Depressed or Just Unhappy? How To Tell The Difference
Others May Help You Decide
We ALL experience feelings and the physiological effects of depression to our moods, minds, body, emotions, and thinking processes. Depression is quite normal under many circumstances, as life is not perfect for anyone and nobody is passed over all the time concerning life's difficulties. If mad moods and feelings, negative thinking, reactive behaviors and such are long-lasting or very intense, however, these may become serious problems in our lives and affect our ability to manage our lives and behaviors.
Often, a depressed person is only aware of 'not feeling quite right' and of uncomfortable emotions and thoughts. Other people may approach and let us know that our behaviors have changed and that they think a problem with depression might exist.
If sound reasoning about moods and emotions fail to uncover a solid reason behind overwhelming feelings of sadness, then likely, depression is present. By contrast, if a person feels that they have reasons to be upset all the time and deems 'everything in general' to be a problem, this is another sign of depression - even if the person feels that 'everything is all wrong and is not going to get better' is a VALID statement. It IS a valid statement, but valid in the way that if help is not granted, this statement may become more true on a long-term, permanent level, than is necessary.
Unhappiness or sadness that can be chalked up to a temporary life situation is just that - an unhappiness or sadness that has a reason due to life situations we are struggling with.
Other people will often notice behavior changes in others who are depressed. Often this is a very legitimate, though externally oriented, sign of depression.
If someone approaches you to tell you that they've noticed something out of the ordinary in your behavior, it is a good idea to listen to what they have to say, particularly if they are offering 'help.'
Most depressed people are working overtime with trying to deal with their emotions and thought processes and don't even notice behavioral changes but these are visible to other people.
* NOTE - don't dismiss emotions other than 'sadness' as having an impact on depression. A lot of people who do get diagnosed with depression require some treatments with 'Anger Management.'
Anger can be turned inward to a point that someone doesn't display anger outwardly but is CONSTANTLY experiencing a low-level anger that causes an outward anxiety and feelings that one might lose control of the anger. One might feel hopeless to dispel the anger because it may be masked under any of a number of feelings and issues. One thing is certain - where there is anxiety, depression naturally follows.
An important feature of depression is: "Hope," rather, "lack of hope." In the first example, 'everything is all wrong and is not going to get better' is also a hopeless statement. Without assistance, this is a very difficult thinking pattern to break.
Often, depressed people, whether they realize their state of depression or not, they will stop finding solutions, or they may hit a point whereby they no longer have the right skills to cope with life's problems. In this, they often 'lose hope' that situations will get better.
Usually, people who are experiencing unhappiness can point to a source for the unhappiness, thus, can still problem-solve around issues - or even 'wait the issue out.' For this, people experiencing unhappiness feel quit certain that unhappiness pretty much SUCKS but will pass, and then life will resume, as usual.
Depressed people may not have the capacity to cope with issues, they may think that 'things are hopeless,' suffer a self-esteem drop, and experience all kinds of mixed emotions about life in general. The key is in 'general.' They may be 'generalizing' and projecting their confused feelings and thinking outward to include EVERYTHING about life. Everything bothers them, as they become hypersensitive to life, in general, and everything becomes a reason for their unhappiness and difficulties.
Depressed people may be largely unaware of their own behavior changes, anger and other emotions, and will usually require specific help to overcome depression.
A person in a disappointing, unhappy period of their life will require some supports, too, but these are likely to be minimal - a few good talks with a good friend, some stress-relief tactics, a new perspective of his or her situation. The latter will usually be quite aware of the temporary nature of the bad moods and feelings in a particular situation.
The former may not even be able to identify where all the bad feelings are coming from.
Of course, an unhappy person could just be one of those unhappy, cranky, beligerent types, but that doesn't mean that a person like this is depressed.
If a person has ever had a brush with other mental illness issues, then the likelihood of 'unhappiness' becoming or manifesting as depression are quite high. Depression naturally accompanies anxiety and other mild or severe disorders. In a fast-paced world with innumerable distractions, anxiety is a very common condition, so it follows that depression is more common than you think.
Good news: almost everyone suffering from actual depression is missing certain skills for coping with difficulties in life. Luckily, these skills are tangible and can be learned by almost anyone. I say 'almost,' because learning requires 'willingness to learn' and 'willingness to change,' but everyone has the 'capacity' to learn new skills required for coping with life and alleviating depression.
For those whose depression is of a more biological nature, these people will require a higher degree of support for depression, and this will include connection with experienced physicians.
"Unhappy" people shouldn't require the services of a doctor, however, even some significant and difficult time periods in life will necessitate that a person bogged down in emotional trauma seek professional help. A counsellor can help in these cases, to keep the time period of experiencing unhappiness SHORT and manageable.
An obviously KEY factor that separates depression from unhappiness:
If a person simply is not managing in life anymore, and management issues start to span out over time, this is a sign of depression. If behaviors have changed significantly and others notice...this is depression.
A person in rough circumstances that cause the person to react with unhappiness may cease to function properly in life for a very short time. They may be able to problem solve and 'take a break' in order to gain energy for putting new management tactics into action. The 'down-time' is significantly short, as compared with someone who stops managing appropriately due to depression.
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Depression and Mood Disorders
Don't Determine Unhappiness As Being Okay
Depression comes in different levels of intensity, affects people for different periods of time, and also affects people with repetitive episodes that vary in number and different time periods between episodes.
Being 'unhappy' for a long period of time, may indicate that you're in a period where your coping resources are running short or are incompatible with the life situations you're in.
We certainly don't get to choose many of the things that occur in our lives, so everyone should take time to develop good coping and communication skills, and learn to be very self-aware in order to alleviate the chances of becoming depressed. Knowing ourselves helps isn't a no-no that is selfish - knowing ourselves is a good defense against depression and other mental and emotional difficulties in life.
It is a really good idea, even if you don't think you've experienced depression, to learn about depression in the event that something uncontrollable and unexpected happens in your life. If you understand what depression is, you may have a head start later in recognizing depression and behavior changes in yourself that might be quite honest reactions to some future tramatic event.