Sadness can be a difficult emotion to deal with, not only due to the pain it causes, but also because of the factors that caused the sadness in the first place. Sadness can be the result of loss, helplessness, or disappointment, among many other things. It is important to remember, though, that sadness is one of the most common and natural human emotions, and is something that will ultimately help us appreciate our happy times.
However, sometimes, it is possible for sadness to deepen, and this may be a sign that you are suffering from a form of depression. If you feel as though you are increasingly sad, and feel like your sadness is difficult to explain, this information on depression may help. When you are depressed, it often feels like nothing in the world can make you feel better. Depression is a devious disorder, because the symptoms it creates can discourage you from completing the very actions or seeking the help that would begin recovery. Lack of energy, low self-esteem and dwindling excitement are some of the symptoms that make it hard to get out of a depressed state. For anyone experiencing this, it’s important to remember that depression is a very common and highly treatable disorder.
Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:
- Feelings of deep sadness, anxiety, or empty feelings
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue
- Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
- Feeling worthless, guilty, and/or hopeless
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Irritability, restlessness
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
Depression Is Different From Sadness or Grief/Bereavement
The death of a loved one, loss of a job or the ending of a relationship is difficult experiences for a person to endure. It is normal for feelings of sadness or grief to develop in response to such situations. Those experiencing loss often might describe themselves as being “depressed.” But being sad is not the same as having depression. The grieving process is natural and unique to each individual and shares some of the same features of depression. Both grief and depression may involve intense sadness and withdrawal from usual activities. They are also different in important ways:
- In grief, painful feelings come in waves, often intermixed with positive memories of the deceased. In depression, mood and/or interest (pleasure) are decreased for most of two weeks.
- In grief, self-esteem is usually maintained. In depression, feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing are common.
- For some people, the death of a loved one can bring on depression. Being a victim of a sexual or physical assault can lead to depression for some people. When grief and depression co-exist, the grief is more severe and lasts longer than grief without depression. Despite some overlap between grief and depression, they are different. Distinguishing between them can help people get the help, support or treatment they need.
Risk Factors for Depression
Depression can affect anyone—even a person who appears to live in relatively ideal circumstances.
Several factors can play a role in depression:
Biochemistry: Differences in certain chemicals in the brain may contribute to symptoms of depression.
Genetics: Depression can run in families. For example, if one identical twin has depression, the other has a 70 percent chance of having the illness sometime in life.
Personality: People with low self-esteem, who are easily overwhelmed by stress, or who are generally pessimistic appear to be more likely to experience depression.
Environmental factors: Continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse, trauma or poverty may make some people more vulnerable to depression.