It’s common for people to say they’re depressed when they’re sad. Also, when most people think of depression, sadness is the first thing that comes to mind. We sometimes use these words interchangeably, but sadness and depression are not the same thing. Depression continues to be a misunderstood condition and it’s one that affects about 16 million Americans. Having a better understanding of what depression is and isn’t can lead to more people getting treatment. Here are the ways sadness and depression are different.
Sadness is just one symptom of depression.
Sadness is a common symptom of depression, but it’s not the only symptom, and it’s not even necessary to feel sad to be depressed. Other common symptoms of depression include sleeping too much or too little, especially waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep; irritability or agitation; loss of appetite or eating too much, especially fatty or sugary foods; fatigue; lethargy; lack of motivation; inability to concentrate; and thoughts of death or suicide.
Depression has physical symptoms.
Depression also has physical symptoms. These often include chest pains, joint and muscle aches, back pain, headaches, or unusually slow movements. These physical symptoms are especially common in men. Men, usually for social reasons, are typically more reluctant to discuss difficult emotions and sometimes they are only diagnosed with depression when they go to the doctor about physical complaints. Men with depression are also likely to engage in reckless behavior and try to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.
Depression lasts longer.
Sadness is rarely the only symptom of depression. When sadness is a symptom of depression, it also lasts longer. To be diagnosed with depression, you have to feel sad and have other symptoms most of the time for at least two weeks. Typically, people experience sadness and other symptoms for much longer than two weeks before they decide to get help.
You don’t need a reason for depression.
People rarely get sad for no reason. Typically, sadness is a response to something specific such as a breakup, the death of a loved one, or loss of a job. Sometimes these things can lead to an episode of depression, but most of the time, sadness is short-lived and intermittent. Depression, on the other hand, doesn’t need a reason. As mentioned above, difficult events can lead to a depressive episode, but depression can also come out of nowhere. This is especially true if you have experienced three or more episodes of depression. After that, depression can recur for no reason. Some people have seasonal affective disorder and get depressed at a certain time of year, usually in the winter.
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