We all experience days when we feel sad, unhappy, and dissatisfied. This is because sadness is a natural feeling people feel from time to time when facing challenges and disappointments in life. However, sadness is not a persistent feeling. Depression, on the other hand, is persistent feelings of gloominess and melancholy that lasts longer than two weeks (Marchand, 2017). Depression and sadness may seem the same but depression is not a normal emotional state. In fact, depression prevents people from finding pleasure in enjoyable activities and is sometimes accompanied by feelings of hopelessness, lack of energy, and irrational guilt and worry (Winch, 2015).
Are You Feeling Blue?
Remember, being only sad is not a cause of concern. Everyone feels blue from time to time. People feel sad for a number of reasons like failing an important test, feeling down after a break-up, or losing a good-paying part-time job. When a person feels sad, it is easy to find the reason why he or she feels sad. Sadness is a natural reaction to events or things that leave people frustrated, disappointed, or hurt (Winch, 2015). Most people find relief for sadness by crying, talking to someone, or just being quiet for a short period of time (Winch, 2015). But the good news is sadness passes and it goes away after they adjust to the negative event (Winch, 2015).
When the Blues Won’t Go Away
What happens when people could not stop feeling blue or when they feel down in the dumps for a very long time? It is important to check the symptoms if a person feels excessive, irrational sense of sadness and hopelessness over an extended period of time (Marchand, 2017). Depression is a mental disorder that affects about 7.6 percent of Americans over the age of 12 years old (CDC, 2016). Adults are more susceptible to depression compared to children. In fact, 8.1 percent of people aged 20 have experienced at least one depressive episode in their lifetime (CDC, 2016). Depression is a common mental disorder that affects both women (10.4%) and men (5.5%) from all ethnic groups (CDC, 2016). Because of the prevalence of depression, there are many resources to assist individuals.
How Do You Know if its Depression?
The American Psychological Association (APA) has revised the criteria for diagnosing depressive disorders in the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM 5). According to the criteria of the DSM 5, the following are the symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder:
• A noticeable, persistent feeling of sadness, hopelessness, and emptiness that lasts for a period of at least 2 weeks.
• A noticeable decline in interest for normal activities, especially activities one normally find enjoyable.
• A marked change in sleep hours and sleep quality such as persistent sleep difficulty (insomnia) or abnormal excessive sleep (hypersomnia).
• Conspicuous changes in weight, either weight gain in excess of 5% of one’s normal weight or a drop of at least 5% of one’s normal weight within the period of one month.
• A marked and persistent lack of energy, feelings of lethargy and fatigue that persists throughout the day.
• A noticeable change in bodily movement, either a marked increase or decrease in psychomotor activity.
• Difficulty concentrating or making decisions on several occasions during the day.
• Irrational negative feelings like excessive worry or inappropriately feeling guilty.
• Frequent thoughts of death, suicide, or self-harm that does not necessarily include a plan, decision, or attempt at suicide or self-harm.
Reach Out and Get Help
Depression is a negative health condition that could be, at times, debilitating, making everything in life seem bland and uninteresting (Oyebode, 2015). The APA has classified depressive disorders into 5 major types that range from mild to moderate and even severe levels (Oyebode, 2015). As a matter of fact, the World Health Organization reports that about 350 million people across the world have experienced depression (CDC, 2016). Depression is not the same as sadness. Teens and young adults experience a lot of pressure from school, peers, and work and this could lead to depression or make an existing episode of depression worse (Brown ; Harris, 2012). When left untreated, depression may have serious, life-threatening consequences. At its worst, depression could lead to suicide or self-harm (Brown ; Harris, 2012). In other cases, depression could make an individual more susceptible to substance abuse and drug addiction (Brown ; Harris, 2012). Depression is more than just persistent sadness or excessive boredom. It is a disease that can be cured with professional help.
If you suspect you or a loved is currently struggling from depression or has expressed any intention to commit self-harm, even suicide, it is important to get help as soon as possible. Reaching out to family or friends may not be enough to overcome depression (Oyebode, 2015). Beating depression often involves the medication, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or a combination of therapies (Weinstock, 2015). Psychiatrists, psychologists, or therapists work closely with general practitioners to provide the best course of treatment for depression (Weinstock, 2016). Other healthcare professionals also provide help for managing depression. Psychiatric nurses, guidance counselors, and social workers work in inter-professional teams for depression management (Weinstock, 2016).
Awareness of depression and its symptoms is important. There are millions of people worldwide who are currently suffering from depression. Knowing who is at risk for depression and having access to resources is the key to fighting depression and saving lives. If someone you know exhibits the symptoms of depression – a friend, sibling, or classmate, help them reach out and seek professional help. Contact your guidance counselor for more information or the 24-hour suicide hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if you or a loved one needs immediate help (Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 2018).