Depression is a term often thrown about when we’re feeling down – when things aren’t going according to plan. Using depression to describe a mood that is fleeting isn’t an accurate description of the disease that, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), affects over 350 million people globally. “Sadness is an emotion, whereas depression is an illness,” says psychiatrist Ken Robbins of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
So how do you know if you’re experiencing a bout of depression or are just feeling blue? There are two distinguishing factors between a normal emotional response to life’s events and a response that comes from the illness.
The first factor is the severity of the symptoms. Someone might be clinically depressed if the symptoms are so numbing that it makes performing everyday tasks difficult. The second factor to consider is how long the symptoms last. If the symptoms last more than two weeks, there is a possibility that depression may be the cause.
WHO lists these other facts about depression that should be taken into consideration:
- Depression is a relatively common mental disorder.
- Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to disease.
- More women are affected by depression than men.
- At its most severe, depression can be a contributing factor to suicide.
The good news is there are effective treatments for depression when properly diagnosed. The bad news is less than half of the people suspected of suffering from depression seek treatment, and in some countries less than 10% seek help. One of the reasons why depression is so underdiagnosed is because the warning signs of depression are often mistaken for just ordinary emotional responses.