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When People Equate Depression With 'Feeling Sad'

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When I hear people talk about depression, I often hear it used as a synonym for being sad. Phrases like, “I was so depressed today” or “This song depresses me” may be said with the right intentions, but they often lead to a stereotypical portrayal of depression as simply sadness. But there is so much more to the disorder than that single feeling.

Depression takes away all motivation. When dealing with depression, I leave laundry undone for obscene amounts of time. I often don’t even have the motivation to make something to eat, or even to eat what someone else has prepared for me. My room becomes a mess. And when undone things begin to pile up, it becomes overwhelming.

Depression is exhausting. I can get a good night’s rest, and still be tired for the entire day. It’s not always feeling like I need to sleep, though sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s just an overarching exhaustion that I can’t seem to shake. Sometimes I experience extreme exhaustion and an inability to sleep at the same time. This can feel frustrating and hopeless when all I ever want to do is sleep.

Depression can create dementia-like symptoms. Some people, myself included, have forgetfulness when depression strikes. My memory is terrible. The more depressed I am, the more difficult it is for me to remember tasks I need to do, or even to remember what I was thinking about. It’s particularly frustrating when you can recall a time when your memory was fine because now your memory has seemed to stop working.

When paired with anxiety, depression can cause a full-on internal battle. Anxiety tells me I’m not doing enough and should work harder. Depression tells me to do nothing and stay in bed all day. It’s a confusing combination that is difficult to make sense of, and it tends to lead to low motivation and high stress.

Depression affects appetite. Some people have an increased appetite. Others have a decreased appetite. Personally, I usually eat considerably less while in a depressive episode. With no motivation to prepare or eat food, my mind convinces me that eating is not important. Sometimes I lose weight without even realizing that I’ve been restricting my food intake, which is terrifying.

Depression can cause irritability. With all of these symptoms piling up on top of one another, it’s easy to become frustrated and take it out on those around you. Sometimes I get angry at close friends for no visible reason at all. It’s confusing and scary, and at times has almost ruined friendships, since I can’t stand to be around certain people at certain times. And unfortunately, it’s always the people closest to me who get the brunt of my feelings.

So the next time you are tempted to say, “This movie is so depressing,” remember that depression is so much more than a single feeling. Like any other disorder, it’s a complex set of symptoms that can seriously affect someone’s life. And remember that when talking to a friend struggling with depression, the answer isn’t just to “be happy.” Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone struggling is to simply be there for them – through all of their complex, confusing and frustrating symptoms.

Originally published: July 8, 2016
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