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Sadness Is Different From Depression

Deep sadness that lasts for a few months is normal after a traumatic experience.

It can be hard to tell sadness and depression apart when you are in the middle of a very sad time in your life. What a lot of people forget is that sadness, even deep sadness that lasts for a few months, is normal for someone who has suffered a great loss or trauma. It just makes sense, because sometimes we can’t just forget the bad things that have happened to us. It takes time to heal.

My doctor got so frustrated with my sadness after the loss of my dog that she wanted me on antidepressants. I have tried them before, they make me feel physically horrible, and frankly, I’d rather be sad than sick, but for some people, antidepressants are a godsend.

Doctors and therapists say that if you are “depressed” for two weeks or more, you should see a physician for an exam and a recommendation. Honestly, I think it takes more than two weeks to get over the loss of a beloved companion. Three months later, I still have bad days. I function and do what I can to move my life forward, but there is this feeling of loss, and tears still come. Am I depressed? Well, sure, but it’s a situational depression. I’m really just sad about it, as well as a couple of other things, and I do believe that’s in the range of normal for an adult. My life is staying on track, and I’ve rescued a new doggie, so I can feel myself healing as well.

Doctors worry because depression can become serious and make you suicidal, so they want to nip it in the bud. However, if you are not letting your inner pain out in one way or another, you can take every SSRI out there, and it probably won’t make a difference. I see a therapist and write about my feelings so they are not just sitting inside me.

Life is complicated, and if you are a sensitive person, loss and grieving can cause sadness. Depression has several other signs besides feeling sad. Symptoms of clinical depression may include clear-cut changes in mood, affect, cognition, feelings of being hopeless and/or helpless, not sleeping or sleeping too much, worry, irritability, neglecting yourself or loved ones, and overeating or eating too little. If you have more than a couple of these symptoms, and have had them for two weeks or longer, make an appointment. It’s worth it to get deeper insight into what’s going on with you.

It’s important to note again that depression is real and can be very serious. This time of year (July and August) is when most suicides take place. It can be very difficult to self-diagnose. Getting checked out by a professional could save your life. You can also talk to a trained counselor at the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE. They are available around the clock, so make the call if you are worried about yourself. You can also call for advice about what to do if you are worried about someone else.

Sadness is often confused with depression, but it is also a symptom, and if it does go on for a long time, it can lead to depression. So I understand why the mental health community is watchful.

For most people who go through a depression, it does end, and medication along with psychotherapy can shorten the time you have to live with it. If you are concerned about your mood, don’t try to tough it out. Just talk with the right people, take care of yourself, and do everything you can to move past it.