Am I just ‘Sad’ or Clinically Depressed?

Am I just ‘Sad’ or Clinically Depressed?

In the practice of clinical counseling, there are many clients trying to distinguish is they are experiencing temporary sadness versus clinical depression.  And it’s an important distinction to make in order to best help each person we work with in our practice. Because we associate depression with a primary symptom of sadness, many of us can have difficulty knowing how impactful that state can be for us.

According to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), in order to be diagnosed with clinical depression, you must experience a sad depressed mood or a loss of interest in activities that used to bring you pleasure. On top of that, you also need to experience four or more of the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue

  • Lack of Concentration

  • Too little or too much sleep

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Changes in appetite or weight

  • Slowed movements or speech

So let’s compare the two:

Sadness is a human emotion that we all experience throughout our lives. It’s mostly triggered or caused by a disappointing event or situation. We usually feel sad ‘about’ something. When something changes and we work through it the emotional hurt fades or we ‘get over’ the loss or disappointment.

Depression, on the other hand, is a chronic sad emotional state that affects us on many levels including our thinking, perceptions, emotions, and behavior in a chronic way. When we are depressed we are sad about everything and not just a situation or circumstance. It often occurs in the absence of a triggering event - which causes confusion on the patient’s part. “Why do I feel like this when ‘nothing is wrong’.

If you are uncertain as to whether you are experiencing a bout of sadness, or might be clinically depressed, don’t be shy to reach out to a therapist such as myself. Together we can figure out what the causes might be and find a way to help you through this. We’re based in Lancaster, PA and work with people from all walks of life to differentiate how impactful their sadness is to their life.

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