What is depression?

We often hear people say they are depressed about something or that a particular situation is depressing. We also hear people say they feel sad something didn’t turn out well.

What’s the difference between being sad and being depressed then? This question can also help us understand what depression is.

While sadness can be a temporary feeling, depression sets in when sadness persists for a long enough period of time and when it is severe enough to result in a dysfunctional life style. This can be identified as the first difference between sadness and depression.

Other features of Depression

Apart from feelings of sadness, presence of all or some of the following features can hint towards depression.

  • loss of interest
  • hopelessness
  • helplessness
  • disturbed sleep and appetite
  • changes in body weight
  • difficulty concentrating
  • psycho motor slowing
  • suicidal thoughts

Thus, depression is a more severe form of the negative emotion, whereas sadness is relatively milder and can be short lived.

Research also points towards an association of depression with depleted levels of the neuro-transmitter Serotonin in specific areas of the brain.

Here are some of the behaviors we can see in someone who is depressed.

  • Asocial / avoidance behavior. The person tends to isolate himself/herself from others.
  • Irritable behavior
  • Lack of enthusiasm
  • Decreased ability to start and carry on tasks
  • Lethargy towards most of the activities of daily living
  • An erratic sleep cycle. The person may sleep too much and still not feel refreshed.
  • Difficulty in taking major decisions
  • A negative view of the world.
  • Constant self criticism

If you know someone who might be showing some of these signs, you are probably looking at a person who is in depression.

I have written another post about how irrational beliefs can lead to emotional disturbances including depression. You can read it here.

This was an overview of what depression looks like. It certainly isn’t a detailed post. I would love to read your comments or questions about this.


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