Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Sadness or Depression?

Sadness or depression? The line is thin.

By Erika M Szabo


People often say, "I'm depressed" or "my depression is so bad." 
Is it depression or are they feeling sad? Feeling sad doesn't necessarily mean that everyone who experiences sadness is suffering from depression.

Everyone feels sad sometimes.
Sadness is a normal emotion and it's a part of life. It's a normal reaction to loss, life's struggles, or hurt self-esteem. Occasional feeling of sadness helps us to appreciate happiness. When something positive happens and our sad mood changes, the sense of contrast adds to the enjoyment of our happy mood.

The feeling of sadness may last for hours or even days but the person is still able to continue with everyday life, despite feeling sad and being "in a dark place." They talk it over with family members or friends and either accept what can't be changed or find the way to deal with the problems that caused the sadness.

Clinical depression is different, it is a serious medical condition.
One can't just "snap out of it" or "cheer up." Unfortunately, about half the people who suffer from clinical depression never get diagnosed or treated because the stigma "it's just in your head snap out of it" associated with depression holds them back from seeking medical help. They try to cope with the debilitating feelings and symptoms on their own and suffer in silence.


Anyone who suffers from the symptoms below for longer than two weeks should seek medical help. There isn't a "depression test" a doctor can use. The diagnoses start with a thorough history of symptoms and physical exam. 
The doctor asks about:
When the symptoms started
How long they've lasted
How severe they are
If depression or other mental illnesses run in the family
History of drug or alcohol abuse

Possible causes and triggers:
Could be an inherited condition.
Brain chemistry changes: neurotransmitters, specifically serotonin, dopamine, or norepinephrine.
Changes in hormone production and function.
Seasonal affective disorder.
Situational changes such as trauma or a major change.

Symptoms of depression may include:
Trouble concentrating, fatigue, remembering details, and making decisions, anxiety, agitation or restlessness.
Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness.
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame.
Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or sleeping too much.
Irritability, angry outbursts, and frustration, even over small matters.
Restlessness, loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities and in things once pleasurable, including sex, hobbies, or sports activity. 
Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain.
Aches, pains, headaches, or cramps that won't go away, unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches.
Digestive problems that don't get better, even with treatment.
Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings, slowed thinking, speaking or body movements.
Suicidal thoughts or attempts.

Treatment:
When depression is diagnosed the treatment may include medicines (such as antidepressants), and a type of therapy called psychotherapy or both. 

What not to say to people with depression:
Snap out of it!
It's in your head.
You have nothing to be depressed about.

Try this instead:
I'm here for you, you're not alone.
Tell me how you feel. Help me understand what you're going through.
I know you're strong enough to get through this. Let me help. 
I'm sorry you're struggling, let me help.

Depression carries a high risk of suicide. Suicidal thoughts or intentions are serious.
The warning signs include:
A sudden switch from sadness to extreme calmness, or appearing to be happy.
Always talking or thinking about death.
Clinical depression (deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating) that gets worse.
Taking out of character risks that could lead to death such as one who's always been cautious suddenly signs up for bungee jumping, buys a motorcycle or goes rock climbing etc.
Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or especially being worthless.
Putting affairs in order, like tying up loose ends or changing a will.
Saying things like "It would be better if I weren't here" or "I want out"
Talking about suicide.
Unexpectedly visiting or calling close friends and loved ones or sending unexpected gifts to them.

Every single life is precious and immediate help is available
If you experience the symptoms of depression, make an appointment with your doctor who can make the diagnoses and get you the help you need. You don't need to suffer in silence!

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I write alternate history, romantic urban fantasy, historical suspense novels as well as fun, educational, and bilingual books for children ages 2-14 about acceptance, friendship, family, and moral values such as accepting people with disabilities, dealing with bullies, and not judging others before getting to know them. I also like to encourage children to use their imagination and daydream about fantasy worlds.