What is sadness?
Sadness is like any other emotions, is a normal human emotion that we have all experienced at some point in our lives and is necessary for us. It helps us to gain a measure for the pleasant moments and also helps us to understand when a need is not being fulfilled or when there is a deficiency in our lives that we continue to ignore.
However, it is a demanding emotion and it is difficult to manage. It creates discomfort and pain in case of loss or constant disappointments.
Sadness or depression?
The best way to distinguish the unhealthy from the normal is by understanding the intensity and duration of the emotion. Sadness has a short duration and less intensity and is usually triggered when we experience a loss or traumatic event. In depression, the feeling of sadness lasts longer and has greater intensity, resulting in a permanent and consolidated reaction that affects the function and quality of life. A person suffering from depression may not feel good about things that used to please him or her.
The word depression comes from the Greek verb "καταθλίβω" which means "to press down". Depression describes a mental state characterized by long-lasting feelings of intense sadness, frustration, hopelessness along with reduced mood and energy.
Depressive emotions can range from a loss of interest or pleasure (anhedonia), nostalgia, to a state of deep sadness and mental suffering.
In milder forms, the person may have difficulty reacting emotionally to situations (e.g., laughing or joking). The person "tries" to eat, make love or engage in activities. In more severe forms of depression (clinical or major depression) the person often has feelings of guilt, low self-esteem, pessimism and can only see the negative side of things. The person seems to lose interest in life.
In order to be diagnosed as depressed, an individual needs to be experiencing five of the following symptoms for more than two weeks.
Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD):
- Irritability during most of the time.
- Daily feeling of sadness with long duration and for no apparent reason.
- Daily loss of interest in normal activities for a long time.
- Significant change in weight or appetite.
- Daily insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleep).
- Feeling of fatigue and reduced energy.
- Inability to make decisions and experiencing feelings of guilt.
- Thoughts about death and suicide.
- Having difficulty in concentrating and in focusing attention.
- The physical strain one feels is muscle aches, digestive disorders and headaches.
How is it treated?
The therapist is required to assess the severity of the patient's condition and accordingly to decide whether there is need for a referral to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist then makes a diagnosis and determines whether the client requires pharmaceutical treatment in order to give more space to the psychotherapy process. With this help, issues that may be hidden underneath the depression are addressed.
If the client is experiencing sadness or depression, he or she might find relief in crying, lashing out or talking about the problems that are concerning him or her. Initially it is very important to accept the emotion he or she is experiencing, no matter how unpleasant it is, and to have the will to change.
With the assistance from the therapist, he/she better understands the problems he/she is facing, by evaluating the reasons that led to bad choices. It enables the client to externalise and accept his/her feelings, in order to explore different ways of approaching problems and to find solutions.