A depressed woman
Photo illustration via Pixabay

Feeling sad from time to time is normal. We can feel sad for various reasons, such as learning our favorite coworker is leaving for another job, fighting with a loved one, or not achieving a personal goal. But what is the difference between sadness and depression?

Unlike sadness, depression is a mental health condition that is characterized by a depressed mood or loss of pleasure or interest in activities for a long time. While sadness eventually vanishes, depression is persistent. A person experiencing depression constantly feels sad or empty for several days — or almost every day — for at least two weeks.

Depression can also have the following symptoms:

  • Feeling irritable or angry
  • Feeling exhausted or having low energy
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Struggling with concentration or making decisions
  • Having thoughts of hopelessness or suicide

However, not all these symptoms need to be present for someone to have depression. A person may experience only a few symptoms at a time.

At times, you may not even realize you have depression. That’s why checking in with yourself often, taking a depression screening, or talking with a trusted individual is crucial, as depression can make life difficult.

Someone with depression may experience relationship issues due to feeling withdrawn. They may also struggle to complete tasks at school or work, and not want to participate in activities they used to enjoy.

The Importance of Seeking Treatment

While there can be various factors that cause depression, sometimes there may be no reason at all. No matter what the case may be — and whether someone’s depression is mild or severe — I encourage anyone experiencing depression to seek help.

If feeling depressed is affecting your daily life, or you’re experiencing symptoms for more than two weeks, talk with someone you trust, such as a loved one, counselor, pastor or your primary care doctor. Effective treatment options exist and can include forms of therapy, medication and support groups.

For someone experiencing a severe form of depression, several programs, including partial hospitalization, and inpatient or outpatient treatment, are available.

It is important to remember that depression is common. In the U.S., about 18% of adults — more than 1 in 6 — say they are depressed or receiving treatment for depression.

Please don’t struggle alone. You may feel like everything is hopeless — but there is always hope.

Paola Berg, LCSW, is a social worker with the Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Intensive Outpatient Program at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital.