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Recognising the difference between sadness and clinical depression

Reviewed by Andrew Lee, MD
Recognising the difference between sadness and clinical depression

It is quite common for clinical depression to be mistaken for sadness as it is often thought of as simply a more extreme version of sadness. However, there are many differences between the two. Sadness is a reaction to an upsetting situation, which everyone experiences throughout ones life. Clinical depression is a physical illness, which causes a variety of symptoms and often requires some form of treatment.

Identify the reason of depression


Someone suffering from clinical depression will often find it hard to identify a logical reason for how they are feeling. Common reactions from friends and family members who are unaware of the feelings caused by clinical depression may believe that all is required is to push the sufferer to “snap out of it”. This can be extremely frustrating, as no doubt the individual would love to be able to “snap out of it” but as a medical condition is not possible to simply will for recovery.  Someone who is dad is still able to continue with their daily routine whereas someone suffering from depression may find that it interferes and disrupts basic daily functions. Additionally sadness will begin to subside as the individual learns to cope with or begins to put less focus on the troubling situation. Clinical depression can remain for weeks, months and even years.

Symptoms of clinical depression


In order to diagnose clinical depression the individual must be suffering from a depressed mood or have complete lack of interest in any pleasurable activities constantly for a period of at least two weeks. This should result in daily routines being impaired. It is not clinical depression if symptoms are caused as result of medication, substance abuse or a side condition of another illness. Major depressive disorder may occur in the case of a death of a loved one if symptoms continue for longer than two months and include functional impairment, a feeling of worthlessness, psychotic symptoms, psychomotor retardation or suicidal thoughts. It cannot be diagnosed if the individual has a history of bipolar disorder or of any of the signs and symptoms better indicate schizoaffective disorder.


 

Clinical depression can be diagnosed if the individual has five or more of the following symptoms for a period of at least two weeks:

  • A depressed mood, which is present for most of the day and nearly every day. This may present itself as extreme sadness, being tearful or being irritable all to an extent that it is noticeable by others.
  • A complete or extremely decreased interest in most activities throughout the day, nearly every day.
  • A significant weight gain or loss due to an increase or decrease in appetite.
  • Sleeping too much or too little.
  • Complete fatigue or lack of energy nearly everyday.
  • Persistent feeling of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
  • Lack of ability to concentrate or make decisions.
  • Persistent thoughts of death or suicide


If you suspect that you or someone close to you are suffering from clinical depression, seek help form a doctor or qualified mental health care provider who will be able to advise you and offer the necessary help and treatment.

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