Am I depressed?

Sadness can feel so intense sometimes that it can be really challenging to determine the difference between sadness and depression. Since depression requires treatment, it’s important to learn the differences between the two.

What is sadness?

Sadness is an emotional pain often associated with experiences of loss, rejection, or some other kind of painful experience. Every human being experiences sadness at some point in their life. Despite how intense sadness is, or how much it hurts, it is a basic emotion that often resolves or fades over time, and generally doesn’t keep people from functioning from day to day. Some feelings associated with sadness are despair, grief, helplessness, disappointment, and sorrow. When you are sad, you may sleep too much or too little, cry, and feel emotionally drained, yet you are still able to function.

What is depression?

Depression is not an emotion; it’s a condition that is typically caused by a mix of environmental, genetic, biological, and psychological factors. Depression doesn’t necessarily follow a loss or a negative experience, although it may be triggered by these experiences. Depression lasts at least two weeks and interferes with a person’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities.

Sadness is a symptom of depression. There are different types of depression that people experience. Some of the more common symptoms of depression include:

  • A long-lasting negative, anxious, or flat mood
  • Weight gain or loss outside of the normal, healthy weight gain associated with pregnancy
  • A change in appetite
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Poor memory or concentration skills
  • Low energy
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • A pervasive sense of hopelessness or negativity
  • An increasing sense of grumpiness or irritability
  • Pains, cramps, soreness, or digestive issues that seem to come out of the blue
  • An overwhelming sense of guilt of self-criticism about one’s life and its events
  • Feeling disconnected from the baby, or experiencing periods of not wanting to be pregnant

Depression can also be associated with thoughts of not wanting to live, suicide or wanting to harm one’s self.

What do I have?

By now, you might have an idea of whether you’re experiencing sadness or depression. But if you still have any doubts, the best way to be sure is to talk to your primary care or obstetric care provider. They will probably ask about your moods, any medications that you’ve been taking, and your family’s medical history; they may also run tests to rule out other conditions. A visit to your healthcare provider or another mental health professional will help you get treatment faster if you are experiencing depression. If it’s determined that you don’t have depression, you’ll be able to focus your energy on doing more things that make you happy, while knowing that, in time, the negative feelings will subside.

There are other resources to help you identify whether you might have depression as well. The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale is a clinically-validated depression screening tool that can help assess your likelihood of depression. You’ll likely be asked to take this in pregnancy, during the postpartum period, or both.

Talk to someone

Sharing your feelings with your healthcare provider is always a good idea, but talking to somebody you trust can be helpful, too. This person doesn’t have to be a medical professional; it could be a friend, sibling or anyone you find supportive – someone you are comfortable talking and opening up to. Try to remember that for many people, it is hard to recognize how much of a toll depression is taking on their lives, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t serious. Ask your trusted person for some time where they listen to you.


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Sources
  • “How is depression different from sadness?” Columbia.edu. Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, 2010. Web.
  • Natasha Tracy. “What’s the Difference between Sadness and Depression?” Healthline. Healthline Media, Jul 17 2013. Web.  
  • “Depression.” NIH. National Institute of Mental Health, May 2016. Web.
  • “Sadness and depression.” Neumann. Neumann University, 2016. Web.
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