If I’m sad, do I have depression?

It is commonly thought that being sad implies having depression, but the reality is that they are two different emotional aspects, insofar as being sad is an adaptive emotion that all people experience and being depressed is a disease that only some people suffer.

Sadness is one of the basic emotions that, along with anger, joy, fear, disgust and surprise develop along the growth of individuals, so that we are not born with the ability to express it, but This learning occurs very early, between the first two and eight months of life they are already developed.

Emotions have different functions, among which are:

·Adaptive function: facilitates adjustment to new environmental conditions.

·Social function: informs the other about how we are and allows others to anticipate our behaviors.

·Motivational function: emotions enhance and direct our behaviors.

Due to all this, sadness is adaptive because it allows us to adapt to the situation we are living, motivates and directs our behavior to make the necessary changes to find ourselves better, in addition to informing our environment about how we feel and in this way it facilitates attention, approach and care behaviors on the part of others.

However, depression implies an emotional state that is maladaptive to the extent that it does not allow the person to continue with their daily routine and address their goals, either because of the intensity of sadness and/or because of the high frequency with the that appears, but also have to appear other symptoms.

For the diagnosis of depression, the person must have a depressive mood most of the day, almost every day and/or show a decrease in interest in the events they usually liked, or an impoverishment in the ability to experience pleasure while performing them, for at least two weeks, along with at least four symptoms among which are:

·Insomnia or excessive need for sleep.

·Slowed behavior or on the contrary agitation, which is observable by others.

·Fatigue, loss of energy.

·Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, excessive or inappropriate.

·Decreased ability to think or concentrate, or indecision.

·Recurring thoughts of death or suicide.

Although there are common criteria to identify this disease, the reality is that people who suffer from it can experience completely different symptoms and conditions from each other, including the same person who has different depressive episodes throughout their life, The way you live them may not have much in common.

For all the above, depression in a mental illness that requires specialized treatment, however in clinical practice what we find is, that from the beginning of it until the person reaches the Mental Health consultations has gone through many sites and decisions, which rarely have improved the situation in which it is, as it may be, take a drug treatment that has been recommended by a family member because it was good for him, having gone to people who have nothing specialists in looking for an immediate cure, or on the contrary feeling so ashamed to perceive that they are going through a difficult vital moment that they cannot overcome themselves, delaying the request for help.

On the contrary, sadness does not require treatment, but we also find people who, in the face of this emotion, demand, or much more dangerous, begin a treatment on their own in the face of the discomfort they perceive, returning to themselves the message that it is not valid. that they are feeling, preventing others from accompanying, comforting and containing the emotion, in addition to not being able to generate changes in the environment that would be very adaptive and beneficial.

It is important to take into account these differences in order to identify the cases in which it is necessary to ask for help from professionals, of which they are habitual states in people, but in both cases it is necessary to allow yourself to attend to the emotion, listen to it and share with your environment how they find each other.

Authentic people live as they feel

Psychology Service
University of California Medical Center

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