Even outside my chamber space, I often get to hear statements like “Oh, I am so depressed”; “This depression is going to surely kill me someday”; “Because of her depression, she does not want to do go and enjoy a party”. What often strikes me after I engage in some detailed discussion along these lines is that, people often tend to confuse between sadness and depression.

While on one hand sadness is a basic human emotion and often short lived and situational, depression on the other hand, is a clinical condition that is longstanding and may have a debilitating impact in the life of the individual suffering from depression. When faced with some unpleasant life situations, such as the loss of a loved one, relationship breakdown or great disappointment or frustration, most people will feel unhappy or sad. These are emotional reactions that are appropriate to the situation and will usually last only a limited time. These reactions are not regarded as depressive disorder, but are part of everyday life.

Depressive disorders on the other hand are a group of illnesses characterised by excessive or long-term depressed mood and loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable. The symptoms can severely disrupt the person’s life. Depressive disorders are serious and distressing illnesses with real risks to the person’s life and well-being.

Sadness is just one of the many symptoms of clinical depression. So then, how will you identify when regular sadness is shifting to a clinical situation of Depression? If sadness is intense, lasts for two weeks or more and some or almost all of the following symptoms are present, then it is probably time to go in for a clinical consultation with a trained Clinical Psychologist. When a person is likely to moving from regular sadness to clinical depression, observe and keep an eye for the following symptoms:

  • Persistent and continuous feelings of sadness;
  • Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism about the future;
  • Excessive increase in feelings of guilt
  • Feeling that he/ she is not ‘good enough’;
  • Loss of interest and pleasure from activities that were previously pleasurable, including sex;
  • Decreased energy, constant tiredness and feeling that he/ she is not being able to keep up with the pace of everyday life;
  • Lack of sleep or oversleeping and a feeling of being deprived of sleep;
  • Loss of appetite, accompanied by weight loss or over eating, accompanied by subsequent weight gain;
  • Preoccupation with death, thoughts of suicide and at times, even suicidal attempts;
  • Subjective feeling of restlessness;
  • Constant feelings of irritation, with a tendency to get angry very easily;
  • Persistent physical symptoms like headache, body ache, digestive issues, etc, where no physical reason can be identified despite several investigations;
  • Lack of care about personal hygiene and grooming;
  • Tendency to move, think or speak very slowly;
  • Phases of uncontrollable and inconsolable tears or appearing to be without tears and totally numb;
  • Avoiding most situations calling for social interaction.

For someone to be diagnosed with depression, it is not necessary that ALL the symptoms of depression have to be present. It varies from person to person depending up the severity of the situation.

However, if someone has been suffering from low mood or depressed mood for 2 weeks or more and four or more of the above mentioned symptoms are significantly noticeable, Clinical consultation should be sought immediately.

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