Trigger Warning: Topics on depression
When we think of depression, many of us picture someone feeling sad and not being able to deal with their daily lives as a result of it. However, the condition encompasses more than just feeling down – there are a whole number of other emotions that come into play and it’s a totally different thing than just being sad every now and then.
Dr Natalie Games, a clinical psychologist at Alliance Counselling, explains that depression is a clinical diagnosis. “People with depression often experience anhedonia, the inability to enjoy activities they once got pleasure from,” she says. “You can be in a park you used to love and now you hate it or you loved watching a show, but now it doesn’t make you laugh anymore.”
The key differentiator between depression and just feeling sad is that, when you’re feeling down, it gets better when you switch up what you are doing or only stays that way for a day or so or part of a day, says Dr Games. You might feel recharged when you take some time off work or a mental health day. However, depression doesn’t go away if you change your circumstances. There isn’t that bounce-back effect, she notes.
“Sadness is a normal human emotion like joy, anger or surprise,” she elaborates. “We’ve all experienced it and we all will again. We usually feel sad about something, and when that something changes – the hurt we experienced, that disappointment we had – then our sadness subsides.
“Depression is a mood disorder that affects our thinking, emotions, perceptions and behaviours in ways that affect our ability to function in our usual routines,” she adds. “Depression colours all aspects of our lives, making everything less enjoyable, less interesting, less important, less lovable and less worthwhile. Depression saps our energy, motivation and ability to experience joy, pleasure, excitement, anticipation, satisfaction, connection and meaning. All your thresholds tend to be lower. You’re more impatient, quicker to get angry or frustrated, quicker to break down and it takes you longer to bounce back from everything.”