“Why are you so depressed?” an employee asks her co-worker. She finds her sitting at her desk with her head in her hands. “Oh hey, No!” She says, looking up. “There’s just too much to do this week.”
I have come across similar scenarios time and again, where depression and depressed are the words thrown around casually and in a humoristic way. At times, someone experiencing sadness is labeled “why are you being so depressed over this?”
For the people who have never gone through depression, there seems to be no demarcation between “sad” and “depressed“. For some, these terms become synonymous. It’s not a crime to call a person “depressed” when they are just sad. But knowing the difference between the two is crucial.
Why are they different?
The epitome of the parallelism between these two terms may lie in the fact that both of these emotional states involve sadness.
Sadness is a normal emotional response to any hurtful and adverse trigger. But the characteristic of sadness – it fades away with time and individual ability to be comforted is what makes it different from Depression. Overcome by immense sadness and emotional pain, you might think that you have entered a state of depression. But you may have not.
Depression is an abnormal mental and emotional response which may or may not have an adverse trigger. It does not always have a rational explanation. It is important to know that it is a mental sickness that individuals experience, much like a physical sickness. It is so painful, that some prefer not to talk about it.
As opposed to sadness, depression sometimes causes you to lose the ability to feel anything. A depressed person doesn’t always cut off with the outer world because of their overwhelming sadness. But because of the inability to feel any joy, pleasure, and meaning that other people do. It’s like a grey cloud that comes over the mind and keeps it from feeling almost anything. Unlike sadness which we have some control over, an individual cannot control depression. It often goes from bad to worse and there’s nothing you can do about it. Although many describe it as a state of deep and persisting sadness, depression also may be like a void, a void of nothingness that grows darker every day.
It’s like a grey cloud that comes and envelopes you and in
that moment, you wish you weren’t alive.”
– A survivor.
Depression, even though triggered by unpleasant experiences and adverse life events can lead a person into a mental state of total chaos. It can be psychologically debilitating. It affects concentration, rational thought process, and decision making. Sadness may last for a few days, maybe a week or two. Eventually, we are able to align our minds with reality and get over it. Depression, on the other hand, does not have a hypothetical endpoint. There are people who have lived with depression for months and also up to a decade or more. They themselves are unable to comprehend the psychological state they find themselves in. Depression goes a long way ahead of sadness.
It’s wise not to blend these two unique states of mind into one. If we do, not only would we misunderstand what depression is, we may also undermine the extent of someone’s struggle due to our ignorance.
Talk to people who you know might be journeying through depression. Listen. And if they cannot tell you how they feel, don’t fail to still be by their side.