Am I Just Feeling Sad or is this Depression?

Column Image

Is what I am experiencing normal? This is a question that I am often asked when meeting with a new client for the first time. This is particularly true when a person is wondering if they are suffering from depression. Feeling sad, down, or blue is not only a normal human emotion, but something that most people feel at different points in their life.  Sadness due to life changes, loss, disappointment, or stress is a natural way to feel. Feeling sad does not necessarily mean a person is depressed or in need of immediate treatment. Sadness can be defined as a temporary change in mood where depression is more pervasive and more severe. The following may help you determine if you’re sad or there’s something more that might warrant clinical attention.

What are the symptoms of depression?

  • Symptoms of depression can vary from person to person but include some or all of the following
    • Feeling sad/down most of the day on most days for the last 2 weeks or more
    • Lack of motivation
    • Lack of sense of pleasure or enjoyment in activities
    • Inability to sleep/sleeping too much
    • Decreased appetite/increased appetite
    • Fatigue
    • Feelings of failure
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Thoughts of wanting to be dead or thoughts of self-harm

I have some of those symptoms; does that mean I’m depressed?

  • In addition to experiencing some of the above symptoms, a depression diagnosis also depends on a few other factors:
    • Severity
      • Are the symptoms you’re experiencing affecting your ability to
        • Go to work or school?
        • Interact with friends/family/loved ones?
        • Care for yourself (e.g., attending to personal hygiene or health)
    • Length of symptoms
      • Depression is typically diagnosed only when the symptoms are persistent for 2 or more weeks without relief

When should I contact a psychologist?

  • If you have 5 or more of the above symptoms, during most days, for 2 weeks or longer, it is recommended that you seek treatment. Additionally if you are having any thoughts of self-harm or suicide, you should seek treatment. You can do so by contacting a psychologist or speaking with your primary care physician first for a referral.

What if I’m still not sure if it’s depression?

  • If you are still not sure if what you are experiencing is depression, you may want to schedule a consultation meeting or an assessment with a psychologist.
  • A psychologist can meet with you and complete a diagnostic evaluation which can not only help determine if you are experiencing depression, but also aid in choosing the treatment that would be the best fit for you .

Image: Nisha A on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0

This entry was posted in Depression. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.