Is Depression Different from Sadness?
Arjun got divorced last year after 14 years of marriage. At first, his life felt completely off balance. He didn’t know where his bank papers were or how to switch on the ancient geyser in his house, and every morning when he woke up in an empty bed he wished things could have been different, and he often spent long hours driving at night unable to stop thinking about his wife. But as the weeks passed, he learned to survive on his own, even taking up some of the old hobbies he hadn’t had time for when he was married. He still missed his wife and thought about her often, but not as much. One day he ran into her at the supermarket. She’d lost a drastic amount of weight and her hair was uncombed. As he watched her from a distance, she seemed to just be drifting through the aisles, not really paying attention to the goods. She had dark circles under her eyes as if she hadn’t been sleeping, and the tiredness showed on her face. Later, he reached out to her sister and found out that since the divorce, she had quit her job and rarely left the house. She cried without warning and had lost all pleasure in daily life.
While the divorce was traumatic for both of them, Arjun managed to cope with his grief in a healthy way and move forward. For his wife, it was the start of depression.
We use the words “I’m depressed” so often, that we’ve forgotten that there’s a huge difference between depression and sadness.
Sadness is a temporary emotion that we all experience at one point or another. A situation such as doing badly on a test or having an argument with a close friend might cause us to feel sad. However, once we have distracted ourselves with something we enjoy or taken some time off to heal, we end up feeling better.
On the other hand, depression is a psychological illness characterised by lasting sadness (beyond two weeks) that interferes with work, motivation, sleep and appetite, and the things that once gave us pleasure mean nothing anymore. There may be constant fatigue, feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness and self-criticism, that seem to come out of nowhere and become part of every aspect of our life and functioning. Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or a suicidal intent or attempt are serious indicators of depression.
When we confuse depression for sadness, we fail to acknowledge the depth of the person’s struggle, and are likely to trivialise their experience by encouraging them to “cheer up” or “choose to be happy”. It is important for us to be aware of these signs so that we can seek help for ourselves and also help others.
If you or somebody you know has been experiencing these symptoms for two weeks or more, reach out to a mental health professional today. An expert can identify signs and select the best treatment approach to help you manage your symptoms better.
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If you, or anyone you know, is suffering from depression, don't hesitate to reach out to us. An InnerHour therapist can help you.
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