Am I Depressed or Just Sad?

By Sana Zehra
January 5, 2019
3 minutes

Is it Depression or Just Sadness? – Mental Health Revisited

Sana Zehra tells us the difference.

Depression and melancholia or sadness are often overlapped because we associate depression with its main symptom that is common sadness. Psychologists now know that smiles and sadness are innate.

Sadness and happiness are both normal emotions.

Sadness is set off by a difficult, hurtful, or disappointing event, experience, or situation. In other words, we tend to feel sad about certain events we have experienced. Which also means that when that event changes, the hurt we were experiencing in the first place, fades away and when we get over the loss or disappointment we faced, our sadness eventually remits.

Depression, on the other hand, is an emotional state.

Depression is a mental illness that affects our thinking, emotions, perceptions, and behaviours. It is important to know that in depression one does not require a difficult event or situation, a loss, or a change of circumstance as a trigger. In fact, it often occurs in the absence of triggers.

To be diagnosed with depression an individual must have at least 5 or more of the following symptoms at a continuum for at least two weeks.

The symptoms are as follows:

A feeling of tiredness and, or sluggishness

Having low energy

Restless or trouble sleeping or sleeping too much

Changes in weight and appetite

Feeling of worthlessness, hopelessness, and guilt.

Feeling tired and irritable

Problems with thinking, focus, concentration

Trouble making decisions and canceling plans because of lethargy

Problems with thinking and having thoughts of death and suicide are some of the most common symptoms.

Depression can occur in both men and women of any age including teenagers and children. There are several risk factors associated with depression, it is important to become aware of them.

Some of the risk factors include:

A lack of a support system

A recent devastating life event and your ability to not cope with it such as a death of a child or spouse

Family history including past history with PTSD, anxiety or eating disorder

History of abuse with substance and alcohol

Lack of acceptance based on your race, religion and community acceptance

Trouble adjusting to a medical condition such as HIV or a Stroke. Or to major changes in bodily functions eg. prosthetic limb, paralysis etc.

Some drugs can also cause changes in mood for example certain beta-blockers and hormonal medication. If you feel your mood has changed since after a new medications please consult your doctor.

The preferred treatment for depression is usually recommended with Psychotherapy and medication that targets certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Some minor lifestyle changes can also help. For example exercise has been proven to improve mood and decrease anxiety. Sometimes in severe depression doctors may recommend using ECT as a treatment option.

Whether it’s general sadness that you are experiencing or depression, getting over both requires effort. Make sure you seek help at the first sign and stay in therapy as long as it’s suggested by your therapist. If you are seeing a therapist for the first time, making notes ahead of time always help. When you live with depression, self-care can feel unattainable but you can take small steps in achieving them. Joining a support group can help you get support and information and it is a gentle reminder that you are not alone in this.

Pakistan has just started its first support group in Karachi by the name of Le Prive Support Group.

You can access the group’s Facebook Page here. Be kind to yourself and accept that it’s okay not to be okay. Reach out and seek help. You are not alone.

If you feel you might be suffering from PPD – Post Partum Depression, read this story and find out how you can overcome PPD and enjoy motherhood!


About Sana Zehra

Sana Zehra holds a Masters degree in Counselling Psychology. She currently works as Project Manager for a non-profit organization - Roohbaru. Sana has been engaged with a multitude of mental health projects: Clinical Supervisor Care for Health, Counsellor Saaya Health, Pakistan's First Mental Health Support Group @LePrive Support Group and Pro Bono work at Jinnah Hospital to name a few. Sana loves to engage in expressive writing, and believes It is great for physical and mental health. She plans to one day make some solid changes in the Mental Health Act.

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