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Depression or The Blues

It’s normal to have days now and then when you feel a little down. Perhaps you’re having a hard time at work, or the third cloudy day in a row is getting under your skin. Even the most upbeat and optimistic of humans aren’t designed to feel happy one hundred percent of the time. But have you slipped past a normal case of the blues into the dark underbelly of clinical depression? Here are some ways to tell the difference.

1. The blues are relatively short-lived. You may feel down for a few days, but before long, you’re back to your usual peppy self. The symptoms of depression last much longer. In fact, you cannot even be diagnosed with depression until you’ve experienced a sad, empty mood, along with other symptoms, for at least two weeks. Untreated cases of depression can last a year or even longer. If your bad mood has been lingering for more than a couple of weeks, you may want to consider being evaluated for depression.

2. The blues can often be traced back to a specific event or cause. For instance, you may feel down for a few days if you didn’t get a promotion you were hoping for. While depression sometimes has an identifiable cause, such as the death of a loved one, its onset may seemingly come out of nowhere. Many people with depression report having no “reason” to feel down, yet their mood is terrible nonetheless.

3. If you’re feeling blue, you can usually be cheered up pretty easily. A romp with your dog, a day engaged in a favorite activity, or a heartfelt talk with a friend or family member, and you’re good to go again. Depression does not release its grip nearly as easily. In fact, one of the defining characteristics of depression is losing interest in activities you once found fulfilling or enjoyable. If your mood is persistently low and none of your usual feel-good strategies seem to be working, it’s probably time for a talk with your doctor.

4. Most people with a case of the blues don’t experience many symptoms that affect their bodies. Two of the more common symptoms of depression, however, are changes in appetite and changes in the sleep cycle. Depressed people tend to gain or lose weight without making any conscious effort to do so. They also tend to sleep more than usual or, on the other end of the spectrum, they may have difficulty falling and staying asleep. In rare cases, people with severe depression will become catatonic and simply sit or lie without moving for long periods of time.

5. People who are simply feeling blue rarely have thoughts of harming themselves. In contrast, studies have found that some 15 percent of people who are clinically depressed die by suicide. Even those who do not complete suicide may attempt it or think seriously about it. Depressed people may also deliberately injure themselves by cutting, burning, hitting, or abusing substances.

6. A case of the blues generally doesn’t require professional treatment. As unpleasant as sadness and moodiness may feel in the moment, they usually fade away of their own accord in less than a fortnight. Depression, on the other hand, persists and may even grow worse without the intervention of a professional. Help for depression usually consists of talk therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. The good news is that, with the appropriate assistance, more than 80 percent of depressed people get better.

It’s never fun to feel down in the dumps, but for most of us, sadness and irritability are just passing moods. According to the Centers for Disease Control, however, in the States one out of every 10 people will experience clinical depression sometime in his or her life. If you found yourself nodding as you read through the symptoms of depression, be kind to yourself and seek treatment as soon as possible.


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