May is Mental Health Month. As part of Heart of Florida United Way’s focus on health, we are featuring mental health articles and information on all of our social media platforms. To follow the conversation around mental health, follow us on Twitter & Facebook.
Just about everyone has had a point in their lives when they felt down or sad. But this is vastly different than the 25% of Americans who have been diagnosed with clinical depression or Major Depressive Disorder. How can you tell the difference between just feeling blue and true depression? Only a licensed mental health professional can diagnose you, so you should consult a doctor if you don’t feel like yourself. Differences between depression and just feeling down may include:
- Symptoms: If you’re feeling blue, symptoms will include feelings of sadness, lack of sleep, or loss of appetite. Depression has these symptoms and more, including prolonged insomnia, significant weight loss or gain, and extreme fatigue or disinterest in regular activities.
- Intensity: Depression is more intense than just feeling blue. If you’re feeling down, you may be sad but are still able to perform daily functions, like going to work or school and caring for your family. Those with depression may find themselves unable to function, having difficulty getting out of bed, missing school or work and doing normal chores. They also experience feelings of worthlessness or thoughts of suicide. If these feelings or thoughts occur, get help right away. Contact Heart of Florida United Way’s 2-1-1 Crisis Helpline by simply dialing 2-1-1. Staffed by trained multilingual operators 24/7, 2-1-1 is your connection to mental health services, crisis and suicide counseling and many other resources.
- Length of Symptoms: With depression, the individual will experience depression for a prolonged period of time. People who are just feeling blue may feel sad or down for just a few days and are able to “go back to normal” afterwards. Depression can last for months or even years.
- Cause: Feeling down is often related to life stresses or events, such as an overwhelming workload or the death of a loved one. Depression, while it can be triggered by life events, seems to instead be a result of genetics or biochemical factors, occurring without life traumas or influence.
If you experience prolonged feelings of sadness and just don’t feel like yourself, it’s important to get treatment right away. Getting appropriate care for depression can make a huge impact on quality of life.
If you are facing a mental health crisis situation or know someone in need of help, call 2-1-1, United Way’s free information and referral helpline. For more information, visit the 2-1-1 page on the Heart of Florida United Way website.