Many people mistake depression for a very intense case of the blues.
It is easy to confuse the two from the outside – and even, sometimes, from within. However, sadness and depression are very different when it comes to their effect on our bodies and our lives. Depression differs from sadness not only in depth, but also in complexity, physicality, neurological framework, and overall biological nature.
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Because the two are easy to confuse, many people who are experiencing depression may believe they are just very sad – or angry, or tired, or losing their spark in some way.
This is problematic for many reasons. A depressed person who thinks they are simply experiencing normal human emotions is unlikely to get help. They will become stuck in their depression, and it will likely escalate. They could end up missing out on a lot of beautiful things in life.
Here are 25 questions to ask yourself that can help to determine if your own sadness could actually be a case of depression.
1. Think of your all-time favorite hobby, book, or interest. Do you still enjoy it?
2. Have you stopped caring for your living environment?
3. Do you have difficulty making even small decisions?
4. Has your energy level fallen to the point where daily tasks have become difficult?
5. Are you extremely critical of your words, thoughts, actions, or appearance?
6. Do you feel excessively guilty over small mistakes?
7. Do you find yourself eating much more or much less than you used to?
8. Do you find it difficult to be creative or engaged in your work? Does it seem easier to just go through the motions?
9. Do you avoid spending time with people you love, because you would rather be alone?
10. Do you forget things easily? Does it seem as if your brain is not functioning at full capacity?
11. Have you gained or lost a significant amount of weight without trying to?
12. Do you feel the urge to punish or harm yourself?
13. Have you stopped looking forward to important events such as holidays and vacations?
14. Do you cry uncontrollably, or not at all?
15. Do your depressive episodes last for weeks at a time, without bright or hopeful spots?
16. Are you very easily irritated?
17. Are you sleeping much more or much less than you know you should be?
18. Have you been drinking an increasing amount of alcohol?
19. Do you avoid doing things you once loved, because you don’t want to leave the house?
20. Have you stopped taking care of your body?
21. Do you find it difficult to focus on what you are doing?
22. Do you feel empty inside?
23. Do you think you are, in some way, inherently worse than other people?
24. Have you withdrawn from relationships with people you once felt deeply connected to?
25. Have you considered or attempted suicide?
“There is no point treating a depressed person as though she were just feeling sad, saying, ‘There now, hang on, you’ll get over it.’ Sadness is more or less like a head cold – with patience, it passes. Depression is like cancer.” This is how Barbara Kingsolver explained depression in The Bean Trees. Truly, it is an accurate comparison. Sadness is something unpleasant that we each endure with some regularity. Through it, we are able to maintain our work, our relationships, and our identities. Depression, however, stops us in our tracks.
If you believe you are suffering from depression, I urge you to get help right away. There’s no reason to lose more of your life to this disease.