As unfortunate as it is, it seems as though more and more people use legitimate mental illnesses as common words or descriptors for their everyday emotions. For instance, those who like to keep a tidy house laugh it off and attribute that trait to “their OCD.” Another example of this heinous, yet common, deprecation is comparing a skinny friend to a patient suffering with anorexia.

Given these trends, it should come as no surprise that many individuals equate their feelings of sadness or general “blues” to depression — a serious, disruptive mental illness that could be life-threatening if left untreated.

With that in mind, it is imperative we examine the true differences between depression and simply feeling sad.

Major depression arises randomly

Unlike general feelings of sadness, discomfort, or loneliness that are associated with difficult life events, depression arrives unannounced and, sometimes, entirely unwarranted. An individual may be having one of the most stellar weeks of their lives and suddenly be struck down by inexplicable feelings of sadness and emptiness.

Major depression wields various, yet distinct symptoms

In addition to being overcome at the most inconvenient times, individuals suffering from depression often experience the following symptoms:

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities they once enjoyed
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Inability to sleep or, conversely, oversleeping
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of misappropriated guilt or worthlessness
  • Indecisiveness, difficulty concentrating or thinking
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideation

However, it is important to note that symptoms vary from person to person and situation to situation. Furthermore, depression may impact individuals you would not expect — such as prominent figures, comedians, or even friends you believe to be happy-go-lucky.

Major depression cannot be cured by a little self-care

Unlike the general blues, you cannot treat depression with an impromptu shopping trip, lengthy bubble bath, or a night to yourself. Instead, major depression requires nearly constant intervention, whether through therapy, medications, or a combination of the two. Even after one has overcome the initial hump of entering treatment, they must be sure they stick to their prescribed regimen and manage their symptoms consciously. Otherwise, they may be faced with a debilitating relapse that lands them back at square one.

Evidently, there are some massive and unmistakable differences between feeling sad and enduring depression. Now, if you ever encounter an individual who uses mental illnesses as common descriptors, you will be equipped to advise them to cease that habit, and hopefully spread awareness of the seriousness of this and other legitimate disorders as well.