At some point in their lives, millions of individuals all over the world deal with sadness or despair. But understanding the distinction between a depression diagnosis and the feeling of sadness might aid someone in dealing with both in a healthy manner. This article explores the differences and explains the symptoms, signs, effects, and treatment for depression.

Sadness vs. Depression

A common feeling that all people experience at specific periods during their life is sadness. It is a common response to situations such as losses, setbacks, issues, or other trying circumstances that leave us feeling hurt or unhappy. It is normal to experience sadness from time to time. Other phrases commonly used to describe sadness include “feeling down,” “feeling low,” and “feeling blue.” A person may remark they are feeling ‘depressed,’ but if this feeling goes away on its own and does not disrupt life in a substantial way, it is unlikely to be depression.  This is one of the main differences between sadness and depression. 

Depression is a longer-lasting mental disorder that hinders functioning in key areas such as social, vocational, and other important life interactions. Depression symptoms can last for a long period of time if addressed. The condition has an impact on mood, how one views oneself, and how a person perceives and interacts with the world. Other terms commonly used are major depression, clinical depression, and major depressive disorder. Depression can strike suddenly and continue for a very long time. More than just sadness or a bad mood, depression can leave a person feeling completely hopeless, unworthy, and experiencing unreasonable feelings of guilt. Some people may experience changes in their levels of frustration tolerance or become angry or irritated. Most people experience loss of interest in the activities they formerly enjoyed and may begin to become socially isolated.

The physical manifestations of depression can include unexplained aches and pains, problems with sleep, appetite, and loss of energy. Some people may struggle with serious thoughts of suicide. Depression affects the person’s whole life, and is usually diagnosed when it lasts more than two weeks, and typically does not go away on its own. If you are worried about depression, or know someone who is, contact The Cabin today to speak to our clinical staff. We will be able to evaluate your situation and offer you the best possible treatment options.

The Symptoms of Depression

If you or your loved one has any of these symptoms regularly for 2 weeks or longer, they may not be experiencing sadness but may have depression:

  • Sadness, hopelessness, or feeling empty inside
  • Often breaking down and crying
  • The feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or remorse about past actions
  • Anhedonia, this is a medical term and means loss or reduction in the ability to enjoy things that used to give you pleasure
  • Sleep issues such as unable to fall asleep or stay asleep, oversleep and not wanting to get out of bed
  • Lack of energy, feeling tired, sluggish as well as moving, speaking, and reacting slowly
  • Weight issues due to loss of appetite, or craving unhealthy food and gaining weight.
  • Aches, pains, muscle cramps and even stomach aches
  • Neglect of self-care such as not caring about one’s self, how they look and dress that may include neglecting personal hygiene and grooming
  • Anger issues such as snapping at people often, feel angry or resentful, or having frequent verbal outbursts over small slights
  • Mind fog including trouble thinking clearly, not remembering things as well, losing focus on tasks or conversations and a reduced capacity at decision making
  • Suicidal thoughts or statements

Unlike sadness, depression can leave a person fighting to get through their day. Sadness is often only one aspect of depression.

The Risk Factors of Depression

Men and women of any age group can experience depression. People of all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds experience depression. Depression is prone to numerous risk factors. However, the presence of one or more risk factors does not guarantee that someone will experience depression. Risk factors for depressions may include:

  • Trauma from childhood or adolescence
  • Inability to deal with a traumatic life event, such as losing a spouse or child, or any circumstance that produces prolonged suffering
  • A history of previous mental health illnesses, such as anorexia, bulimia, post-traumatic stress (PTS), or anxiety disorder; difficulty adjusting to physical changes brought on by injury, such as acute or chronic illness.
  • Absence of a network of friends, family, or co-workers to lean on
  • Low self-esteem, lack of family, or community acceptance of one’s sexual orientation.
  • A familial history of mental illness, such as bipolar disorder or depression, history of substance misuse, especially alcohol and drugs.
  • A medical condition, such as cancer, a stroke, chronic pain, or heart disease, that is difficult to live with or adjust to.

Some drugs may potentially cause depression as a side effect. Medication side effects that could result in depression include:

  • Beta-blockers
  • Statins, used to treat excessive cholesterol
  • Corticosteroids 
  • Hormonal medications

Do I Suffer from Depression or Am I Just Sad

Pharmacological Treatment for Depression

Cells in the brain make neurotransmitters, including serotonin and norepinephrine, which some people may call noradrenaline. Neurons, which are cells in the brain, send messages to one another using neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters carry nerve signals across a cell synapse.

Different neurotransmitters carry different types of signals. Some, called excitatory neurotransmitters, increase the chance of the neuron generating an electrical signal called an action potential. 

Inhibitory neurotransmitters, by contrast, weaken or slow nerve signals. Serotonin can serve both excitatory and inhibitory roles, while norepinephrine is a purely excitatory neurotransmitter.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are two different types of antidepressants used to treat depression. 

SSRIs increase serotonin levels in the brain. SNRIs increase both serotonin and norepinephrine levels. Both SSRIs and SNRIs act on the neurotransmitters that carry nerve signals between neurons.

SNRIs and SSRIs prevent the reuptake of certain neurotransmitters in the brain’s nerve terminals. SSRIs block serotonin reuptake, while SNRIs stop the reuptake of both serotonin and norepinephrine.

The reuptake process reduces the availability of neurotransmitters because the brain reabsorbs them. Therefore, by blocking this process, reuptake inhibitors increase the availability of neurotransmitters.

SSRI vs. SNRI: How Are They Different?

Serotonin helps the body regulate mood. When serotonin is too low or too high, a person may become depressed. 

Low serotonin can cause anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, or obsessive-compulsive behaviours. 

When serotonin levels rise, a person may feel less physically and psychologically active or aroused, making it easier to sleep and relax. Both SSRIs and SNRIs increase serotonin levels in the brain, which can potentially help with the symptoms of various mental health conditions.

Norepinephrine plays a key role in the fight-or-flight reaction. During times of intense stress, such as when a person feels threatened, norepinephrine naturally increases.

In daily life, norepinephrine also plays a role in attention, memory, sleep and mood regulation. People with low levels of norepinephrine may have trouble concentrating, develop symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or show signs of depression.

SNRIs increase norepinephrine levels, helping a person concentrate and reducing depression.

Higher levels of norepinephrine may cause feelings of euphoria. However, they may also cause high blood pressure, hyperactive behaviour or even panic attacks. Due to these effects, SNRIs may not be suitable for people with certain heart health issues, problems with hyperactivity or a history of panic. 

There is no conclusive evidence that either of these group of drugs is superior to the other or for all individuals. A person may need to try different medications or combinations of these drugs and at varying dosages under the supervision of their doctor.

Both classes of drugs may take several weeks to reach a therapeutic dose in the body.

Psychotherapy can be pursued independently or in conjunction with antidepressant medication. An individual suffering from depression can learn coping skills from a therapist, as well as about the realities of the condition, and identify trouble areas and potential triggers. 

If a person with severe depression poses an imminent risk to themselves, either via the possibility of suicide or through a lack of capacity to take care of themselves, a medical team may decide to admit them to a hospital that can provide a higher level of care. Otherwise, long-term care can be facilitated by outpatient facilities and psychotherapy treatment facilities such as well-being resorts or rehabilitation treatment centres.

Depression can be treated. But even minor lifestyle adjustments might not be sufficient to help with recovery. Counselling and medication to alleviate the symptoms is typically recommended. You do not need to let depression destroy your or your loved one’s lives. We are here to help right now. Call us today to begin a wholesome, happier life.

S.C. Tharan
4th September, 2022
Edited: Lee Daniel Hawker-Lecesne

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