Sadness or Depression?

Sadness or Depression?

Posted by AskNurseLinda on Jan 1, 2018 11:36 am

d3b5b68c3fdc5d7e13d0e64664973253-huge-isHappy New Year. Holidays are a wonderful time to celebrate. The New Year is a manmade marker for putting one year’s events behind us and to look forward to a new start. This is why it is so popular to make resolutions for a fresh beginning in our lives. Of course, nothing is actually different from yesterday but with the change in the year of the calendar, a new beginning is imagined. You can make this a reality.

Changing your life and habits can be a challenge. Just because we want a change does not mean that it will happen, even if we try our best. Some New Year’s resolutions are broken before the first day of the year ends. Many more are over by the end of the month. This is why gym memberships are so heavily advertised at the beginning of the year. The ads capture the wish for resolution but by the end of the month, the gyms are empty again.

Keeping to a change is difficult.  One of the major reasons for a change in personal habits is the world in which we live. As individuals, we might make a commitment to change a behavior but the environment might not be conducive to our success. You have a desire to stop smoking but that can be impossible if those around you smoke or if you are battling an addiction to nicotine. The same for alcohol, eating, exercise or other personal improvements such as to stop swearing or just being kind to others.

I have a great friend who always says, ‘I want to be taller and thinner, neither of which will happen.’ Sometimes, we need a little help with our wishes to put them into reality. When our dreams and reality do not match up, the result can end in sadness.

Being sad is a natural part of life. Things do not always go as we want. Over the end of the year holidays, there can be a lot of sadness as expectations do not add up to our dreams and thoughts. We were anticipating the ‘TV holiday’ but may have ended up with not such a pretty picture. Sadness can also come from extreme loss as in loved ones, and as in functional abilities. There are things that can be changed, although perhaps not easily, and things that cannot be changed, such as loss of a loved one.

Sadness comes in all shapes and forms, disappointment, challenges, failures. We all have them. Sadness is a natural reaction to things that did not go our way. But it is temporary. Sadness can be fleeting lasting only minutes or it can hang around with us, lasting a long time. We eventually learn to live with and accept sadness about some things.

Some people have chronic sadness, called chronic sorrow, where a sad event is mentally handled only to have it pop up again in another form. Chronic sorrow can result from a change in function when you have a dramatic change that comes on suddenly or over time. You learn to deal with it and just when you think it is mastered, you are challenged by the loss all over again. Sometimes, individuals have a huge loss such as with paralysis, but they rise to the challenge becoming experts in their needs only to find months or even years later that the reality of their loss sets in.

Sadness can be caused from disappointments and challenges but it can also be from other factors such as the weather. The dark, dreary days of winter, short hours of sunlight and not being able to go outdoors can make some individuals sad.  This is called seasonal affective disorder and can be treated with light therapy. Our bodies need sunshine to create vitamin D in our bodies. The light can help reduce seasonal blues.

Sadness can hang around for a long time rising and falling with the events of your life. Sometimes, people become so familiar with it that they have forgotten what it was like to be truly happy. Sadness is one symptom of depression. Figuring out if you have depression or if you are sad can be a challenge.

Sadness is a temporary feeling as a reaction to something undesirable in our lives. It takes some time, but you can resolve your sadness or at least accept the change, even if not wanted. Depression, on the other hand, is a much more severe issue. Depression is a medical issue. It is not something that can be ‘toughed out’.  Some people have depression but they go through their day, pretending in front of others but knowing that they are struggling. Other people have depression that results in physical changes in their body such as actual body pain. Some depression can lead to body aches, and decreases in function. This can compound abilities when already challenged with paralysis.

Often times, people confuse sadness and depression. It can be hard to distinguish which you may have. Depression does not have the same symptoms in everyone. Not everyone with the symptoms has depression. It is difficult to find and accept treatment if you do not believe you have depression, therefore, the help of an expert is necessary. Being treated for depression does not mean a lifelong event. People do recover from depression. Sometimes, a little help along the way is necessary.

Symptoms of depression include:
Sadness, crying, hopelessness
Irritability or outbursts
Loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable
Sleeping too much or too little, tiredness regardless of amount of sleep
Eating too little or too much
Anxiety or agitation
Slowed movements, thinking or speaking
Feelings of worthlessness, self-blame, fixating on past failures
Trouble thinking, concentrating or remembering
Obsessions with death or suicide
Unexplained physical problems
 
Depression is thought to be caused by a problem with the neurotransmitters (electrical message sending in the nervous system), especially in the brain. Spinal cord injury and undiagnosed or diagnosed head injury results in a problem with neurotransmitters. There could very well be a physiological connection between the two.
 
It is important to note that a person can have just one of the symptoms of depression or any combination. You might have one or two or all of the symptoms. The important factor is to seek professional help if you think you might be having depression.
 
You may not see depression in yourself but people who are close to you might. If someone who cares for you thinks you might have depression, take their advice and see your healthcare professional. It does not mean you have it but let the expert help you figure it out. Don’t just dismiss the issue or lash out at the person who is trying to help you. Seek a professional assessment. You might not have depression but the person who sees it in you might be having a difficult time adjusting so by seeing a professional, you could be helping another person as well as yourself.
 
Sometimes people do not want to admit to depression. Indeed, you may not feel like you have changed but recognizing it yourself might be difficult. Some situations, such as adjusting to paralysis, is depressing because it is such a major life change. A bit of help can make the adjustment process smoother for you. Depression does not always appear as a freight train through your life but can be sneaky, slipping up on you before you are aware.
 
If you are at your regular healthcare visit, be sure to bring up depression, even if they do not. Have them make a baseline assessment so you can note changes in your mental health. Armed with a baseline evaluation will help you distinguish between sadness and depression, medication issues, or physical ailments. A mental health evaluation is an investment in yourself. This information can be used to identify problems in the future for early treatment. Just like having your blood pressure assessed, a mental health assessment is only to your benefit to know how you are functioning.

Nurse LindaI'm online in this community every Wednesday from 8-9 PM ET to answer your SCI and paralysis related questions.

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