Is Depression Just Sadness?
When I think about depression I think of crushing sadness. I think of heavy, devastating sadness that will not move or shift for anything. I think of a sadness that penetrates your bones and makes life feel like it’s not worth living. I definitely identify sadness with depression.
But is depression really just profound sadness?
No, of course it isn’t. Depression is a complex mental illness and it is made up of both physical and psychological symptoms.
The Psychological Symptoms of Depression
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR, the book that defines mental illnesses), one must have a minimum of five symptoms in order to qualify for a diagnosis of depression. In other words, if all you’re feelings is sadness, you are not depressed.
The psychological symptoms of depression according to the DSM-IV-TR are:
- Depressed mood
- Anhedonia (loss of pleasure in previously pleasurable experiences)
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Diminished ability to concentrate and make decisions
- Recurrent thoughts of death, suicide
- A pattern of long-standing interpersonal rejection ideation, suicide attempt, or specific plan for suicide
(When diagnosing depression, one of the symptoms must be a depressed mood or anhedonia and symptoms must be near constant for at least two weeks.)
The Physical Symptoms of Depression
And, much to the surprise of many, there are physical, obvious, visible symptoms of depression indicated in the DSM-IV-TR too. The physical symptoms of depression are identified as:
- Significant weight change or appetite disturbance
- Sleep disturbance
- Psychomotor agitation (can be both physical and mental)
- Fatigue or loss of energy
So while I (and many people) relate sadness and depression strongly, it’s important to remember that sadness is not all depression is. Depression is a full-fledged, physical illness and carries with it many symptoms. It’s important to remember this because it explains so much of what we experience when we’re depressed. Understanding all the symptoms of depression gives us a better handle on what goes on in our brains and in our bodies.
Depression is Not Just Sadness.
And it’s important to point out that people who are sad are not depressed. Sadness is a normal, human emotion that we all experience, depression is not.
Tracy, N. (2014, June 12). Is Depression Just Sadness?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2014/06/is-depression-just-sadness