If your loved one is struggling with symptoms of depression, he may seem sad or melancholy much of the time, but make no mistake: Depression and sadness are two very different things. Sadness is a natural and healthy human emotion—something we all experience on a regular basis. Depression is a clinically diagnosable condition—not an emotional whim, and not something we can choose or control.
It is important to understand this key distinction when seeking compassionate care for your loved one.
And there are some further ways in which depression differs from sadness. Consider some of these side effects and symptoms of depression, which are not typically associated with the blues:
- Loss of interest or passion in formerly enjoyable activities
- Significant changes in weight—either weight loss or gain
- Sleeplessness, or excessive sleeping
- Fatigue and general energy loss
- Inordinate guilt, shame, or feelings of worthlessness
- Recurring thoughts or talk about suicide
Understanding the difference between depression and sadness empowers you to respond appropriately to the clinically depressed individuals in your life. When you distinguish that someone is indeed experiencing symptoms of depression—not just feeling blue—you realize that he cannot simply “get it together” or put on a happy face.
One proven path toward hope and healing is to seek clinical treatment—which may include counseling, support groups, medication, education about signs and symptoms of depression, changes in diet and exercise. In some cases, residential treatment is needed to help someone become immersed in the process of recovery.
Your role is not to make that decision. Your role, as a friend or family member is to offer your love and support. Your role is to encourage, which starts with understanding what is really happening and recognizing that having depression is much more complicated and long lasting than simply experiencing sadness.
If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of depression, encourage them to seek help by talking to their family doctor or reaching out to a mental health specialist. Call WestBridge to learn more about the integrated dual diagnosis treatment programs for mental health and substance use disorders.
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