Am I Sad or Depressed? Being Sad vs Depressed and What to Do About It
5 Ways to Help Yourself When You’re Sad, or Suspect You’re Depressed
We all go through periods of times when nothing feels right. We have days when we are sad, lack motivation, or prefer being alone. It is okay. This is a normal part of life. But if the bad days outnumber the good ones, and your thoughts and feelings have a negative effect the quality of your life — you may be having something more serious than just another bad day. You may have depression.
Definition of Depression
Depression affects how you think and feel, your behavior, and even your physical health.
When you are sad, you may feel down for one or two weeks. You may know why you’re grieving, or you may have to think about what’s getting you down. After a time of sadness, you’ll find things are looking up, and you’re starting to feel like your old self again.
When you are depressed, your symptoms persist longer than two weeks. You may be mystified why you can’t ‘snap out of it.’
Some signs of depression include:
- Feeling sad, hopeless
- Having trouble concentrating, thinking, or making up your mind
- Being extra-forgetful
- Losing interest in doing things or being with people, or having sex with your partner
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Sleeping too much, or having a hard time falling asleep
The Mayo Clinic defines depression as, “a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.” Clinical depression negatively alters the way you think about yourself and how you engage with the world around you. Major depression is something that, if ignored, can grow worse.
The Importance of Responding to Depression
Some forms of depression can involve suicidal thoughts or thoughts about violent actions. These symptoms are a medical emergency. Thoughts of hurting yourself or others require immediate attention from a mental health provider, or support from a hotline. Don’t wait for someone to act on these thoughts before seeking help.
The National Suicide Prevention hotline, 1-800-273-8255, is available 24 hours every day.
Other forms of depression may not be immediately life threatening. However, any depression still needs to be taken seriously. It is always a good idea to seek help from a therapist or mental health resource if you are struggling with difficult emotions, or a lack of emotions, for more than two weeks.
Whether you are feeling down or depressed, you have a right to professional help. You can also respond to negative emotions by trying new ways to care for yourself, and keeping what works for you.
5 Self-Help Tips For Sadness or Depression
1) Question persistent negative thoughts about yourself or others.
Sadness or depression can lead to negative or destructive thinking about one’s self, or other people. One of the first steps to dealing better with depression is acknowledging you have these kinds of thoughts and to consider any possible causes. Try to remember what was going on in your life when you first felt troubled. If you keep a diary, re-reading it for clues can help.
Try to notice any issues that may contribute to your feelings. Many people discover that the root cause of their distress has to do with feelings kept inside. Anger, for example, causes real changes in our hormones and body chemistry. When anger has no safe place to go, you may end up feeling overwhelmed and powerless, while your body is flooded with stress hormones.
Depression may be one way your body is coping with the physical and chemical response to strong emotions. A good therapist can help you find safe, empowering ways to understand and speak from your feelings, without them taking over.
2) Notice when you are dwelling too much on the negative, and have a plan to interrupt a stream of negative thoughts.
Finding the energy to get out and live your life seems impossible when you are struggling. It is healthy to notice when you are feeling negative or disappointed. However, you don’t need to believe every negative idea your mind thinks up.
To avoid getting stuck in negative thinking when you are facing depression, avoid isolating yourself. Do what you can to take part in activities that once made you happy. Do what you can, even if you don’t want to do it now.
Whether taking a yoga class, or meeting friends for lunch at a nearby restaurant, getting out of the house and being around other people can sometimes help lift you up from a funk.
Depression can make time seem to stand still. Try to stick to a normal routine as much as possible. This means getting up and going to bed at the same times each day. Set daily and longer-term goals, but start small to allow yourself to enjoy a success, even if it’s one step at a time.
3) Recognize that depression is an illness.
It is easy to fall into the trap of blaming yourself for being depressed. It is important to challenge that thought. Your depression is not your fault. You aren’t depressed because you are weak-willed or “not trying hard enough” to be happy. Depression is an illness. It is a mental health condition that you cannot control or cause through some personal fault.
No “personal shortcomings” cause depression. It comes about through changes in brain chemistry. These changes may arise from life stresses, a chemical imbalance in the body, genetic factors, another medical condition, or a combination of these. Depression is never because you are “inadequate” as a person.
4) Do what you can for your health.
Don’t neglect your health because of sadness or depression. Regular exercise can stimulate your body. Exercise also increases the amount of endorphins your brain releases, which help you feel better and can lift your mood.
It’s also smart to get a physical check up to identify any other medical issues affecting your mood
5) Get help.
Living with untreated depression can take away so much joy in your life. Experts believe about 80% of people affected by depression never receive treatment. Many people who suffer from the symptoms of depression don’t ask for help.
This is so unfortunate, because depression is treatable. Advances in therapy now give us many new tools to help people understand, manage and recover from depression. Struggling with emotions is human, not a character flaw. There is no shame in admitting you need help.
Talking with an experienced, professional therapist or mental health professional can open new doors to treatment options and healing approaches. Your hardship need not become a life sentence. Treatment can help you find new meaning and richness in your life.
We Are Here For You
If you are struggling with sadness or depression, we are here to listen to you and help you. Please call us to see how we can work together. For depression therapists in Alexandria VA, or other individual or family therapy, we are here at 703-768-6240.