Sadness And Depression

We all feel sad sometimes. Sadness is a normal emotion that can make life more interesting. Much art and poetry is inspired by sadness and melancholy. Sadness almost always accompanies loss. Although depression is often thought of a being an extreme state of sadness, there is a vast difference between clinical depression and sadness. Sadness is a part of being human — a natural reaction to painful circumstances. All of us will experience sadness at some point in our lives. Depression, however, is a physical illness with many more symptoms than an unhappy mood.

The person with clinical depression finds that there is not always a logical reason for his dark feelings. Exhortations from well-meaning friends and family for him to “snap out of it” provide only frustration, for he can no more “snap out of it” than a diabetic can will his pancreas to produce more insulin. Sadness is a transient feeling that passes as a person comes to term with his troubles. Depression can linger for weeks, months or even years. The sad person feels bad, but continues to cope with living. A person with clinical depression may feel overwhelmed and hopeless.

To clarify the differences between normal sadness and depression, there are specific, defined criteria for the diagnosis of major depression:

A person who suffers from a major depressive disorder must either have a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities consistently for at least a two-week period. This mood must represent a change from the person’s normal mood and impair his functioning in his daily life.

There are many kinds of depressive disorders, some more serious than others. It seems that depression has a wide variety of ways to enter your life:

Some kinds of depression seem to run in families, so you may have a genetic predisposition to depression.

Trauma and stressful life events can cause depression. The trauma doesn’t have to have involved you personally to affect you. Stressful life events that can lead to depression include divorce, financial setbacks, chronic illness, loss of a job, and so forth.

Hormones can cause depression. This means either a rise in hormone levels or a drop in them. Testosterone in men and progesterone and estrogen in women may be the culprits.

Some medications can trigger depression or cause depressive symptoms. This includes prescription medications, as well as recreational drugs and alcohol. Also, drug interactions may have dangerous side effects, including depression.

Certain other medical conditions can cause depression. Among them are heart disease, cancer, and HIV/AIDS.

The weather can cause depression. The dark days of winter may lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as The Alaska Effect.

Discovering what kind of depression you are dealing with may lead to understanding what caused it. Following the clues may lead you to the proper treatment.

Twins or triplets tend to run in certain families — it’s a genetic trait. So is left-handedness and red-headedness. So, also, are certain forms of depression, including bipolar disorder. If you are beginning to wonder if you might be suffering from depression, it just makes good sense to take a look at your family tree and find out everything you can about the medical conditions that tend to appear more frequently than might be expected.

Did your father experience severe mood swings — so much so that you never knew quite what to expect from him when you were growing up? Was your mother constantly sad — to the point that you can’t ever remember her being really happy? These are the kinds of things to look for as you take a trip down memory lane. Ask your aunts, uncles, cousins, or grandparents what they remember about other family members. Their responses may not come in medical terms, but they’ll help you establish a connection to your past that will help guide your future.

If you have had at least five of the depression symptoms listed below – especially if you feel depressed and have lost interest in things that you used to enjoy – you may be suffering from depression.

1. Depressed Mood : A person may report feeling “sad” or “empty” or may cry frequently. Children and adolescents may exhibit irritability.

2. Decreased Interest or Pleasure : A person may show markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, daily activities.

3. Weight Changes : Significant changes in weight when not attempting to gain or lose (a gain or loss of 5% or more in a month) may be indicative of depression. In children, this may also present as a failure to make expected weight gains.

4. Sleep Disturbances : Insomnia or sleeping too much may be a symptom of depression.

5. Psychomotor Agitation or Retardation : The person may be observed to be either agitated and restless or physically slowed down in their movements.

6. Fatigue : Deep fatigue or a loss of energy is a symptom of depression.

7. Feelings of Worthlessness or Guilt : A depressed person may feel that they have no value or they may feel inappropriately guilty about things they have no control over.

8. Brain Fog : A depressed person may have a diminished ability to think, concentrate or make decisions.

9. Thoughts of Death : A depressed person may have frequent thoughts of death and suicide, although they may or may not have an actual plan for carrying it out.

If you suspect that you may be depressed, your first visit should be to your family doctor for a thorough checkup. There are several medical conditions that can cause depression symptoms, such as vitamin and mineral deficiencies, female hormonal changes and thyroid conditions.

In addition, some medications can have depression as a side-effect. If your doctor does not find any of these factors to be the cause of your symptoms, you will then fix an appointment with us for further evaluation.

There is no current laboratory test that can be used to diagnose depression. Depression is diagnosed based on your reported symptoms, signs that your doctor observes during the interview, your medical history and your family’s medical history.

Your doctor will begin the diagnostic process by asking you a series of questions. Questions that you may be asked include:

  • What are your symptoms?
  • How long have you had these symptoms?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • Have you had these symptoms before?
  • Have you been treated for depression before?
  • If so, what treatments were you given and which worked best?
  • Do any of your relatives have depression?

If so, were your relatives treated for depression and which treatments worked best?
Do you use drugs or drink alcohol?
Have you thought about death or suicide?

Depression is a treatable disorder. Studies show that medications and/or psychotherapy (talk therapy) are effective for most individuals. But, before treatment begins, other medical causes for your symptoms should be ruled out.

As the name implies, antidepressants are used for the treatment of depression. It is believed that the brain contains several hundred different types of chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) that act as communication agents between different brain cells. These neurotransmitters are important in modulating a variety of body functions and feelings, including our mood. Antidepressants are believed to affect certain chemical messengers in the brain, resulting in less depression and anxiety.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one form of psychotherapy that has been shown to be successful in treating major depression. CBT combines the fundamental concepts of behavioral therapy and cognitive therapy. The term “cognitive” refers to our thought process and reflects what we think, believe and perceive. Put together, CBT focuses on our behaviors and thoughts and how they are contributing to our current symptoms and difficulties.