

Depression treatment will include these interventions:

Antidepressants. The mental health provider will aim to select the best antidepressant fit for the patient’s needs. These drugs take about four weeks to work in subduing the depression symptoms.

Psychotherapy. Therapy is prescribed along with the antidepressants. These talk sessions allow the patient to work through any issues that might be related to the depression, such as loss and grief or trauma. CBT is the treatment most often used for depression. Group therapy, or a support group, is also helpful.

Holistic. Holistic methods further enhance the treatment effects. These activities, such as yoga and meditation, help to reduce stress and calm the mind.

Diet. A diet rich in lean proteins, whole grains, nuts, and fresh fruits and veggies will nourish the brain. Cutting back on sugar, caffeine, and alcohol will also enhance brain health.

Exercise. Getting regular exercise is emphasized during treatment and beyond. Physical activity boosts mood by releasing the feel-good chemicals called endorphins.

Sometimes it is hard to know the answer to “Am I depressed or just sad?” To get a better measure of your mental health status, reach out for help today.

Elevation Behavioral Health For Upscale Residential Depression Treatment

Elevation Behavioral Health offers the safe, intimate setting needed for healing. Our expert mental health team is here to guide you through a difficult chapter. Give us a call today at (888) 561-0868.

Our team of experts is here to help you.