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Young woman with suspected depression

Sadness vs depression (and when to get help)

Sadness, along with happiness, fear and anger, is one of four basic human emotions. This means that it is normal to feel a bit down or sad from time to time. In fact, there is evidence that suggests sadness has an important evolutionary role — it’s a raw emotion that we associate with situations that are painful or which we want to avoid — and that it could even improve memory and our ability to make decisions.

Generally speaking, sadness is something almost everyone experiences occasionally. It is also a feeling from which most people move on. In most cases, we eventually recover and return to ‘normal’ or to how we were feeling previously.

However, those feelings of sadness may be a sign of deeper concerns if they become overwhelming or intense, last for a long time, keep returning, or start to affect daily life.

For many people, those feelings can be a symptom of something deeper.

 

What is depression?

Depression and anxiety are the most commonly diagnosed mental health issues. Across northern, western and central Melbourne, depression is the most common disorder, accounting for 37.9 per cent of diagnoses.

The region is home to areas with some of the highest rates of depression in Victoria, including Maribyrnong, Brimbank and Moonee Valley. In general, rates of mental health disorders are higher among younger people (aged 16-24), and tend to decrease with age.

Depression is more than just feeling sad or having a rough day. It is a strong and potentially overwhelming feeling that lasts for a prolonged period, and which can seem so intense or overwhelming that it affects daily life.

As mentioned, most people, for a variety of reasons, get sad at some point. The death of a pet, feeling hurt because of what someone said, or the disappointment from missing out on something are all legitimate reasons for feeling sad. However, very often those feelings will pass.

With depression, those feelings of sadness can be so strong and long-lasting that they affect daily life, your happiness and wellbeing. For example, depression can affect your motivation, your confidence in yourself, your faith in other people, and leave you with a pessimistic or negative outlook.

A person experiencing depression may stop enjoying the things they used to like. They may lose motivation and feel a lack of energy, or they might stop seeing their friends, have trouble sleeping, or experience significant changes in appetite. They may also have trouble concentrating, have difficulty with making decisions, or constantly criticise themselves.

Depression that remains unacknowledged (the person doesn’t come to terms with what they are feeling) or untreated (they have not taken the necessary self-care steps) can lead to further problems, such as substance abuse, self-harm and ill-effects on physical health.

 

What should I do if I think I am experiencing depression?

Although depression can affect people in many different ways, one of the common characteristics is that the negative feelings can start to affect quality of life.

Depression may for some people be something that is openly understood, even if the negative feelings seem outside of their control. Others may be aware that something doesn’t feel right, but they’re not sure how to deal with the situation (they can’t quite “put their finger on it” so to speak).

That means that some people have a good understanding of what makes them feel depressed, and may even understand their triggers or recognise the symptoms.

Others may not be so in touch with it. There may be no immediate cause that they can readily identify and while they may suspect or know that they feel down, they may have trouble putting it into words.

Acknowledging or talking about depression may be particularly difficult for someone if they were brought up in an environment where it was not the ‘done thing’ to talk about. In fact, some people may even believe that mental health conditions like depression and anxiety are shameful, embarrassing or a sign of weakness.

Unfortunately, this means that someone from that environment who is experiencing depression may be reluctant to seek treatment, let alone acknowledge that they might be struggling.

 

Managing depression

Whatever the underlying reason, remember that depression can be treated. If your mood has been low for over two weeks, consider seeking help.

One of the best places to start is to talk it out with someone you know and trust, like a friend or family member. If you feel comfortable talking about it, tell them how you feel and explain how it’s affecting your outlook.

Alternatively, a CAREinMIND counsellor can help you with a phone counselling session or with online counselling. CAREinMIND counsellors are professionally trained to listen and help you identify the cause of your worries so that they can help you cope and manage.

 

Concerned? Talk to a professional counsellor on 1300 096 269. It’s free to people in north, western and central Melbourne and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Want to know where else you can get help? Find out how to access additional community support.

 

The CAREinMIND blog is delivered by On the Line. The views in each post do not necessarily reflect those of North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network.