Depression is more than feeling sad

One of the things I have certainly struggled with in my personal life – and I think one of the things that many people don’t realize – is what depression truly is.  I saw this image ages ago in my Facebook feed, and I think it sums it up personally:

depression is more than sad

This is so, so accurate (except for the Mario Kart part – I got nothing there) and I say this based on more than just a viral image.  According to the DSM (Diagnosis & Statistical Manual, the official way in which mental illnesses are diagnosed), the following five symptoms are indicative of a Major Depressive Disorder:

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feeling sad, blue, “down in the dumps,” or empty) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful or about to cry). (In children and adolescents, this may present as an irritable or cranky, rather than sad, mood.)
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities every day, such as no interest in hobbies, sports, or other things the person used to enjoy doing.
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5 percent of body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  • Insomnia (inability to get to sleep or difficulty staying asleep) or hypersomnia (sleeping too much) nearly every day
  • Psychomotor agitation (e.g., restlessness, inability to sit still, pacing, pulling at clothes or clothes) or retardation (e.g., slowed speech, movements, quiet talking) nearly every day
  • Fatigue, tiredness, or loss of energy nearly every day (e.g., even the smallest tasks, like dressing or washing, seem difficult to do and take longer than usual).
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day (e.g., ruminating over minor past failings).
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day (e.g. appears easily distracted, complains of memory difficulties).
  • Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideas without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide

The first item is specifically about depression and feeling sad.  The rest are most definitely not.  And it’s important to note that everyone experiences depression differently, and at different times.  For some, sadness is the overwhelming emotion.  For others, it’s complete anhedonia.  These emotions are felt in different ways, at different times.

I write about this based on my own experiences.  I’ve found that, when I am going through a rough patch, it isn’t often led off by sadness – usually, I start with insomnia and a loss of appetite – I always lose weight when I am depressed.  Things usually go downhill from there.  Not for nothing, but those two symptoms are often the canaries in the coal mine.  I work out a lot so I’m almost always hungry, and if I don’t want to eat, I almost always wonder if something is wrong.  It’s amazing, the way depression sneaks up on you like that…it comes out of nowhere and starts to nibble at your mind, before you are even aware of it….

My point is this: It would be foolish to assume that depression is just depression.  It can be experienced as an entire series of symptoms, many of which have nothing to do with feeling sad, and all of which can easily be confused with something else.  I draw some comfort from this – there is nothing “wrong” with me – well, besides the obvious, haha.

I’m really curious to hear from others.  Have you experienced depression in some other way, including those not listed here?  Let us know in the comments!

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