Am I Depressed or Just Sad?

It’s normal to wonder whether you’re just feeling blue or there’s something more serious going on. 

Depression is defined by the American Psychological Association as “a negative affective [emotional] state, ranging from unhappiness and discontent to an extreme feeling of sadness, pessimism, and despondency, that interferes with daily life.” APA also notes that “various physical, cognitive [thinking], and social changes also tend to co-occur, including:

  • altered eating or sleeping habits
  • lack of energy or motivation
  • difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • withdrawal from social activities.” 

Feeling down, blue, or sad is a normal part of everyday life. Your emotions are a valuable way you can receive information about the world around you. Paying attention to your feelings can help you understand how you are reacting to your environment, relationships, and other situations.

When should I be concerned that I’m depressed and not just sad?

The definition of clinical depression is when “negative feelings” are affecting your life for more than two weeks. Physical changes mentioned by the APA above can include your level of energy during the day or your appetite. Cognitive changes can be your ability to concentrate and focus. Social changes can include stopping your participation in activities you used to enjoy or distancing yourself from relationships with friends and family.

While this information may help differentiate between feeling sad and feeling depressed, you don’t have to figure this out by yourself! There are many ways you can seek out more support, including making an appointment with your physician or a mental health professional. Or using the Healthy Minds Philly self-assessment tool to help determine whether what you’re experiencing is something to be concerned about.

Whether you are dealing with tough feelings or you need to seek additional assistance, many worry about what friends of family may think of seeking behavioral health care and services. But it’s important to know that it’s OK to not be OK. You’re not alone. Seeking care to better your health is a powerful step on its own!

Find out if you might be depressed and not just sad by taking a screening. It’s quick. It’s free. It’s anonymous.

Daniel R. Olsen, LPC, has 20 years of experience in the fields of behavioral health, substance use, and mental health and has worked for Community Behavioral Health since 2013. In addition to being a Licensed Professional Counselor, Daniel is also a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor through the Pennsylvania Certification Board and a Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner.