Almost everyone has felt “down in the dumps” at times or had a case of “the blues.” In this state, you may have referred to yourself as feeling depressed. But is this really clinical depression?
An estimated 25 percent of Americans suffer from major depression. So what distinguishes the common “down” feelings felt by most of us with true depression? Actual depression is different from “the blues” in several key ways.
Symptoms of Feeling Blue vs. Being Depressed
Feeling “blue” or being down in the dumps” are ways we describe feelings of sadness or melancholy. True depression has a host of other symptoms in addition to sadness. They may include: significant weight loss or gain, insomnia, loss of interest in daily activities, feelings of guilt, helplessness or hopelessness, fatigue/loss of energy, and poor concentration.
Causes of Feeling Blue vs. Being Depressed
Brief periods of feeling “blue” are usually caused by life events that leave us feeling discouraged. From a broken date to the loss of a loved one, the causes can range from minor to major events. Depression can be triggered by a stressful life event, but research indicates that depression is also associated with a variety of genetic and biochemical factors. Some individuals appear to be more “hard-wired” to get depression. The “blues,” on the other hand, are feelings with which almost everyone can relate.
Duration of Feeling Blue vs. Depression
To be considered depressed, an individual must be experiencing significant symptoms for at least two weeks on an ongoing basis. Individuals who are feeling a bit “down” usually shake off these feelings in a few days, if not hours. The “down in the dumps” sensation we’ve all had is noteworthy for being temporary. Without treatment, true depression, on the other hand, can last for months or years, or it can re-occur frequently.
Intensity of Depression Symptoms
In addition to being longer lasting, true clinical depression is also more intense than a case of the “blues.” Usually, individuals who are feeling “blue” or “down” manage to perform their regular daily activities. Individuals experiencing an episode of depression often are unable to function normally. The depression interferes with work, relationship, and daily activities. In extreme cases, depression can lead to feelings of complete hopelessness and suicidal thoughts or acts.
If you or a loved one frequently feels “down in the dumps” or “blue,” consider whether the condition may actually be depression. A physician or mental health professional can conduct an assessment to determine if depression is present and recommend appropriate treatment.
Understanding the difference between feeling “blue” and being depressed can make a difference in the quality of life for an affected individual. With proper treatment, depression can be managed, and individuals can live more enjoyable and productive lives.