As with many other areas in psychology, we often use the ideas of “depression and sadness” wrongly in our colloquial language. Just as we say this or that person behaves schizophrenically (to say that they are indecisive or incoherent) or that someone is very autistic (when they do not interact much with other people), we often say that someone is “depressed” when in reality they are just sad or going through a rough patch, or that they “have a depression” when, in reality, what they have is another clinical problem that resembles it. Sometimes it is not even a disorder, but a perfectly normal and adaptive situation that also resembles it in some aspects, such as when someone is going through a grieving process.
Although we can be flexible with everyday language, when we talk seriously about depression and sadness we must be careful. Depression is a mental health problem that can have different degrees of severity, some of them very serious and disabling.
If it is serious, it is advisable to go to a professional psychologist who can offer different types of help within the framework of psychotherapy itself. Unfortunately for many people, this is still very difficult: according to the World Health Organization, there are currently more than 300 million people suffering from depression in the world and not all of them have access to proper treatment.
Depression and sadness: what’s the difference?
When discussing depression and sadness, we must also keep in mind that depression can originate from a variety of causes. For this reason, determining what is causing and prolonging the problem must be done with a detailed examination of the person. There are quite consensual criteria to diagnose it, which have to do with the symptomatology presented by the person, how long they have been suffering from it, the influence of the problem in their daily functioning and their interpersonal relationships, and other aspects of their history that need to be taken into account. As you can see, there are many areas of the person’s life that must be considered in order to conclude that they are suffering from depression, beyond the simple relationship we tend to establish between depression and sadness.
Depression and sadness are related but should never be understood as the same phenomenon. In depression there is sadness but being sad, even very sad, is not the same as being depressed. We have internalized the idea that those emotions that we find unpleasant are unnatural and therefore we should avoid them (for example fear, guilt, or sadness itself).
However, in reality, these emotions are as natural as those that generate pleasure or, in other words, that we associate with pleasant experiences and meanings. Like these, they serve a very important function in our lives. This is precisely what is not happening in the case of real depression and that is why it is so important to make a clear distinction between depression and sadness.
What happens when a person is depressed?
Some of the most clearly visible characteristics of a person who is depressed are deep sadness (among other emotions), lack of energy, tiredness, a great lack of desire to do things, and a significant inability to enjoy any activity, even those that they used to enjoy.
The person with depression has very low self-esteem and a deep sense of hopelessness towards the future. This feeling, which, as you can see, is something more complex than the simple connection between depression and sadness, can be linked to great dissatisfaction with the present and a permanent review of a past that will not return and cannot change. It is not unusual for those suffering from this problem to be so self-absorbed that they seem unable to care at all about what happens to others.
In spite of what we have said, not all people who suffer from depression end up having major depression. However, if the problem is not properly addressed, what starts out as mild or moderate depression can become progressively more complicated sooner than we think. It is possible that you find yourself in this situation or that you are going through a rough patch in your life and are unsure whether or not you have depression. In any case, don’t become obsessed with labeling it. It is more important that you take responsibility for it because it surely has some kind of approach that will allow you to feel better.
Maybe lately you have been isolating yourself or you feel that you have significant difficulty connecting with the people around you or that these people don’t understand you. It’s okay, human beings are not perfect and sometimes our health may deteriorate. However, it is essential that you do not withdraw from everyone and even if you need to withdraw inward, you do not detach completely. Look for someone you trust or a specialized service where they can listen to you.
At ifeel we have a large team of psychologists specialized in helping people suffering from depression or similar problems. You can request more information today about how our online therapy service works. Ask for help, it is very unlikely that talking about it will make things worse. If you see that you can’t manage on your own, there are professionals who can guide you and accompany you on this path. You won’t lose anything by giving it a try.