Sadness vs. Depression

Dr. J. Brooke Huffman, ND

As the days continue to shorten, some people have a noticeable shift in mood. We've all experienced sadness and tough times in our lives. Sadness is a natural response to many things. Most of the time we work through these blues and continue to function in our daily lives. But when sadness is extreme, or lasts a long time, it may be something else. How do we know when our sadness is depression?

If your feelings of sadness linger and begin to affect your ability to work, sleep or enjoy life, you may be experiencing major depression. Other symptoms of depression may be the loss of interest in things you usually enjoy, insomnia or increased fatigue, or a significant change in weight (up or down). Self-esteem may also be affected in depression.

Major depression is a medical condition that affects 18.8 million Americans each year. It affects women nearly twice as often as men. For those with major depression, support is very important. Treatment may be a key factor to recovery. Treatment may include counseling, diet change, supplements, or all of these. For some, medication is a necessary piece of care. Others may recover without medication.

Common symptoms of depression are (from WebMD):

  • Depressed mood, sadness, or a "flat" feeling
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you once enjoyed
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting, or significant weight gain (for example, more than 5% of body weight in a month)
  • Inability to fall asleep, stay asleep or sleeping too much
  • Moody or irritable
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness, or excessive guilt or self-esteem issues
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating; trouble making decisions
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or specific plan for committing suicide

If you have 4+ of these symptoms for most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, and the symptoms are severe enough to interfere with your daily activities, you may have major depression. Talk to your naturopathic doctor about your options for treatment.