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  • Megan Stodard

Am I sad or depressed?

Illuminate is back from it's Hurricane Sally (on top of all the other 2020 chaos) induced break! I'm excited to bring you this new post inspired by a podcast episode Meredith the Curious Introvert and I recently made as part of her Fall/Winter mental health series. We had such a great chat about a dark, hard topic in a light and easy way. So important and timely! So, big thank you, Meredith, for bringing this topic to your listeners and our community.

How do I know whether I'm dealing with sadness or depression?

Sadness. You know it when you feel it. You know it when you see it. It can be short lived or longer lasting, but it’s typically an emotion we feel about something. Sadness is transient, it comes and goes.


The word depressed has entered into our common language as a term often used to mean "really sad." But it's more than an intense sadness. While it can include a sad mood, that’s just one component. It is more pervasive with other symptoms that are part of the experience. The signature ones are depressed (or irritable or apathetic mood) plus decreased interest/pleasure in things typically enjoyed. Depression also includes a combination of other symptoms like changes in appetite/weight, being physically and/or cognitively slowed down, fatigue/low energy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, trouble with concentration or decision making, and thinking of death or suicide.


For your reference, here are the diagnostic criteria for a depressive episode according to the DSM-5:


The individual must be experiencing five or more symptoms during the same 2-week period and at least one of the symptoms is either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure.

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day

  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day

  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day

  • A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down)

  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day

  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day

  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day

  • Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide

*To receive a diagnosis of depression, these symptoms must cause the individual clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The symptoms must also not be a result of substance abuse or another medical condition.


Whether sadness or depression, IMPACT matters!

There isn’t an actual line in the sand. Sadness and depression can overlap, ebb and flow. (We talk about this as waffles vs. spaghetti in the podcast). Impact is important here. Whether you’re feeling sad or depressed, if it’s getting in the way of your day to day life it’s time to make a change. Often seeking professional help can make it easier and more efficient to start feeling like yourself again.

Listen in to the full episode here, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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