How is sadness different from depression?

We all go through periods in life where we experience sadness, unhappiness, or low mood. Sadness is a normal reaction to experiences which are emotionally upsetting or painful.  There are varying degrees of sadness that one may experience, and these feelings tend to fade away over time as your mood lifts. If you find that your low mood persists for longer than a couple of weeks and affects your everyday life in a big way, then it might be time to seek professional help.


What is depression?

Clinical depression is more than feeling unhappy or sad. It is a mood disorder characterised by a prolonged emotional state of sadness and low mood which will not lift. The person cannot simply “snap out of it”. This mood state typically persists for longer than two weeks. It also affects an individual’s everyday functioning in the realms of work or academic life, and social relationships with family and friends.


Various different kinds of depression

There are various different subtypes of depression, including:


Depression with typical features: individuals that experience the general symptoms of depression.

Depression with atypical features: individuals that experience the general symptoms of depression, however some of these symptoms may be reversed. For example: an individual may oversleep, tend to eat more than normal, and gain weight. Additionally: anxiety is often present, evenings are harder than mornings, arms or legs feel heavy and like lead, and the individual may be more sensitive to feelings of rejection.

Dysthymia: chronic low mood with some moderate symptoms of depression over a prolonged period of time.

Seasonal Affective Disorder: mood changes are affected by the weather and time of the year (i.e. experiencing more severe symptoms in the winter months).

Postpartum Depression: depressive symptoms experienced following the birth of a child. May be related to hormonal and biochemical changes, emotional changes, and social changes.

Depression with psychosis: severe depressive symptoms which presents with psychotic features (i.e. individual may experience hallucinations and delusions).


What are the symptoms of depression?

To diagnose whether you are experiencing depression, your doctor may ask whether you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Overwhelming feelings of sadness or grief
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, worthlessness, and guilt
  • Agitation, restlessness, or irritability
  • Tearfulness: whether you have been crying more than usual
  • Issues with sleep: either you are sleeping too little or too much
  • Issues with appetite: whether you are eating more or less than usual
  • Loss of interest: whether you have lost interest in activities such as work, enjoyable activities, or people
  • Focus or concentration issues: whether you have difficulty concentrating on things
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Loss of self-esteem, being disappointed in yourself or blaming yourself for everything that goes wrong

Seeking treatment for depression

Treatments include psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. Psychotherapy or “talk therapy” helps individuals identify triggers for depressed mood, provide positive coping strategies to deal with depressive symptoms; identify unhelpful behaviours, attitudes, and habits, to promote positive change. Get in touch with me if you would like to discuss your struggles with depression.

Depression FAQ

How do I know I need therapy for depression?
Individuals seek therapy when they experience symptoms of depression over a prolonged period of time (i.e. usually longer than 2 weeks). Depressive symptoms also affect an individual’s ability to maintain day-to-day functioning (i.e. personal functioning, academic or work functioning, and social functioning).

How can a therapist help with my depression?
A therapist typically uses talk therapy to help you explore the underlying reasons for your depression, develop coping strategies to maintain your daily functioning, and help you along on your path to mental wellness.

Is there free therapy for depression in Toronto?
Some therapists offer sliding scale options to help clients gain access to more affordable therapy for depression and other mental health issues. Different sliding scales exist for different therapists. For example, a therapist may offer a sliding scale of $80 – $120. Depending on your financial ability, you may want to negotiate a rate with your therapist at which you are comfortable paying.

Do I need medication for depression?
Explore whether you need pharmacological treatment for depression by consulting with your family physician or psychiatrist.