Most of us hear the words sad and depressed used interchangeably a lot these days. Some people say “I am sad” when it is a small thing that is bothering them and “I am depressed” when they are feeling intense sadness. But those two sentences have completely different meanings to them.
Sadness and depression are not synonyms. They are two different words that have a totally different meaning to them. Feeling sad is part of depression but depression is not extreme sadness.
By knowing and understanding the difference between the two, you will be able to recognize your true emotion and work your way on finding a solution accordingly.
What is sadness?
Sadness is an emotional reaction to something that happened to us. We feel sad if something that we didn’t wish to happen happened. It is a natural spectrum that we all get to experience every once in a while as humans. It develops as a response to when we get hurt or feel distressed about something.
There are a number of life events and situations that cause sadness and leave us unhappy. Some of the situations that leave us in a negative mood include:
- The loss or absence of someone we love
- Being let down by someone
- Failed at a specific task (like exams)
- Going through a financial crisis
- Going through a break-up
- Having major life changes
- Lost our job
All these reasons can cause sadness (or even extreme sadness) because it is only natural to feel down or upset when something bad happens to you. Sadness is always triggered by something. You always know what caused you to be sad. However, it is a temporary feeling.
The feeling of sadness is just like the weather. You feel sad for some time and after that, it fades away. It has short-term effects on your mood like calling in sick for work, declining invitations from your friends, etc. because you are in no mood to do those activities during your sad phase. But eventually, in a few days’ time, you get back to being normal.
You can always find ways to overcome your sadness and they usually work. Crying, venting, going out with friends, opening up to someone about how you feel, or even trying to cheer yourself up by doing things that makes you happy like listening to music or practicing some hobby can change your mood. This way, life gets back on track.
With sadness, there are moments you can laugh, have fun, and truly feel happy from the inside. However, depression is totally different.
What is depression?
Depression is not just something you feel when you are extremely sad about something like how most people say it. It is a mental disorder that needs attention as it has an intensive negative impact on many details of a person’s life related to his/her attitude and behavior. Depression can be triggered by sadness and then prolong for weeks or months in a row.
Unlike sadness which is specific, depression is vague as it comes without a reason and stays with you for a very long time especially if left untreated. People who are depressed don’t really know why they are depressed. It is chronic and is simply there the whole time.
Depression affects the way you view/understand yourself and your surrounding, and also affects how you relate yourself to things around you. When a person hates himself, it is only natural for him to believe that no one around him cares about him.
People who experience depression explain their life as if they are living in a black hole. They believe that they are worthless and hopeless and that life is not worth living. They feel empty, lifeless, insecure, or have unexplained guilt that haunts them all the time. With time, they feel like their whole body is slowly shutting down.
Depressed people can never find joy in anything around them. Even the things that they once enjoyed doing, seems tasteless or pointless at this point in their life. They isolate themselves convinced that people will never understand how they feel because mostly even they don’t understand why they feel the way they do.
Factors that make you vulnerable to depression
According to WebMD, scientists still don’t know what exactly causes depression. However, based on their researches, they believe that some factors like genetics, trauma/abuse, stress, personality traits like being pessimistic or having low self-esteem, or even hormonal changes in their body can provoke depression.
Depression can also be caused by medications that a person takes for other illnesses. It can play with the person’s hormones causing an imbalance in their brain reinforcing depression. Therefore, if you feel depressed while taking any kind of medication, read the leaflet inside its box. If any of the side effects mention depression, consult your doctor and ask for a replacement for your medicine.
Also, there can be other reasons that make you vulnerable and increase the risk of depression. Here are some examples:
- Having relationship problems with your spouse/partner that is causing you to be unhappy most of the time.
- Going through very stressful life experiences like unemployment or financial problems.
- If you are diagnosed with a serious or terminal illness and that leads you to feel hopeless.
- Suffering from some kind of trauma/abuse from your childhood or as an adult that still haunts you all the time making you feel guilty about what happened.
- Experiencing family problems that you face on a daily basis like a controlling father, an emotionless mother, a bully sibling, etc.
Signs and Symptoms of depression
Depression symptoms are different from one person to another. Each person may be going through depression in ways we know nothing about. But the most common signs of depression are divided into a person’s psychological and physical being.
