Let’s face it, even if your Instagram feed is all peaches and rainbows, some day, everyone has a bad day. I, for example, had one yesterday. My doctors’ appointment took two hours too long, I got locked out of my apartment, my boyfriend and I broke up and I suddenly got so sick that I was convinced I couldn’t move from my bed. Yes, that is actually how my day went and I assure you, I was sad about it. Like horribly, tear-jerkingly, overwhelmingly sad. I called my best friend and told her I was depressed. That’s when I began to reflect. Was I truly depressed? What is the difference between sadness and depression?
Actress Lili Reinhart, who plays Betty Cooper on our current favorite Netflix show, Riverdale, knows a little (or a lot) about depression. Reinhart first opened up about her struggle with depression on Twitter last May, when she posted a series of tweets revealing that, when Riverdale first began, she was in the midst of dealing with the “worst depression she had ever experienced”. In fact, Lili has dealt with depression and anxiety since seventh grade, and “started seeing a therapist in eighth grade” when she had her “first panic attack on the first day” of school.
Since she initially opened the flood gates about depression, she hasn’t closed them, as Lili recognizes the importance of speaking about mental health, and knows “there’s nothing to be ashamed of if you have a mental illness, and even people who have seemingly ‘perfect’ lives can still struggle on the inside”. Lili says the depression “has affected me in every way, ever”, but “I’m not ashamed of my depression—I never have been”. Thanks to the help of mental health professionals, and the support of her friends and family, Lili has come far since she was first diagnosed. But how exactly do you diagnose depression?
Depression is a mood disorder, and people who suffer from depression feel persistently sad—depression affects how you think, feel, behave and express yourself. The reality is, teen girls are three times more likely to experience depression than guys of the same age. In fact, girls are not only twice as likely to develop clinical depression than boys, but one in four girls will probably experience a major episode of depression at some point in her life. But how do you know if it’s depression, or just a regular old case of the blues?
Sadness and bad moods are usually triggered by a specific event, and are only temporary. Depression, on the other hand, is a mental illness that affects our thinking, emotions, perceptions and behaviours in long-lasting, chronic ways. When we’re depressed, we feel sad about everything, all the time. There is no trigger. Depression is diagnosed when a person feels five or more of the symptoms below for more than two weeks, according to the American Psychiatric Association. These symptoms include:
Everyone has bad days, or can feel stressed or sad due to a difficult situation. The difference is that those with depression will experience multiple of these symptoms, for a long period of time.
There are two simple tests that you can use to try to determine whether this is sadness or depression.
If you are feeling down, can you think of a reason why you might be feeling that way? Did you get in an argument with a friend, do poorly on your math test, or are stressed about an upcoming dance recital? If you can find the cause of your mood, it most likely means that you are feeling sad, stressed, or in a bad mood. If the emotions are much more vague, and you absolutely cannot pinpoint why you feel the way you do, or rather everything is making you feel sad, then this may be depression.
Try doing something you typically enjoy to help shake your mood. Go for a walk, talk to a friend, watch a funny Netflix show, eat a yummy snack, or anything that usually puts you in a good mood. Sometimes, getting distracted and out of your own head can help clear the negative thoughts and give you a fresh start. If, however, you find that you’re not enjoying things you once loved, and the symptoms you’re feeling continue for two weeks or more, this may in fact be depression.
That being said, these are just guidelines, and the only true way to diagnose depression is to speak with a mental health professional. If you think you may suffer from depression, there are manyways that you can get help, and get better. First and foremost, talk to your parents. Discuss the ongoing feelings you have been having, and the symptoms you have identified above. With their support, you can move on to the next step, which is making an appointment with your family doctor. For starters, your doctor will want to rule out other conditions with symptoms that can mimic depression. Your doctor may then refer you to a therapist, or psychiatrist, or both.
Everyone who suffers from depression requires a different course of action, whether this be medicinal or other. With the support of your family, and doctors, you can work together to come to the right treatment. In Lili’s words: “You’re stronger than you know… You’re all you’ve got, and you deserve the world. Your mental health should be your priority. Don’t forget that”.
If you’re looking for additional resources on depression, check out these great sources below:
COVER IMAGE: @lilireinhart