It happens to the best of us. Sadness is a natural reaction to upsetting and painful situations, and it´s there to tell us something: we are just human.
Also, it serves an important role in signaling our need for help or comfort.
What makes us feel down, though, varies greatly depending on our personal and cultural notions of loss. Like other emotions, sadness is temporary. If the feeling of emptiness does not eventually fade away, you could be suffering from depression.
Feeling Sad: Am I Depressed?
Sadness can be caused by a wide array of situations, such as rejection, goodbyes, or loss. However, the key difference between mood and emotion is duration, or, in other words, how long it lasts. Despite being a common mental disorder – almost 7% of American adults reported at least one major episode on a given year – depression should be taken seriously.
For some individuals, depression can result in severe impairments that interfere with their ability to enjoy life or carry out regular tasks that require concentration, like working or studying. If you have been feeling sad for at least to weeks and have lost interest or pleasure in those activities you used to enjoy, you should contact a general practitioner, a counselor or a psychiatrist straight away.
Feeling Sad During & After Lockdown
You are definitely not alone. Our lives where disrupted when the World Health Organisation declared a public emergency of international concern and the globe went into lockdown, plus the New Norm is a far cry from our previous lifestyle. As a result, many individuals find themselves low-spirited, lonely and blue.
But while mood fluctuations are common at the moment, this 2020 is a truly challenging time for those with pre-existing mental conditions such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar or borderline personality disorders. Lockdown and self – isolation can reignite a sense of being trapped, and the brain of someone who has been through trauma before can feel like reliving previous negative experiences.
Lockdown has undoubtedly been devastating for mental health, and as social distancing continues, many doctors in the US fear an uptick in psychological trauma among the quarantined. While necessary to stop the spread of the coronavirus, lockdown has deprived mentally ill people of their coping mechanisms, like social gatherings, travels and exercise.
Feeling Sad for a Long Period
If you are unable to laugh or feel comforted for more than two weeks, seek professional assistance. Unlike many people think, recovering from a mental illness has nothing to do with being positive. Depression is not an emotion, but a mental illness, and therefore can only be treated by doctors and licensed therapists.
Feelings of discouragement, hopelessness, lack of motivation and loss of interest are only some of the mild and early symptoms of depression. In severe cases, depressed people may experience suicidal thoughts. Although sadness is just one of the so called basic human emotions, it can turn into depression.
Clinic Depression: Beyond Feeling Sad
Major depressive disorder is a common but serious mental illness that can not only change the way you feel, but also the way you think and, as a result, act. Luckily, it can be treated with medication, therapy or the combination of both. While psychiatrists assist patients with the medication, counsellors help depressed individuals find coping mechanisms.
No one should deal with feelings of sadness and emptiness alone, but seeking professional help can be a daunting first step. There is little stigma on visiting the doctor when feeling sick, but not many people are willing to admit they are seeing a therapist. Contrary to popular belief, people who go to therapy are rarely violent, dangerous or eccentric.
Misconceptions About Counseling
Myths and misconceptions often stop people from scheduling an appointment with a therapist when they are feeling down. Here are the most common ones:
- Madness: The great majority of people who attend therapy sessions do so of their own will. However, many Americans still believe that counselors only see disturbed patients who have been dragged there by their loved ones.
- Weakness: Going to see a therapist does not make one weak, and believing so would be like stating that someone who was injured in a car accident is too weak to recover on his/her own. Would not the hospital be the best place to go?
- Budget: Although the average therapy session costs around $100, you can find cheaper ones online. Those who don´t have great mental coverage insurance can also benefit from the rates that psychology students offer while they learn, or chat to a non-profit mental health organization in their area.
- Trauma: Painful events like death in the family are not always catalysts. Patients just seek guidance for life, and nothing horrible has to happen for them to want a happier future.
- Medication: Not everybody that goes to psychotherapy is on medication. Although many mental health professionals recommend a combination of both, it will very much depend on the case. Also, anti-depressants are considered non-addictive.
How to Stop Feeling Sad
If you have been feeling sad for a while, you might find it hard to believe, but recovering from depression is possible. And the faster you act, the better. The main reason is that therapy or medication won’t have an immediate effect. In the meantime, you need to learn how to trick your brain into keeping that dark cloud at bay.
For this purpose, you need to understand that it’s your depression speaking, and that you will be able to mute it in a few weeks’ time. Ignoring negative thoughts is definitely challenging, but keep telling yourself that they will lose intensity after taking the right steps.
Like Matt Haig states in his book Reasons to Stay Alive, depression is like walking around with your head on fire, and might feel like nobody can see the flames. However, you are not alone. If you have been feeling sad and your mood does not improve, ask for help. We have a tendency to try to make ourselves or other feels better, but remember: it’s OK not to be OK.