The difference between “feeling depressed” and living with depression
I can’t begin to count the number of times I have heard someone say something like “I’m just feeling a bit depressed.” Does that mean every one of these people were living with the mental illness called depression? Of course not.
One of the biggest challenges in getting people to understand depression is how the term is casually thrown around for a feeling of general sadness. Something as common as having a bad day can make people say they are depressed, but it is a fleeting feeling that fades in hours or days – at the longest.
This is very different from actual clinical depression.
What depression is really like
When someone lives with clinical depression, they are living with a long-term issue that is largely unaffected by life events or temporary bad news. Many describe it as feeling inescapably sad or out of sorts for “no reason”, though the reason is actually a chemical or genetic imbalance.
Notably, depression might not actually feel like “being sad” for many. A large number of people living with depression are more likely to describe feeling indescribably tired, struggling just to get out of bed each day. Others may note they have lost their appetite or are having trouble sleeping.
Perhaps the biggest differentiation between general or circumstantial sadness and clinical depression is the length. While some life events like a divorce or losing a job can leave someone feeling sad for several days, they can typically get out of their rut within a relatively short amount of time.
In comparison, a person living with untreated depression may struggle with day-to-day life for months or even years. Positive life events like a new relationship or career opportunity may only leave a fleeting feeling of happiness or have no effect at all on a depressed person’s mood.
Why it matters
While the difference between “feeling depressed” and clinical depression might seem like nitpicking, the distinction is actually critically important and the overuse of the term “depression” for general sadness can have subtle but significant effects on how depression is understood as a mental illness.
Because the term depression is used so casually, many living with clinical depression may not feel like their condition is worthy of medical attention. It might seem like a phase everyone goes through or a temporary issue that everyone just “gets over.” That means someone may live with a persistent mental illness that can severely impact their lives for months or even years because they don’t recognize it as a significant health issue.
If you believe you may be living with depression, please call Brookhaven at (888) 298-4673. We can answer any questions you have and see if treatment is the right option for you.