Do you know the difference between being depressed or just feeling down?

Everyone faces situations that cause them to become upset. These sad situations can bring you physical and/or emotional pain. As a result, you feel sad. You feel down, blue, and generally bummed out. All of this is normal and inevitable. It’s also temporary. Sadness can give the impression of being pervasive. But, usually, a sad person can still find a reason to laugh. They can be comforted.

Depression, conversely, indifferent. It is a mental health condition — not an emotion. It presents a lot like sadness but it is not the same as sadness. Understanding the difference is essential, particularly if you are living with unresolved trauma. Understanding the difference could literally save your life.

Some of the Reasons We Feel Intense Sadness

Trauma comes in many forms. Have you experienced any of the following?

Romantic break-up, divorce, or separation
Abuse or neglect
Losing a job, home, lifestyle
Financial woes or collapse
Death of a loved one
Illness, injury, chronic pain

Any such disturbing event can trigger strong feelings of sadness. Most of the time, these feelings will pass with time. If they don’t, you may have to consider the possibility that your experience has become emotionally unmanageable and you’ve become depressed.

5 Clear Clues That You’re Depressed and Not Just Feeling Down

Causes
We touched on this above but it bears closer examination. Generally speaking, sadness has a clearly identifiable cause. Perhaps your partner has decided to break up with you. This is the obvious trigger and the fallout is somewhat predictable. However, if you’ve slipped into a dark place filled with shame and guilt with an evident trigger, this is a red flag.

Severity
When sad, you may want to be alone for a while. You may skip a day at the gym. But you never have a sense that, for example, you will never socialize again. Depression strips away your enthusiasm for all the things that once interested you. On the surface, this can initially feel similar. What’s alarming is the degree to which you experience these emotions.

Duration
Two weeks. That’s the generally accepted cut-off point. Sadness may permeate your entire being for a few days. You may feel fatigued but unable to sleep. Concentration is hard to find. But, until these symptoms last consistently for two weeks, there is no reason to assume the worst.

Physical Problems
Depression is a mental health disorder. Even so, it is known for having some ugly physical symptoms, e.g.

Sudden weight loss or gain
Drastic increase or decrease in appetite
Sleep disturbances
Muscles aches and tension (especially headaches) with no specific cause
Low energy, exhaustion, and fatigue

Trauma and depression-related physical problems are often misdiagnosed. Stay aware of what’s going on in your body. Trauma can take up residence in your breathing, muscles, and gut. An associated and intense bout of sadness can wear you down.

Thoughts of Death and/or Suicide
This might be the clearest distinction. A sad person may blurt out something like, “I wish I was dead.” A depressed person fixates on such dark thoughts. Depression often brings with some very clearly related thoughts about being dead or taking our own life. Needless to say, this requires immediate intervention.

Should You Seek Help? 

This is not a simple yes or no question. You see, therapy is not just for those with a diagnosable condition. If you’re grieving the loss of a family member, you may experience intense sorrow without transitioning into depression. This does not mean you shouldn’t ask for help. A skilled counselor is capable of supporting you through a very wide range of issues and concerns.

If your symptoms line up with those of depression, get help ASAP. But even if this is not the case, you could still very likely benefit from some professional guidance and trauma recovery. Either way, let’s talk about what’s going on. Reach out today for a free and confidential consultation.