By Barbara Floria, Pure Matters
But comparing feeling blue to being clinically depressed is like calling a hurricane a rainstorm.
“People who are depressed have a cluster of symptoms characterized by sadness and a profound lack of energy and well-being,” says Philip Wang, M.D., Dr.P.H., an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston. “Unlike a feeling that comes and goes, depression is a distinct illness that can be disabling if it goes unrecognized and untreated."
Understanding this condition can help you identify the symptoms and seek treatment.
A feeling like no other
One difference between depression and feeling down is that normal feelings of sadness because of a loss or disappointment gradually lift over several days or so.
But “when a low mood becomes chronic, it’s more likely due to depression,” says Dr. Wang.
To help you determine if you’re depressed, answer these questions:
- Do you feel sad or anxious?
- Are you sleeping too little or too much?
- Are you eating less or more than normal?
- Have you lost interest in activities you once enjoyed?
- Are you crying a lot?
- Do you have persistent physical symptoms, such as headaches or constipation, that don’t respond to treatment?
- Do you have difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions?
- Do you lack energy?
- Do you feel hopeless or worthless?
- Do you have recurring thoughts of death or suicide?
If you have three or more of these symptoms for longer than two weeks, and the symptoms interfere with your daily life, you could be depressed and should seek help.
The first step should be to see your doctor, who can rule out a physical cause of depression, such as use of certain prescription medications or a thyroid or heart condition.
Another step is seeing a mental health provider who can provide treatment with talk or behavioral therapy and, if needed, prescription antidepressants.
“Depression isn’t trivial and proper treatment is essential,” says Dr. Wang. “If left untreated, depression can impact your physical health, work, relationships and longevity. But effective treatment can bring you back to life.”