How do you know if it’s depression or just sadness. Do you sometimes wonder about that? How can you tell the difference and once you’ve figured it out, what can you do about it. You would be surprised to know that depression is common in the United States. It is estimated that 16.1 million Americans suffer from depression currently.

Sadness is a feeling that passes; it could be due to watching a movie that brings up emotions or an argument with someone you love. But sadness leaves, it doesn’t stick around. It could last days or even a couple of weeks, but it fades away. You may cry and even stay in your home for a few days due to your sadness, but the key thing to remember is, unlike depression, you move through the sadness fairly quickly and it doesn’t impact your daily life.

On the other hand, depression, more specifically, clinical depression doesn’t stop one day after it begins or even in a few weeks. No, depression lasts for an extended period of time. There are various types of depression, including Major Depressive Disorder and Persistent Depressive Disorder, just to name a couple. You may be asking yourself, “ok, but how would I know these feelings are depression and not just sadness?” The simple answer is: if you have clinical depression, you will feel some of these symptoms hopeless, helpless, anhedonia (loss of interest in pleasurable activities), isolation, weight loss or gain, excessive crying, insomnia or sleeping too much, loss of energy or fatigue, inability to concentrate, and suicidal ideation. For people diagnosed with depression, just the idea of getting out of bed and getting dressed is a struggle.

Treatment for depression varies just as much as the symptoms, but the biggest takeaway is that there are treatments available. In my practice, I utilize CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and other interventions to help alleviate symptoms and get my clients back to a level of functioning that is comfortable for them. Exercise is great to help elevate your mood. If you aren’t ready to go to the gym, then just go outside and walk to the corner and back. Every little bit helps. Get Vitamin D, ideally from the sun for about 15-20 minutes daily or if that isn’t possible, a Vitamin D supplement works. A support system is very important, ideally surround yourself with friends and family who are positive and understand what you are going through. I have found that the more support a depressed client has, the sooner they feel better. Talk therapy is important as you move through the depression. Therapy can address the root causes of the depression and assist you in developing healthy coping skills. If after trying various interventions and you are still struggling to make it through the day, medication is available to help. Anti-depressants are an effective way to lift the cloud, so that other interventions will be more helpful. The most common anti-depressants are SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) such as Prozac, Lexapro, Celexa, Paxil and Zoloft just to name a few. These work by limiting the reabsorption (reuptake) of the neurotransmitter serotonin into the presynaptic cell. In other words, antidepressants leave more serotonin in the synapse of the brain, thereby, elevating mood. There are side effects, but they are much less than the first generation antidepressants.

While depression can make you feel alone, there is help available and a light at the end of the tunnel. Getting an evaluation by a clinician whether it be a therapist or Psychiatrist is the first step to emotional freedom. It’s not weakness if you ask for help, it’s a sign of great strength and compassion for yourself