Depressed or sad? How to identify? How to overcome?


Feeling depressed is a silent killer, most don’t recognize the depression symptoms till its too late. Here are some of the most important ones to keep an eye out for

“Pull yourself together!”

“Snap out of it!”

“Just think positive and get out of bed. Don’t be lazy.”

For those of you suffering from depression, these statements will sound all too familiar. If it is any consolation, let me tell you that you are not alone. You, and countless patients like you, who are in dire need of medical help, get taunted by other people all the time. Insults like “lazy,” “self-pitying,” and even “weird” are not new.


Am I sad or depressed? What’s the difference?

Sadness is a normal human emotion. We’ve all experienced it and we all will again. Sadness is usually triggered by a difficult, hurtful, challenging, or disappointing event, experience, or situation. In other words, we tend to feel sad about something. This also means that when that something changes, when our emotional hurt fades, when we’ve adjusted or gotten over the loss or disappointment, our sadness remits.

Depression is an abnormal emotional state, a mental illness that affects our thinking, emotions, perceptions, and behaviors in pervasive and chronic ways. When we’re depressed we feel sad about everything. Depression does not necessarily require a difficult event or situation, a loss, or a change of circumstance as a trigger. In fact, it often occurs in the absence of any such triggers.

Depression colors all aspects of our lives, making everything less enjoyable, less interesting, less important, less lovable, and less worthwhile. Depression saps our energy, motivation, and ability to experience joy, pleasure, excitement, anticipation, satisfaction, connection, and meaning. All your thresholds tend to be lower. You’re more impatient, quicker to angerand get frustrated, quicker to break down, and it takes you longer to bounce back from everything.

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.”

1.Can you still enjoy things you like?

Sadness: Being seriously bummed can be terrible, but even if you’re sad, you’re still able to enjoy things like pie, Gilmore Girls marathons or other stuff you loved in the period before your sadness hit. It may take a bit of persuasion, but you do get into it in the end.

Depression: One of the most important aspects of depression is the experience of anhedonia, or a lack of interest or enjoyment in things and activities you once got a lot of pleasure from. If you absolutely loved kickball/writing/graffitiing haunted buildings at night, and now you can’t seem to get through the fog of sadness to feel excited about them again (in fact, they likely seem pointless), you’re probably experiencing depression.

2. Do you feel attached to a thing/person?

Sadness: This is an interesting one, because there’s not a distinct line — you may just feel sad for reasons you can’t put your finger on. However, often sadness is specific in its cause: the death of a relative, an upheaval or change, homesickness, a friend’s illness, you name it.

Depression: Let’s be clear here: depressive episodes can still be triggered by specific events. ( Scientific American did an entire report in 2013 on studies examining what precisely these triggers are, and how they work in the depressive brain.) But the depressed person is uniquely primed to react badly to a negative event, and after it occurs, they often experience a deeper, more general feeling of depression and misery that lasts beyond “normal” boundaries. Plus, depression can turn up for no apparent reason at all.

3. How’s your routine?

Sadness: You may be badly upset after a break-up or when experiencing the blues in general, but on the whole, you’re still able to maintain your desire to eat breakfast, work out if you want, or get to sleep roughly as planned.

Depression: This is one of the DSM-IV definitions. Depression is often associated with serious disruption of normal eating patterns, sleeping patterns, or both. You may become an insomniac, or sleep all day and not want to get out of bed. Eating disruptions are often a manifestation of the “everything is pointless” thinking of depression; what’s the point of making a healthy dinner, or indeed eating at all?

“When you suffer from depression “I’m tired” means a permanent state of exhaustion that sleep doesn’t fix.”

4. Do you have mood swings?

sad-or-depressedSadness: The blues are not a life sentence (even though many classic jazz songs may tell us otherwise). And there’s room in them for alleviation; you have periods where you don’t feel sad at all, like while you’re doing something distracting, for instance.

Depression: In moderate depression, low mood is fairly consistent throughout the day, though you may get bright spots sometimes. In severe depression, the depressive episode is constant, daily and seemingly unrelenting.

5. How do you feel about yourself?

how-you-feelSadness: While you might feel responsible and a bit sucky for something bad you did, you often don’t experience any permanent sense of worthlessness or guilt.

Depression: Depression has its own special host of accompanying thought patterns, some of which are particularly strange. One of its most distinctive features is that your thoughts often become incredibly self-punishing; it’s difficult to see yourself as anything except rotten, bad, worthless and to blame for everything. Seeking help for depression is always important, but it is especially pressing if you’re dealing with this symptom.

“Depressed people often stick pins into their own life rafts.”

6. Do you feel like harming yourself?

Sadness: Suicidal ideation is not typically associated with normal levels of non-depressive sadness.

Depression: Severe depressives may sometimes take the self-punishing thoughts mentioned in the previous item to higher levels — as described in the DSM, those struggling with severe depression may have “[t]houghts of death or suicide, or [have a] suicide plan.”If you have experienced any suicidal or self-harming thoughts, seek help from a helpline, a friend or family member you trust, or a mental health professional immediately. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline any time at 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK); you can find phone and chat support at the American Society for Suicide Prevention website; and you can find resources to help keep yourself safe right now at websites like The HopeLine. You shouldn’t feel like you have to deal with any of these symptoms alone, but if you’re struggling with thoughts of hurting yourself, know that there are many people who will listen to your feelings without judgment and just want to help you


Very few people are aware of mental health issues and how to deal with them.

We ignore some very clear depression symptoms simply because we don’t know about it. Worse, we tend to belittle what we don’t understand and that ends up perpetuating a vicious cycle of untreated depression. There is great shame and stigma/taboo attached to mental health disorders, so patients are reluctant to avail psychotherapy.

Symptoms of depression

On the other hand, many people are just experiencing sadness because of some unfortunate event in their life–failure in a test, heartbreak, or a death in the family.

The question is–how do you know the difference?

According to the American National Institute of Mental Health, the symptoms of depression are:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and depressed
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment.

So, how do you know if you’re just sad and not depressed?


  • The single-most important clue is that sadness is proportional to the event that triggers the emotion. However, depression is way out of proportion to the trigger.
  • If you cannot function normally in your daily life for a long period of time, you are most probably suffering from clinical depression.
  • Sadness can turn into depression if it lasts for a few weeks and overwhelms all aspects of your life.
  • Depression also leads to distorted thoughts that are out of touch with reality.

“No one realizes how strong someone with depression has to be just to do daily stuff like shower, brush hair or get out of bed.”




Seek help online or offline

Celebrities like Deepika Padukone are doing a world of good for mental health patients by talking about their own experiences with depression and how they chose to overcome it instead of allowing it to consume their lives.

In India, we need more awareness and less taboo around mood disorders. Visiting a “shrink” should not be a shameful act, shrouded in secrecy.

One can also approach online counselling through websites like Askmile to discuss the issues with a counselor or psychologist anonymously.


Online Counseling Askmile