Going around the province giving mental health talks to students, teachers, and parents led me to confirm that many of us do not really have an adequate understanding of what depression is and how it is distinguished from sadness.
We lightly use the term “depression” for almost anything that we feel as sad. Sure, we may be depressed but often we are confusing sadness with depression.
Sadness is a symptom of depression, but because we associate these together, we often struggle to differentiate between these two common psychological states.
And this is problematic. Our inability to distinguish between the two may lead us to overreact to a normal emotional state, which is sadness, and neglect a more serious psychological condition, that is depression.
Oversimplifying depression is dangerous because it is a serious mental disorder that is more associated with suicidal thoughts and ideation and has actually claimed the lives of many. Millions of people around the world are depressed.
But what actually is depression and how can we differentiate it from sadness?
As said, sadness is a normal emotional state that comes out when we specifically experience something bad or adverse. In other words, there is a specific trigger to the emotion. But this emotion wanes after some time, or when we are able to manage to replace the emotion with something pleasant.
Sadness is temporary. It can last for a moment, an hour, or days. We all do experience sadness. It happens when, let us say, a friend left or you broke up with your love one, or perhaps not getting something that you really want.
For most of us, we cry when we are sad, or we vent out. For some, they find relief from sadness through talking it out with a trusted friend. And then we are fine.
Sadly, this is not the case with depression. Depression is a mental disorder. It is an abnormal mental and emotional state, which affects how we think and feel about everything.
Depression is pervasive. It disturbs every aspect of our lives. When we are depressed, we don’t feel at all or we are always sad. We lose interest on things. Everything becomes less enjoyable, less interesting, and less important.
Depression, unlike sadness, can have no specific trigger. It can happen without apparent reason at all. We know of people who have “ok” families, career, or relationships, but they are struggling with emptiness and pervasive sadness.
It is not possible to just snap out from depression, contrary to what many believe. The individual experiencing it does not choose it nor it is a mere state of mind. As I mentioned, it is a mental illness.
It is important that we consult a mental health professional when we experience the following to get a proper diagnosis.