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Depressive thoughts and challenges of clinical depression are two unique experiences that are often confused. The word “depressed” is so casually uttered that we may be desensitized to the true nature of what it means to have depression. If you’ve ever asked yourself “Am I depressed or sad?” or “Am I depressed or lazy?” you might be looking for some concrete criteria to gauge what kind of intervention you need.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSM-5) is essentially an encyclopedia of mental conditions, criteria to diagnose each disorder and recommended treatment options. Although only certified mental health and medical professionals can provide a diagnosis, the DSM-5 is available to anyone and can be used as a tool to put your experiences in perspective.

If you’re wondering if you might be suffering from clinical depression, consult common signs and symptoms for a better understanding of your current condition. Please note that this by no means constitutes a formal or an informal diagnosis. We strongly recommend you consult a licensed healthcare professional you trust if you’re seeking a concrete diagnosis. The following information is only meant to serve as a foundation.

Recognizing common signs and symptoms of depression

The clinical term for depression is Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). Manifestations of depression are both physical and emotional and have far-reaching effects on an individual’s life. According to PsyCom, the most well-known criteria and expressions of MDD are a pervasively sad mood and loss of interest in things that were once enjoyable.

In order to meet criteria for the diagnosis, in addition to unhappiness and loss of interest, four of the following depression symptoms must have been present in the past two weeks.

  • Depressed mood for the majority of the day
  • Loss of interest in activities on most days
  • Abnormal changes in weight or appetite
  • Slowness in thinking and movement
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling of worthlessness or guilt
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

These symptoms cannot be the result of another condition or substance use in order to be considered signs of depression. The depression symptoms must also interfere with a person’s life to the point that it prevents him or her from completing normal daily tasks.

Other signs of depression include:

  • Suicidal statements
  • Rapid and extreme mood swings
  • Feeling hopeless about the future
  • Loss of interest in intimacy
  • Avoiding spending time with friends
  • Risky behavior
  • Substance abuse
  • Harsh self-criticism for simple mistakes
  • Increased physical symptoms (headaches, nausea, etc.)

Sadness

“Feeling depressed” is a commonly used substitute for “feeling sad.” Although sensations of sadness are valid experiences and are not to be overtly dismissed, they are temporary and do not impair activities of daily living like clinical depression can.

Laziness

We might also wonder where the line is drawn between laziness and depression. Many of the symptoms overlap, including loss of interest in activities, fatigue and slow movement. Differentiating between idleness and depression can be tricky because when we become increasingly sedentary, it’s likely those depression thoughts will creep in as well. 

To determine if you are challenged by depression or if your experiences are due to inactivity, try integrating physical activity into your daily routine. If your symptoms disappear or lessen, that could

be a sign your lack of movement is the source of unhappiness. If you narrow down the cause of your sadness to lethargy, you can still meet with a mental health professional to talk about how to return to the lifestyle you want to live.

Loss

Sometimes people confuse depression with loss, especially after a significant loss has occurred. It is normal to experience a sad mood for an extended period of time after the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job or the end of a relationship. Grief differs from clinical depression in that it often follows a specific life event, and the sadness does not damage a person’s own self-perception.

There is no required diagnosis for an individual to receive counseling. Experiencing even occasional sadness is reason enough to seek mental health services. Truly, every person could benefit from therapy, even if they’re only consulting counseling services to preserve their positive state of mind.

Invest in your health today by reaching out to start counseling. Especially if you’re experiencing depression, sadness, a loss of energy or grief, mental health professionals are ready to help you get back to a satisfying and fulfilling life. Consult with Pyramid Family Behavioral Healthcare today or call (678) 274-4936, to take steps toward effectively managing your symptoms and pursuing a brighter life.

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