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It’s normal for everyone to have a bad day or a bad week. But when those moments drag on and on and you feel as though you cannot snap out of the bad mood, there may be a more serious, underlying issue.
Depression, a state of unhappiness and hopelessness, is characterized by persistent feelings of dejection, poor concentration, lack of energy, inability to sleep or maintain relationships, poor performance at work and not being able to organize and maintain things at home.
However, there are some key differentiators between a bad mood and depression, say Manuel Castro, MD, and Herbert Harman, MD, from Carolinas HealthCare System’s CMC-Randolph Behavioral Health Center.
“Sad moods are a common part of life,” said Dr. Castro. “Healthy grief involves sadness around life’s expected struggles and losses.”
Many people who go through a rough patch may feel disappointment, but it is often temporary, and there are uplifting emotions despite the sense of failure or disheartenment.
“It is common to feel ‘blue’ and still be able to find moments of happiness,” said Dr. Harman. “With moderate to severe depression there is no joy, and sadness lingers often for no apparent reason.”
Feeling hopeless to the point where there is no light at the end of the tunnel is an indication for depression and a risk factor for suicide. At that point, professional help is strongly recommended. The good news is that with the appropriate treatment many people are able to overcome depression.
“Seventy percent of patients that stay in treatment and try psychotherapy and/or different medications will see marked improvement over a three to 12 month period,” said Dr. Castro. “Mild to moderate forms of depression can be treated with psychotherapy, exercise, sleep hygiene and behavioral changes with an effectiveness that is equal to treatment with medications.”
If you feel that you are in a depressive episode rather than just having a bad day, it is critical to reach out to support systems among your friends, family and community, in addition to seeking professional services.
Be on the alert for behavioral and emotional changes in your friends, family and coworkers; if you recognize that they are suffering from depression, provide emotional support, communicate with other people in their support network, stay in contact with them and lead them to a professional for help.