As Carl Jung said, “Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.” Psychological research substantiates this, finding that sadness is one of only six distinct universal emotions. Sadness may trouble us, but it is part of us -- and even in its painful intensity, it is a reminder that we are alive.
But major depressive disorder is different from the feeling of sadness in a number of ways. Sadness is a normal reaction to distressing, upsetting, and challenging circumstances -- and as these circumstances pass, so does our sadness. Depression is a chronic, consuming disorder that negatively affects our thinking and feeling, regardless of the presence or absence of specific and circumstantial triggers. As Guy Winch, Ph. D, writes at Psychology Today, “When we’re depressed we feel sad about everything... People’s lives on paper might be totally fine—they would even admit this is true—and yet they still feel horrible.”
Those of us who experience depression find these feelings to be chronically troubling and unshakeable. For many of us, we are initially baffled as we lose interest in our relationships, our work, and activities we used to enjoy. We find ourselves unsettled and consumed by negative thoughts, which cause us to question our worth and reduce us to hopelessness. Life, work, and even leisure become chores as we become devoured by our melancholy and we isolate ourselves from our friends and family, withdrawing from the pursuits that gave our lives purpose.
It might not even occur to us until weeks or months into an episode to ask, “Am I depressed?”
If you are depressed, you might experience some or all of the following symptoms:
Changes in sleep
Changes in appetite
Lack of concentration
Loss of energy
Lack of interest in activities
Hopelessness or guilty thoughts
Changes in movement (less activity or agitation)
Physical aches and pains
However, symptoms vary from person to person and a diagnosis can only be provided by a health professional.
If you are looking for an objective measurement of where you stand on the depression scale, take the 2-Minute Mind Check, an anonymous questionnaire aimed at assisting those who might be depressed. The survey can be taken here.