Mindful Moments

Stress-reducing tactics, exercises in mindfulness, and emotional health resources designed to boost well-being.

Is This Sadness Normal—or Is It Depression?

How to identify depression, and what to do next

Depression or Sadness

Everyone feels down now and then. How can you tell if you’re just experiencing the blues, or if your sadness is more serious? Depression is common, and it can be serious, but it is treatable. So how can you identify it? For starters, symptoms of depression are longer lasting than episodic sadness.

Depression Symptoms

  • An “empty” feeling
  • Lack of energy/fatigue
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Crying frequently
  • Being irritable or angry
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • A hard time focusing
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide (if you’re having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255; they’re open 24/7)

If you have several of these symptoms and they last more than two weeks, talk to your doctor, says the National Institutes of Health, and ask about treatment options. Your doctor will determine if you are experiencing depression or a different health problem, like a thyroid disorder or a medication side effect.

 

Treatment Options
The two main types of treatment options are talk therapy and medication, or a combination of the two.

Talk therapy is counseling with a psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, psychiatrist, or another emotional health expert. Therapy sessions can help prevent feelings of depression and identify any issues that may be causing you to feel this way.

Depression medication generally refers to antidepressants, and there are a range of them on the market. If your doctor feels medication might be appropriate, he or she will discuss options with you.

Different approaches and combinations work for different people, and your doctor will help determine the right treatment for you. Both therapy and medication do not necessarily show instant results, so know that treatment may be a process that takes time.

Other Effects of Depression
Depression and loneliness are also risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, and gastrointestinal issues, and they can weaken your immune system.

Fight Isolation
Spending time with friends and family doing activities you enjoy can help counter depression. Consider engaging in your community in the following ways:

  • Volunteer
  • Join a book club
  • Take a fitness or dance class
  • Start a new hobby
  • Get active in local organizations

The most important thing you can do when struggling with depression is to ask for support, both professional and personal. Know that you are not alone.