What's the difference between unhappiness and depression?

I think many times unhappiness and depression get confused for one another, although they can be very similar and have comparable symptoms. I think this misunderstanding is one reason for the stigma against mental illness. Some people are confused and think the person is sad...not depressed.

The main difference is that unhappiness is not an illness and it is usually tied to the circumstances in your life, such as the end of a relationship, not getting the job you wanted, being stressed out, etc. It is more temporary while depression is chronic. You bounce back from unhappiness, while depression affects your life in every aspect, from your sleep to your eating habits to your own feelings of worth and even your desire to live.

"Sadness is often connected to a life change, something negative, but depression can rear its ugly head whenever it wants," writes author Natalie Jeanne Champagne on Healthy Place.

According to WebMD, "Major depression is a medical condition that goes beyond life’s ordinary ups and downs. ... People with depression cannot simply 'pull themselves together' and get better. Treatment with counseling, medication, or both is key to recovery."

Depression can be caused by genetic predisposition or environmental factors such as trauma or major psychological stress. If you experience some or all of these symptoms for at least two weeks all day, nearly every day, you are not just sad. You are depressed and should seek treatment.
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Social isolation
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Loss of appetite or eating too much
  • Inability to sleep or excessive sleeping
  • Feeling worthless
  • Low energy levels
  • Irritability and difficulty concentrating
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
For resources, call the national Crisis Call Center at 800-273-8255 or text ANSWER to 839863. Michigan residents, call or text the nonprofit Common Ground at 800-231-1127.

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