How do you know if you are clinically depressed or experiencing sadness?

signs of clinical depression

Everyone is talking about depression, but what is depression, and how do you know if you are just sad or have a major depressive disorder? It seems that everywhere we turn, whether it’s scrolling on social media, watching TV, out walking, sitting in restaurants, or listening to the radio, we hear the word “depression.”

What is depression?

Clinical depression is one of the most common and talked about mental health diagnoses, yet it seems like depression is everywhere and has come out of nowhere. Clinical depression is a mental disorder that affects your mood causing significant distress or impairment to multiple areas of your functioning.

I am feeling sad should I be concerned?

Sadness is a symptom of depression, but experiencing sadness alone does not meet the criteria for clinical depression. However, If you are experiencing multiple symptoms that cause persistent and noticeable changes to your mood and behaviors, you may have reasons for concern.

Symptoms or signs of depression:

Depressed mood: Do you feel sad most of the day, nearly every day, and others have observed your mood changes? Has the sadness been consistent for more than a few weeks?

Anhedonia: Have you shown a loss of interest or decreased motivation to participate in activities that you used to enjoy? Does doing things with others feel like work that you don’t want to do?

Fatigue: Are you feeling tired and experiencing low energy most of the time?

Appetite: Have you been experiencing a noticeable increase or decrease in your appetite and have lost or gained a significant amount of weight without trying?

Sleep changes: Are you seeing a difference in your sleep pattern and experiencing a decrease, insomnia, or significant increase, hypersomnia, noticeable from your regular sleeping pattern? Have you been having these symptoms for at least three to four weeks, and are the feelings persistent?

Feelings of guilt or worthlessness: Are you having excessive guilt and feeling worthless because you believe you have nothing to contribute to yourself, others, or the world?  

Poor Concentration and attention: Have you been having a hard time focusing on conversations, watching TV, reading, or participating in other activities?

Suicidal thoughts: Are you having recurring thoughts of death, with or without a specific plan of ending your life and experiencing a low desire to be alive?

Do I need professional help?

If you answered “Yes” to four or five of the symptoms listed above, you might be experiencing a major depressive disorder, “depression,” and it may be time for you to contact a mental health professional. A psychologist/therapist can provide you with the tools you need to help you understand why you are experiencing the symptoms and where the symptoms originated. A therapist will also work with you to identify ways to cope, decrease and eliminate some of these symptoms. It is always a good idea to speak with a trained professional when you’re experiencing significant and noticeable changes in your mood and behavioral patterns for an extended period. 

If you have been experiencing multiple symptoms listed above, please consider contacting a mental health professional to get some help, start feeling better, and live a life that you will enjoy.

I am a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles and offer complimentary 15 min initial consultations. If you are a professional woman seeking counseling, you may click here to schedule an appointment.

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