Depression is more than feeling sad and blue. In fact, a person can be depressed without feeling especially unhappy, and sadness doesn’t always indicate depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms other than sadness that may point to depression include:
- No delight or interest in normally pleasurable activities
- Appetite changes – the person may eat more or less than normal
- Sleep changes – they either can’t sleep or they sleep too much
- Lack of energy, sluggishness
- Feeling restless
- Chronic fatigue
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, emptiness
- Hopelessness, pessimism
- Trouble focusing or being decisive
- Suicidal ideation or an attempted suicide
Persistent sadness is usually a sign of depression, but some people experience enough other signs and symptoms to be considered depressed.
Why No Sad Feelings?
There are a number of explanations for why a person could be depressed without feeling sad. A depressed person may not feel recognizably blue because they have become emotionally numb. They don’t feel deeply sad, but neither do they feel happy. They feel only a vague gloominess. The person can get up each day and go to work or school without ever experiencing any of the emotions that normally accompany those activities.
If a person is self-medicating their depression, they may not allow themselves to feel sad. They may be using drugs or alcohol to create false emotions of happiness or pleasure. But self-medicating is not the only way a depressed person may mask their sadness. Sometimes people throw themselves into their work; other times they engage in sexual exploits to boost their mood. The person may not be aware that this is what they are doing. That is, they pursue pleasure in order to avoid coping with their feelings.
Sometimes depression is expressed as anger, or physical pain or outright sickness. Rather than feel sad, a person may experience repeated migraine headaches, muscle pain, stomach problems and the like.
Sadness Doesn’t Equal Depression
Feeling sadness after a significant loss is normal. However, this kind of sadness comes to an end, and the person usually finds some relief through tears or talking about their loss. By contrast, a depressed person feels sad without improvement and no amount of talking or crying seems to alleviate the problem. A sad person can still experience other emotions, but depression tends to blunt a person’s emotional range.
Another key difference between depression and sadness has to do with perspective. Sadness doesn’t necessarily make it hard for a person to maintain proper perspective. Depression frequently leads to distorted perceptions.