May 11th, 2009
01:57 PM ET

Distinguishing between sadness and depression

By Caitlin Hagan
CNN Medical Associate Producer

One of my good friends recently went through an unexpected breakup. I'll spare you the details but suffice it to say it was not a pretty situation. But my friend is a strong person. A little time being sad and a few girls' nights were all she thought she needed to bounce back and feel happy again. But months went by and things didn't get any easier. I remember talking to her one night over dinner, when her sadness and anger gave way to frustration. She couldn't wait to stop being sad, she said. When would she be happy again?

What is the difference between sadness and depression? I posed that question to Dr. Paula Bloom, a licensed clinical psychologist. Bloom says it's all about your ability to function. Are your emotions interfering with your daily life? "It's OK to be sad or angry and have some of those feelings, but when you're affected physically, when you have changes in your appetite or your weight, or difficulty sleeping or focusing...or you experience memory problems, that's when it becomes something more serious."

A person with depression may isolate from the world around him or her. Dr. Charles Raison, a psychiatrist and clinical director of the Mind-Body Program at Emory University, described how unproductive emotions, meaning negative emotions, can make a person a magnet for more negativity. As a person with depression withdraws, he or she begins to make bad choices, stop exercising, or indulge in unhealthy vices such as drinking, smoking, or eating poorly. She may avoid social situations, argue with family or co-workers, and fail to stand up for herself when she normally would.

In this tough economic climate, difficult events such as losing a loved one or ending a relationship may be compounded by stress, anxiety or anger triggered by financial difficulties. Job loss can also mean health insurance loss, and a person confronted with unemployment and depression may feel that therapy or antidepressants are not affordable options. But there are steps you can take to help your mood that don’t cost a thing. A change in lifestyle is one of the most effective ways a person can battle depression By eating healthy, exercising, socializing, and trying to get regular sleep, a person can become less isolated and better equipped to manage his or her emotions. Most cities have community mental health centers that offer services at a discounted rate. And for anyone really needing to speak with a therapist, Bloom encourages people to contact a doctor and try to negotiate lower fees. Many mental health professionals are willing to work with patients at a reduced rate.

Have you ever been depressed? What did you do about it?

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soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Suniskia

    I have been suffering mild depression for years, but I have been managing with a healthy diet , setting up new goals and going though the grieving period with a good outlook.
    I also had a break up with a love one that we were involved for 16 years. I hope your friend can go on.
    What it help me a lot was to eat all source of vegetables , specially cooked. I have give me tons of energy and I feel that I want to do things
    Also avoid the sugar because it does causes moods swings and if you are depress will make you irritable ,moody and it can give you bad hheadaches sometimes.Bad migrane headaches sometimes is worst than the depression itself.
    I also cut to much food intake after 6 pm. I had less bad dreams and I rest better. However , if you feel you need to pamper yourself Dark chocolate ( only dark) 60% cocoa it is wonderful and have antioxidantes.
    I always set up new goals and I tried to stick to it , so keeps my mind busy and looking forward new dreams.
    It is also okey to cry and feel sad. We lost a loved one, but it is more importante to learn to love yourself and have apreciation for who you are....

    May 12, 2009 at 09:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Shanika Jayakody

    I think a big step, when it comes to changing your lifestyle, is that you have to change your thought process from negative thoughts to positive thoughts. Thinking positively can change your perspectives completely, whether it comes to relationship or financial problems. With a positive thought process, I believe you're more likely to try new ways to fix your problems and continue to do so rather than just dwelling on those negative thoughts. With a better attitude, your habits would more likely improve and you could become more social with other people around you. In a sense, it's like a mind-game to me; it's eat or be eaten. It's not easy and it takes time to practice, but fundamentally, you are your own worst enemy.

    May 12, 2009 at 10:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. misty d

    I was diagnosed with depression in 1992 at the age of 24. Looking back, I most likely had clinical depression as far back as high school. It's like a dark cloud hanging over your head, all day, every day. It would last for several months, and then gradually get better until it was gone for about 6-10 months, and then would come back again. At 24, I was put on Prozac. This was the first antidepressant I had been on. Boy! What a difference it made after just a few weeks. My mood was better, I wasn't sleeping all the time, I wasn't eating all the time, my attitude was better, I was more motivated to achieve my life goals. Since that time, I have been on various SSRI's and now SNRI's with great success. I built up a tolerance and would be switched to another. I also was seeing a psychologist for cognitive behavior therapy so this also helped with my thinking patterns.