Remember that some of these symptoms can be very similar to someone who is just sad or going through something. However, what you should be looking at is the intensity and consistency of these symptoms in your behavior.
- Changes in appetite and weight – you are eating either too much or too little due to low mood causing dramatic weight changes.
- Changes in sleeping habits – you are either sleeping the whole day and every day or you are having trouble sleeping at all.
- Fatigue – you are always tired and have very low energy to do anything even when you are not physically active at all.
- Unexplained body aches – you may experience headaches, back pains, stomach cramps.
- Loss of interest in usual activities – you don’t find joy in practicing your daily activities or in what you always had fun doing.
- Social isolation – you no longer want to meet anyone and spend most of your time alone.
- Feeling helpless, worthless, or hopeless – you lack motivation in everything and feel like no matter what you do, you will never get better.
- Having strong feelings of self-loathe – you grimly criticize yourself regularly on mistakes or faults that you believe happened to you because of you.
- Poor concentration – you have trouble remembering things or your thinking skills slowed down leading you to find difficulties in solving problems or making decisions.
- Feeling irritated over trivial stuff – you get angry, agitated, or violent very fast over insignificant things that are not worth these aggressive emotions.
- Imprudent behavior – you behave recklessly without thinking about the consequences of your actions.
- Not caring about whether to live or die – you talk about life and death like it doesn’t really matter to you.
Depression is a significant liability for suicide and self-harm. The profound sadness and misery that accompanies depression can cause self-destruction to feel like it is the best way to bail out of the agony they feel.
Most people suffering from depression don’t really want to die. They just don’t want to live. Their empty feeling just wants them to be detached from reality. This is why most of them self-harm…to feel alive.
Also, there are online depression quizzes (like HealthyPlace) that you can take to know whether what you are going through is a depression or just sadness. It also shows the score and the severity of your depression.
Smiling depression is an undetected type of depression. I consider it to be the most dangerous of all depression types. It is when a person masks his depression behind a smile showing people that he is a very happy person. This person can not be detected and hence can hardly find support in becoming better.
We all imagine someone having depression to be silent, isolated, sad, cry a lot, or talk about being depressed a lot. Although all these signs truly indicate that a person is depressed, we also need to know that a person who is full of life and happy all the time can also be depressed. Negative signs help to detect them and to look for ways to help them out.
I advise you not to be one of those people. You need to let it out to become better or at least so you can learn to live with your depression without pretending that you are fine.
How can I help myself?
I know that when you feel depressed, it feels like there is no way out of it. I have been there and I know exactly how it feels. It dwells inside you and drains your life slowly making you feel empty and lifeless. But believe me, it is not the end of everything. You CAN be treated or at least you can learn to live with it without hurting yourself.
The fact that you are still reading my blog post shows that you recognize some of the signs of depression in yourself (or someone you care about) and you are looking for ways to help feel better.
I am proud of you and I am here to tell you that there are many ways that you can deal with depression and help yourself feel better. Here are some ways:
Take your situation seriously
Some people ignore the fact that they are depressed and choose to carry on with their lives as if nothing is happening inside them. Don’t do that! This is the worst thing you can do to yourself because one day you will reach a point of no return (God forbid).
Acknowledge that you have depression so you can work on feeling better rather than just ignoring it.
Force yourself to do things you enjoyed
I am sure you don’t feel like doing anything at all at this point and nothing matters. However, in order to work your way to feeling better, start by thinking about the activities you enjoy doing. Write them down and start spending time doing them.
Don’t lie awake for more than 30 mins on your bed. Get up and do activities that you find relaxing.
Be gentle and compassionate with yourself
You may think that you are worthless and that nothing you do can change anything but try to work on loving yourself. You have to start thinking that it is not your fault. Whatever happened happened not because you made it. It was just meant to be. So just give yourself some break and believe in yourself again.
Find ways to preoccupy yourself with everything around you. Try spending time fascinating nature, volunteering somewhere, getting yourself a pet, etc. Even though you may feel like nothing is going to change, with time, believe me, things will get better.
You can choose some of the 32 Super Easy Ways To Spend Your Free Time to do things that can help you fight depression.
I know that moving from your bed can be the last thing you can do right now, but try forcing yourself up and start exercising. It will change your mood to feel better than what you are feeling when on your bed.
