October is Depression Awareness Month

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What is Depression?

Depression, or also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is a common and serious mood disorder. Feelings of sadness and hopelessness can be signs of those who suffer from depression and can lead to a loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed. Aside from the emotional problems caused by depression, individuals can also present with a physical symptom such as chronic pain or digestive issues. To be diagnosed with depression, symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.

Depression DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria

The DSM-5 frameworks the following criterion to make a diagnosis of depression for an individual. Five or more symptoms must be present during the same 2-week period and at least one of the symptoms should be either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure.

  1. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
  2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  3. Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  4. A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
  5. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  6. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
  7. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
  8. Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation, 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 (American Psychiatric Association, 2017. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5).

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How is Depression Different from Sadness?

What is the difference between depression and sadness? Making the distinction between the two psychological states can be difficult when the primary symptom associated with depression is sadness. The difference doesn’t lie in the extent to which a person feels down, but rather in a combination of factors relating to the duration of these negative feelings, other symptoms, bodily impact, and the effect upon the individual’s ability to function in daily life.

Sadness is a normal emotion that everyone will experience at some point in his or her life. Examples can include the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, or the end of a relationship. Sadness is usually caused by a specific situation, person, or event. When it comes to depression, however, no such trigger is needed. A person suffering from depression feels hopeless or helpless about everything. This person may have every reason in the world to be happy and yet they lose the ability to experience joy or pleasure during their daily life.

Feeling down in the dumps for a day or two can be linked to sadness, but you’re still able to enjoy simple things like your favorite TV show, food, or spending time with friends. But depression does not fall in the same line as the example above.  Activities the individual once enjoyed might ring as not enjoyable or pleasurable as once before. 

The individual’s sleep hygiene and desire to eat can diminish and fail to meet basic needs overall. Remaining motivated to do things is a continuous struggle and can translate into the person’s ability to keep up with daily living skills overall. 

In sadness, you might feel regret or remorse for something you said or did, but experiences of any permanent sense of worthlessness or guilt can be linked with depression. One of the highlighted diagnostic features of depression is self-diminishing and negative thought patterns.

Finally, self-harm and suicidal inclinations don’t appear from non-depressive sadness. Those struggling with severe depression may develop thoughts of self-harm, death, or suicide, or have a suicide plan.

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Get Familiar With Depression Symptoms

We tend to recognize depression in others before we are able to see it in ourselves. As October comes to a close, let us acknowledge Depression Awareness Month and refresh our understanding of the disease and how it can affect us. Our mental health professionals in San Juan Capistrano are trained in the treatment of depression; contact us today for a consultation.