When Sadness Becomes Depression - How Long Do I Wait Before Seeking Help?
We all come down with a case of the “Mondays” from time to time, even if it doesn’t actually fall on a Monday. We experience times of sadness, moments of despair, and situations that cause stress or anxiety -- it’s a common part of life.
Unfortunately, some of us will fall into this state of sadness and uncertainty for an extended amount of time. While sadness is a part of everyday life, it’s not something that should completely consume and take over your life.
When sadness becomes depression, it’ll be difficult to see that light at the end of the tunnel. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone and there are ways to treat depression symptoms. In order to properly diagnose and treat it, it’s imperative we first understand the difference between sadness and depression -- as well as knowing when to seek help.
Difference Between Sadness and Depression
It might be easy to say you’re depressed when you’re going through a difficult time, but this isn’t always the case. Sadness and depression are two completely different emotions, with one of them potentially leading to personal disaster for anyone experiencing it.
Sadness is what we’re used to feeling every day. It’s nothing new to us, it doesn’t last long, and we always know how to find our way out of it. We get sad when our favorite football team loses. We get sad when one of our friends moves away and we get sad when one of the plants we’ve been trying to grow in our garden isn’t turning out as well as we expected.
These things all make us sad, but the sadness eventually goes away when something else crosses our mind. We wake up the next morning ready for the next week of football, we call our friends from time to time so we can check in on them, and we can always grow another plant and try again.
Unfortunately, some sadness will come at you more intensely than the kind that comes with a friend moving away. Some sadness won’t be as easy to get over. And this is when most doctors will start to pay attention to depression symptoms.
How Much Sadness Is Too Much Sadness?
Most doctors will start to worry by the two-week period. If you’re still experiencing major symptoms of sadness and the signs of depression are starting to show themselves, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. The earlier you can catch depression signs, the easier it will be to treat and eventually get over.
What Is the DSM-5 Criteria for Depression?
You might be asking yourself what the symptoms are that doctors are looking for in ‘clinical depression’. Again, they will be similar to the symptoms shown in sadness, the only difference being the extended amount of time the person has been experiencing the emotions.
Doctors utilize something known as the DSM-5 criteria, which are the nine official symptoms of depression. When a symptom is found in a patient, they will often detail the severity of the symptom for ultimate accuracy throughout the process.
Here’s a look at the nine symptoms included in the DSM-5 criteria:
- Constant feeling of depression for most of the day, on most days of the week (if not all)
- Difficulty having fun and finding interest in things you once found enjoyable
- Can’t fall asleep, or can’t stop sleeping
- Can’t eat, or can’t stop eating
- Restlessness and constant aggravation
- Chronic fatigue and exhaustion
- Not feeling worthy of anything or anyone
- Loss of focus, concentration, decision-making skills, and critical thinking
- Thoughts of suicide and not wanting to be alive
Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Seeking Help
In the event that you’re still unsure about whether you’re experiencing prolonged sadness or depression, we have several questions you can ask yourself to give you a better idea of where your mind is currently at.
Let’s take a look and don’t forget to answer them to yourself:
- Where is this sadness coming from?
- How is this sadness interfering with your life?
- Do you remember the moment you started feeling sad or depressed over this?
- What have you done to combat the sadness?
- How many people know you’re feeling this way?