Watch your diet
As we all know, nutrition has a great impact on our mental health. So you should watch out your eating habits. Stay away from foods or drinks that may have a negative influence on your behavior or mood. Examples of such nutrition maybe caffeine, food containing sugar or fat, etc.
Alcohol and drugs are number one items to stay away from. Most people use them to cope up with depression but it will just ruin you more.
Increase your vitamin B intake
People who have deficiencies in vitamin B (B-6, B-12, or folic acid) can have a high risk of feeling depressed. Healthline explains more about vitamin B-12 and how it can be related to depression.
You can boost your vitamin B by taking supplements (after consulting a physician), or by eating food that has a high source of vitamin B like fish, meat, dairy products, green vegetables, etc.
Talk to someone close to you
By simply talking to someone about how you feel or what you’re going through, can be a great way to help yourself. Don’t talk to a person by looking for answers or ways on how to fix what you’re feeling. That will just disappoint you because they may want to help but they wouldn’t know how. All they have to do is be good listeners who listen to you without distraction, and most importantly, without judging you.
If none of the above methods worked for you, then it is time for you to use the last card. Visit a therapist for counseling or psychotherapy. They may prescribe some medications if your case happens to be very serious.
Taking medication is not a cure for your depression. It is just a method to reduce the intensity of the symptoms you are going through. By undergoing therapy, a therapist can give you some tips on how to prevent depression from surfacing back into your life.
What can I do for someone going through depression?
If you know someone who is depressed, all you have to do is help them acknowledge how they feel so they can process it. Don’t make them feel like they are exaggerating over how they feel about issues that may seem trivial to you.
You have to know that every person is built with different tolerance levels. Maybe you are going through something worse than the person with depression but the fact that you are strong enough to overcome it doesn’t mean that they are weak. It doesn’t give you the right to belittle their feelings or ask them to grow up and move on.
Stop using phrases like, “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine soon” or “All you have to do is deal with it and with time it will fade away”, or compare your life with theirs by showing them that they are in a better place than you are and then say things like, “You just have to try and be thankful for all the good things in your life.”
It’s not like they don’t know all the things you’re talking about. It is just that in their minds, nothing matters anymore. They stopped seeing life the way you do. It is not in their hands. It is what depression is doing to them.
By saying these things to them, you are not helping them. Instead, you are making them feel more hopeless than what they already feel.
As a result, they believe that isolating themselves is the best option because sharing how they feel didn’t change anything. It just made them feel worse about themselves because they were not able to comprehend or act upon your words.
So what you should be saying instead is, “Don’t worry, I am here for you when you need me”, “You won’t be dealing with this alone”, or “What can I do to make you feel better?”
Apart from offering them non-judgmental support, there are other ways you can help them.
- Stay in touch with them regularly to check on them. Whether through a phone call, message, or visiting them.
- Accompany them whenever you can even if it seems to you that they are not enjoying your company.
- Try taking them out and plan entertaining activities together.
- Encourage them to get out of bed and exercise together.
- Don’t ask them a lot of questions about how they feel or why they feel this way. Instead, just be there around them showing support.
Even if their problems seem negligible to you, try lifting them up and help them see life with a better perspective. You can share your motto, believes, and experiences in life to help them fathom that life is all about going through different phases. Show them that with your support (or the support of their loved one), they will overcome it.
Unlike sadness, it takes a very long time to treat depression. If you feel that nothing is working, encourage them to visit a therapist and get treated before their depression gets worse.
To sum up, sadness is something you can get over within a short period of time but depression is not. If you are sad, look for ways to lighten up your mood. It can be breaking your routine by making positive changes, going early to bed and getting uninterrupted sleep for almost eight hours, etc.
Depression is an illness just like flu, cancer, etc. It is not a choice made by a person. No one chooses to be depressed. It just happens to them. It is not some kind of weakness that you can just snap out of. It stands in need of long-term treatment.
The best part is it is treatable and many people got treated through therapy and/or medications. So don’t feel discouraged or that there is no way to come out of your misery or that no one is there to support or understand you.
It is hard to understand yourself or your actions when you are depressed. It is a common and natural feeling. So don’t think that by keeping it all in, you are saving yourself from judgment. Remember that you are not alone and there are many others like you who suffered but got better because they took the initiative to the will of living a better life.
Thank you for reading till the end 🙂
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Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas on depression in the comments below.