“I’ve lived with some form of depression or other since I was 19, or at least that’s as far back as I can recall,” says Anna, a 40-year-old fashion merchandiser. “Just when I think my life is actually pretty wonderful, something others might consider trivial just launches me right back, just like that.
“It feels like it’s so hard to be so happy, like it’s something I have to consciously choose and work on every day, but being sad or anxious or guilty or remorseful or afraid, all those scary things, it takes nothing. I can feel all those things at the snap of my fingers.”
Anna is not alone.
While it’s true that everyone can feel sadness – and quite easily – due to things like job loss, the death of a pet, the loss of a loved one, or a major unexpected change, not everyone feels burdened persistently, and seemingly endlessly, from such events and experiences.
When a person is constantly, consistently and continually sad, for a period of two weeks or more, that could possibly be diagnosed as depression, and that’s a different thing altogether from just random, life-happens-but-moves-on sadness.
But before you self-diagnose, let’s talk about sadness and its possible causes. Sadness, after all, is normal. It’s our response to things we don’t like, the things that disappoint us, the things that zap our energy and make us feel, well, unhappy. It’s when sadness comes that doesn’t seem to have a rational or clear reason, or when the level of sadness seems disproportionate to the event that we have to consider what else might be going on. Here are only some possibilities (and as always, please do not self-diagnose from our blog posts. Please seek the assistance of a medical or mental health professional).
Is it depression?
Sadness is one of the primary symptoms of depression. If you’re feeling sad all day, every day (or most of the day, every day) for at least two weeks or more, your sadness might have to do with depression. If it’s depression, some of these symptoms might sound familiar to you too:
- Trouble with concentration
- Weight changes due to appetite (either too much or too little)
- Disinterest in things you once enjoyed
- Physical pain, like headaches or stomachaches
- Suicidal ideation
Is it seasonal affective disorder?
Have you ever noticed that your sadness seems connected to the season? When the days get shorter and the sun isn’t out as much, are you sadder then? When the weather brightens and the days are longer, do you feel like you can breathe a sigh of relief?
Many people actually feel like that, in varying degrees. In the fall and winter, when it’s so cold out and it seems as though we haven’t seen the sun in forever and as though we won’t see it again in yet another forever, many of us feel that sense of low energy and fatigue.
But some people feel this much more than others. They could have seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, which is something that happens when seasons change.
Is it bipolar disorder?
It’s reported that people with a mental disorder called bipolar disorder also battle episodes of mania – when you feel incredibly, intensely joyful in one minute and then crash into another emotion the next. Sometimes you may feel sad, other times irritable; you might feel angry, or tense, or you just want to sleep. You might feel powerful, ready to take on the world, and then the next moment, just want to cry.
Many people with bipolar disorder experience mixed features, and that can be very confusing, which could explain why you’re so sad.
Is it persistent depressive disorder?
Most forms of depression come with sadness that lasts a few weeks or more, and then it lifts. It can come back, and then go away again.
But something called PPD, or persistent depressive disorder, is the kind of depression that just doesn’t seem to go away. Many people with PPD say that they can’t even remember a time when they weren’t sad, when they actually felt good about themselves, when they had enough energy to do what they once loved to do.
PPD isn’t like major depression, which can completely stop a person from living – from going to work or going to school or experiencing a relationship. Rather, it’s just always there, a mild sadness that never leaves.
As we mentioned, these are just some potential reasons why you could be sad. The important thing is to find a therapist in your area that you’ve heard good things about, someone you can connect with, someone you trust. If your feelings are starting to interrupt you daily life and are beginning to manifest in physical ways, please see a healthcare professional right away.