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Am I Depressed? 6 Signs That It's More Than Sadness

A person sitting on gray steps holding their head up with their hands in a pose indicative of sadness, anxiety, or depression.

Everyone feels down from time to time. It’s a normal, natural, and even logical reaction to some of life’s low points to feel sad. You’re wondering… “Am I Depressed?”

If you have lost a job, had a bad breakup, argued with a close friend, or received distressing health news about a loved one, feeling low and sad is not a cause for medical concern. It is a sign that you have functioning emotional responses.

These normal low points, however, can become triggers for longer, more sustained bouts of depression, particularly in people who are already predisposed to clinical depression. At the same time, we can sometimes feel sad without any clear trigger or reason. In these moments, we are left to wonder how long the sadness will last and when it will hit again if it does fade.

It can be difficult to determine whether you are simply feeling sad or if you are suffering from depression (especially when you are already feeling low and are not at your full capacity to reflect meaningfully on your own emotional state).

If you have been feeling off, getting weepy, or otherwise wondering if you should be screened for depression, consider these signs.

1. Your sadness is all-encompassing

When you feel sadness, a normal human emotion, you will usually have a specific focus on that emotion. You can identify a reason for the sadness. You’ll feel sad when you think about a particular event (that fight with a friend) or a reminder of a particular memory (a scarf from the aunt who just passed away). With general sadness, there are moments of happiness in your day when you are not thinking about those things.

Depression, on the other hand, doesn’t have this kind of focus. Those who are suffering from depression find themselves awash in waves of sadness that have no particular landing place. They feel sad about everything. They may not be able to find any moments of happiness throughout the day.

If you find yourself with a general sense of sadness and cannot pinpoint what event or memory is triggering it, it may be a sign that you should talk to someone about depression.

2. Your energy has dipped to very low levels

Those who are suffering from depression often have very low energy levels. They may feel like they can’t get out of bed, spending the day tucked away from the world. Some people suffering from depression sleep an abnormal number of hours. They may even find themselves sleeping through important events or missing work. Others have trouble getting to sleep, finding themselves consumed by negative thoughts at night. In these cases, the low energy levels often have the sufferers dragging themselves through the day feeling disconnected and uninspired.

If you are having trouble getting going in your day, find yourself spending too much time in bed, or are unable to sleep at night, it may be time to seek some help.

3. You have trouble thinking clearly

We often associate depression with our emotional clarity and strength, but we can forget that depression also impacts our cognitive abilities. People who are suffering from depression may find themselves unable to concentrate on tasks they could previously handle well. They may find their mind is “foggy” and that they are forgetting things frequently.

If you find your mind slipping more often than you’d like, it could be a sign that depression is an underlying cause. A mental health professional can help you evaluate these symptoms and suggest treatments.

4. You are angry all the time

While depression most often manifests itself as a deep kind of sadness, many people who suffer from depression see its impacts through irritability and anger. Depression has sometimes been described as “anger turned inward,” but that same anger can be directed outward. People with depression can be moody, snap frequently at small triggers, and generally feel angry toward people and situations around them.

If you find yourself snapping at others, getting frustrated easily, and feeling angry more often than you’d like, depression could be the cause.

5. You have unexplained weight gain . . . or loss

Depression has been linked to both weight gain and weight loss. Those who see weight gain during periods of depression are often under a triple barrage of issues. Depression can cause overeating, make people less active than usual, and spike the stress hormone cortisol, which makes weight loss difficult. What this means is that, over time, depression can lead to significant weight gain.

On the other hand, some people experience weight loss when they are depressed. The theories surrounding this bodily response include that people burn more calories when they cannot sleep well and that digestive issues caused by stress could be preventing them from properly absorbing nutrients.

If you have seen unexplained weight gain or loss, talk to a mental health professional about these symptoms and see if they could be linked to depression.

6. You are having suicidal thoughts

One of the major signs of long-term medical depression is the presence of suicidal thoughts. One medical expert, Therese Borchard, described suicidal depression as an “itch to sneeze.” The feeling that you should end your life feels like an uncontrollable impulse. The thoughts may just appear in your mind, making you feel compelled to act upon them. For people with long-term, chronic depression, battling these thoughts can become a lifelong endeavor.

If you find yourself having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please see a medical professional and discuss these symptoms.

You don’t have to suffer through depression alone. There are many treatment options available that range from medications to cognitive behavioral therapy. Finding a mental health professional who understands the symptoms and will listen to your concerns can be the start of getting on a smoother, healthier path today.

If you aren’t sure whether your feelings of sadness are actually depression, the best thing you can do is meet with someone who is trained to spot the differences. The mental health professionals at Real Life Counseling have years of experience treating depression and are here to help. Contact us today to get started on a treatment plan that can help you regain control of your life and feel better.