Differences between Sadness and Depression

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Traumatic happenings, like losing a house in a hurricane or suffering through a divorce, can sometimes trigger the same array of symptoms associated with clinical depression: insomnia, weight loss, exhaustion and feelings of worthlessness, thoughts of suicide.... As a result, doctors may not always successfully distinguish between normal sadness and actual depression—especially during a quickie 10-minute physical. It takes a while to explore the origins of sadness, whereas writing a prescription takes two minutes.

The trouble is antidepressants do not address the source of the sadness, when antidepressants are given to those in mourning, their symptoms may go away, but they do not feel good. Sadness lifts, but that often requires time for processing and absorbing it. Denying your feelings or numbing them with medication may only delay the healing.

Losing a loved one can certainly bring on a deep despondency that lasts for weeks or months. In fact, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, used by doctors to diagnose psychiatric illness, recognizes bereavement as a normal condition that can produce the same set of symptoms as clinical depression. And there is a growing consensus among experts that other losses can do so, too. What is more, any change—even a good one—can trigger the blues. For example, people get sad sometimes when they get a promotion or get married. Research shows that a massive shift in lifestyle can make someone stressed, anxious, or a little down because of a loss of the familiar.

Recognizing why you are feeling down and talking it through with someone might serve you better than medication.

Three steps to managing and recovering from sadness

• Feel:  acknowledge the depth of your despair and what triggered the feelings.

Deal: share what you are going through with a close friend, family member, or therapist. Download to others who can help you manage it.

Heal: as the sadness starts to lift, integrate the episode into your life experience. Recognize that it is now part of you and allow it to give you a sense of perspective so you can feel joy in happier times.

How to distinguish sadness from depression? Here is a list of common symptoms that might suggest either:

- Depressed mood

- Lack of pleasure in all, or most, activities

- Significant weight loss or weight gain

- Insomnia

- Severe agitation or slowing down of normal activities

- Fatigue or loss of energy

- Feelings of worthlessness

- Diminished ability to think or concentrate

- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

If you experience five or more of these for longer than a few weeks with no signs that they are abating, that is a clue. If you can not work, take care of yourself, or connect in your relationships, is a clear sign you should see a doctor. 


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The Have I Got A Problem website is a free online resource to help people better understand any issues or concerns they may have about mental health or addiction. The website includes resources specifically focused to; general Mental Health, Depression, Stress, Anxiety, Insecurities, Self-harm Schizophrenia, Bipolar, Anger Management, Eating Disorders, Coping, general Addiction, Alcohol, Smoking, Gambling, Drugs, Cocaine, Heroin, Marijuana (Cannabis) Ecstasy, PCP, Mephedrone, Ketamine & Crystal Meth.

The site was created to give the public information to help them understand mental health and addiction issues and to assist people in making better informed decisions about their life and personal choices.

www.haveigotaproblem.com was created and is run by 'Advising Communities’, which is a UK registered charity (Charity No. 1061055)

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