If you've been feeling down in the dumps for a couple of weeks now, it may be that your sadness is actually mild depression. Because, while it's normal to feel bummed out after a hard day, it's not so normal to feel bad for extended periods of time — especially if you're staying in bed, feeling hopeless, or skipping out on your favorite activities.
While both issues will make you feel bad, it's important to remember that sadness and depression are not the same thing. "Sadness is usually brought on by an event ... that is difficult, scary, hurtful, disappointing, or one that leaves you feeling alone," relationship therapist Julienne B. Derichs, LCPC tells Bustle. For instance, you might feel sadness following a break up, or after being passed over for a promotion. It's a normal human emotion, one that can be pinpointed. And it will pass with time.
Depression, on the other hand, goes a bit deeper and is a bit more pervasive. "Depression lasts longer and may or may not be connected to a specific event, but instead you feel an overall sense of depression that clouds your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors," Derichs says. To be diagnosed with depression, you'll likely have five or more of the following symptoms. But the only way to know for sure is by talking with a therapist. So don't be afraid to reach out.
1. You Sleep All Day
There's tiredness, and then there's the exhaustion brought on by depression. As Derichs tells me, you might find yourself sleeping longer than usual, or struggling to get up in the morning. And, even after being in bed for 20 hours, you'll likely still feel tired.
2. Or You Don't Sleep Enough
Depression can go the other way, too, and cause insomnia. "You might be sleeping more and more or not be able to sleep at all," says psychotherapist Teresa Solomita, LCSW-R, NCPsyA. If you lie awake staring at the ceiling all night, this may be why.
3. You Can't Stop Snacking
It's totally OK to snack, but Derichs tells me depression can make you feel insatiable. So, if you just can't stop searching for food — and especially if you're craving lots of carbs — it might be due to an issue with your mental health.
4. You Feel Worthless
Sadness may drag you down for a few days, but depression will keep you down. As Derichs says, you might feel worthless, or like you're going to feel bad forever. You might also become convinced that no one wants to be near you, or care about you. And it can really hurt.
5. You Have A "Low Mood"
Depression doesn't have to throw you into the pits of despair, but it will make you feel "blah" to a pretty significant degree. As licensed mental health counselor Kathryn Stamoulis, PhD says, "Every moment does not have to feel miserable but one would characterize most of the day as feeling sad, depressed, or hopeless." Almost as if everything's turned gray.
6. You Feel Slowed Down
Depression can cause something called "psychomotor retardation," which can slow you way down. "A mental task like responding to email takes a lot of energy," Stamoulis says. "Physical activities ranging from brushing one's teeth to taking the subway can feel overwhelmingly difficult. Some people describe it like carrying extra weight as you try to move throughout the day or walking through quicksand."
7. You Just Don't Feel Well
If you feel rundown, but can't figure out why, it may be depression that's to blame. As Stamoulis says, "While not in the DSM, I ... notice feelings of general malaise in many depressed people. This includes headaches, stomachaches, and lethargy."
8. You're No Longer Interested In Sex
Your desire for sex can wax and wane, and that's OK. But if you used to enjoy having getting it on and now you're just not interested, take note. As Dr. Anna Yusim, MD, author of Fulfilled, tells me, decreased interest in sex is a sign of depression.
9. You're Always On Edge
As Yusim tells me, depression can also lead you to feel anxious, angry, and even irritable. So if you're snapping at everyone, experiencing road rage, or stewing over mild slights and misunderstandings, this may be why.
10. You've Isolated Yourself
If you're feeling sad, you'll likely want friends to stop by and cheer you up. But that's rarely the case with depression, which makes you feel disconnected and isolated from the world. As counselor Meredith (Cook) Riddick, LPC-S, CEDS-S tells me, it's common for depressed people to miss work and school. You just don't feel like going out.
11. You're Not Being Logical
If you're going overboard, so to speak, with your thoughts and accusations — perhaps thinking no one loves you, or life is all bad — consider it a sign. "When we are depressed there is always thinking that is illogical, untrue, and unhelpful," board-certified cognitive behavioral therapist Paul DePompo, PsyD, ABPP tells Bustle. If you're sad, you'll be able to remain logical and clear-headed. But with depression, not so much.
12. You Can't Seem To Concentrate
Depression can really mess with your brain, making it feel impossible to concentrate, psychiatrist Dan Goodman, MD tells me. If you have mild depression, you might space out at work or lose your train of thought mid-sentence. It's "brain fog" at its finest.
13. You Forget What It's Like To Have Fun
If you're no longer laughing, partaking in hobbies, or meeting up with friends, take note. As Goodman says, "Nothing seems pleasurable ... or almost nothing seems pleasurable." This loss of the ability to experience pleasure is called "anhedonia" and it's a symptom common to depression — not sadness.
If anything of this sounds familiar, definitely make an effort to get help, whether that's by calling a therapist or asking a friend for to call for you. Depression can be pretty debilitating, but it can be treated; you just need to start.
Images: Pexels (14)