You’ve probably heard it. “That is depressing!” “I was depressed because I didn’t get that raise/date/award/cute pair of shoes.” “The rain made me depressed.” And yeah, sure, we get using words colloquially. But let us be clear here:
Depression is not just feeling sad.
Yes, sadness can be a symptom of depression. But it’s not the only sign, and you can technically live with depression without feeling sad. It’s just as common for depression to look like feeling empty or hopeless.
To clear up this pretty major misconception, let’s talk about major depressive disorder (which is what medical professionals call depression).
Major depressive disorder 101
If you see a doctor, psychiatrist, or therapist, they’re not gonna diagnose you with depression. Instead, they’ll say you live with major depressive disorder.
Generally, you can get this diagnosis if you have a handful of these symptoms and they last for two weeks or longer:
- Sadness (yes, okay, but keep reading)
- A loss of interest in the things you cared about before
- Feeling hopeless or empty
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- Changes in your sleep habits or appetite
- Trouble concentrating
- Thinking about death or suicide
Clearly, a lot can be going on if you’re dealing with depression. Being sad can definitely be a part of it, but major depressive disorder usually comes with at least a couple of the other things we just listed.
When to seek out some help
Mental health experts say that depression looks like living with some or all of those symptoms for two weeks or longer.
It’s normal to go through slumps. You might have a bad mood after getting some bad news. You’ll probably feel sad for a while after a loss (grief is all too real).
The thing that sets depression apart, though, is that you don’t start feeling better after a while. In fact, the symptoms usually start to affect your daily life. You might distance yourself from friends and family or give up hobbies or activities you cared about before. You could feel like you’re walking around with a cloud hanging over you.
If that sounds like you and it’s been more than a couple of weeks of consistently feeling that way, consider talking to a therapist. If had two weeks of symptoms of a physical illness, you’d go to a doctor. Your mental health deserves as much care as your physical health, right?
If you’ve been sad lately, keep an eye on yourself. Don’t be afraid to seek out help if you keep feeling down. Take care of yourself, too. A sweet treat, a chat with a friend, or some time in the sunshine might help.