    I have a history of depression in my family and sadly, my son was diagnosed at the young age of 9. His depression was very different than mine. He was angry, wouldn't eat, couldn't sleep, and was just so pessimistic about everything we knew something was wrong. This once very bright straight-A student started coming home with C's. He lost interest in reading (this was his passion), and any social interaction. We knew we had a problem and took him to see a Board Certified Child Psychiatrist who diagnosed him with Major Clinical Depression. He is on medication now, Prozac and Abilify with great results. His grades are back to straight-A's, loves reading his beloved books again, has his small group of friends, and most of the time, has a smile on his face and warmth in his heart. He is now 11 years old and most likely, unless technology can find a cure for depression, will be on medication for life. This is truly a brain illness for he and I, not behavioral. We ruled that out before having him on medication.

    Please don't suffer in silence if you experience the symptoms listed above! Go see a doctor or at the very least, find a nearby University with a Counseling or Psychology program and you can get some professional help from therapists in training at little to no charge. The most important thing is to reach out and ask for help.


    May 12, 2009 at 12:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Alex Lickerman

    I agree with Dr. Bloom's idea that when a depressed mood interferes with your ability to function you should take it more seriously and consider some kind of treatment. The problem is depressed people often are the very worst at recognizing that they're functioning sub-optimally. Often it takes someone else, a friend or family member to point it out. Also, thought anti-depressant medication is excellent at treating the symptoms of depression, they neither treat the cause of depression nor have the power to actually make anyone happy (just not depressed). I wrote an article called "The True Cause Of Depression" that addresses that question. Interested readers can find it at: http://happinessinthisworld.com/2009/03/08/the-true-cause-of-depression/


    May 12, 2009 at 14:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Lauren in Wheeling, WV

    I'm an old hand at this, having first been diagnosed almost 30 years ago, and having too many reocurrances since to count.

    My last reoccurance was in January. What did I do? Went to see the head shrink at the local clinic, told him I was depressed, asked for help. What did I get? A question and a smirk: why did I think I was depressed? Was I sure? Yes, I said, I'm SURE. But was I really sure? (Meanwhile, he's smirking the whole time, as if to insinuate I wasn't really depressed, or something.) Well, says I, what do YOU think is wrong with me? Well, my shrink says, How should I know. You tell ME. (Like a Laurel and Hardy movie, really, it was.)

    Got meds, no counseling–none. Helpful little world we live in eh? And to top it all off, my insurance refused to pay one penny for all this "help" I got.

    Last time I'll go and get help for my depression, which is recurring even as I speak. But why should I bother to get help after this farce??

    May 14, 2009 at 12:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. kay smith

    i have been suffering from ongoing sadness since my daughter committed suicide 8 years ago, i have tried to put on a strong front and go on but honestly i feel it is just an act. recently i moved back home from florida, reconnected with friends and family and i thought i could get through it. now just i was getting my massage practice back on track and starting getting referrals, i broke my leg and am on crutches. i lost my apartment and had to move in with my sister and her family, don't get me wrong i am extremely grateful but i keep wondering why all this is happening to me and will i ever see the end of it. my house in florida is in olreclosure and i can't pay my bills.

    May 16, 2009 at 12:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. kay smith

    i have been suffering from ongoing sadness since my daughter committed suicide 8 years ago, i have tried to put on a strong front and go on but honestly i feel it is just an act. recently i moved back home from florida, reconnected with friends and family and i thought i could get through it. now just i was getting my massage practice back on track and starting getting referrals, i broke my leg and am on crutches. i lost my apartment and had to move in with my sister and her family, don't get me wrong i am extremely grateful but i keep wondering why all this is happening to me and will i ever see the end of it. my house in florida is in foreclosure and i can't pay my bills. i know i'm not the only one going through tough times but i'm soooo tired

    May 16, 2009 at 12:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Yellow

    I suffered from depression for about half my life; finally one day when I was about 19 I realized that I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't deal with this slump I was in, and I was finally over the self pity I had created for myself. I was a t point where everything pushed me deeper in a depression; even things like slipping milk or being in my car were so hard to do, and I couldn't live with it anymore. I began telling myself every night and every morning that it would be ok. I finally started excepting every bad moment as a good lesson, I was more willing to let bad things happen than trying to make everything perfect. Although I never shared my depression with anyone I'm more open to the discussion now. I think that too is what helped me over come this feeling. I was able to open up to people and not care what they would say or do just explain to them this pain I had. There so many other things I changed as well like my sleeping habits: I went from sleeping 2 and 3 hours nights to 6 and 7 hour nights; eating style: I was eating more than once a day and I stopped eating fast food all together; and even my interaction with others changed: going to parties and clubs and being around people constantly drinking was cut out; I just enjoyed spending time with close friends and family. One big thing that helped me a lot was meditation. I’ve mediated for years now but I started doing it more or when ever I began to feel the depression kick back in. I managed to try everything I possibly could. I'm extremely thankful and grateful that I did have so many people around me to help me through this hard time; even if these people had no idea what they were helping me with.

    May 18, 2009 at 20:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Aisha Reindeau

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    August 3, 2016 at 14:36 | Report abuse | Reply

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