Is it depression if I'm legit sad?
March 28, 2014 7:53 AM   Subscribe

My life overall is good. I want for very little in the way of material things, I have friends and lovers who are wonderful, I have fulfilling hobbies, I do meaningful volunteer and professional work, I live in my favorite place on earth, and I generally try to enjoy life to the fullest extent possible. But I also have a relationship that is secretly falling apart, body image issues directly related to the relationship problems, trouble finding enough work to be comfortably financially independent, parents on the other side of the country who are suffering in ways I cant do anything to help with, and a few other things going on that are legitimately upsetting. So when I have bouts of crushing sadness and feelings of hopelessness, I'm not surprised. But the bouts have been lasting longer and coming more frequently, and things feel more and more hopeless (not to the point of wanting to self-harm, but to the point of feeling like my only options are resign myself to this forever or leave everything I know and love and start over alone). Recently a friend asked me if I was depressed, and I had to stop and wonder. Could I be? Can depression co-exist with legitimate sources of sadness and despair? Should I consider seeking treatment for depression as well as figuring out how to resolve all this other crap?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Yes and yes. Sounds like situational depression. I sure as heck went to therapy after my mom died, because I was depressed AND had reason to be sad! Go get treatment. You don't have to reinvent the wheel all by yourself!
posted by rtha at 7:55 AM on March 28, 2014 [8 favorites]

I believe there's something called adjustment disorder, a.k.a. situational depressions. It's when you have all the symptoms of depressions, but it's for a reason (e.g. broken relationship, sick parents, trouble with grades). Generally, it's self-limiting. When the underlying problem stops, you get better. But it can still be worth seeing a therapist while it's ongoing--or if you're not feeling better soon.
posted by whitewall at 7:58 AM on March 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yes, you can be depressed due to situations. Not all depression is that nameless, faceless, "I have no idea why I am crying" kind of depression.

Go get treated. Maybe that is therapy, maybe that is medication, maybe that is something else. But do go seek treatment. I hope you feel better soon. Feeling that way is awful but it can and will get better.

Also, I agree that situational depression often goes away once the reason behind it is resolved, but not always. I would NOT bank on your depression vanishing once all your bad things work themselves out. Depression has a way of digging in and setting up camp, and it feeds and grows on things that can be totally unrelated to why it started in the first place. Your relationship problems may go away, but maybe now you have stresses at work, and that can keep it going.

So really. Seek treatment.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:58 AM on March 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another vote for yes. Depression, even if it starts with an event, can take on a life of its own, hijacking your responses to the point where you get into a loop. Totally look into treatment.
posted by BibiRose at 7:59 AM on March 28, 2014 [6 favorites]

I think this sounds like it could be depression, but IANAD. I'd recommend going and speaking to someone and describing for them what you've laid out there. Additionally, be prepared to come up with answers to some questions that they will follow up with.

It sounds like you have an open mind, which is wonderful. If you find that you are diagnosed, pay careful attention to the treatment plan that is laid out for you, and follow it. Give feedback to the doctor(s) about whether therapy or medication is truly working or not.

There are some really talented people out there who would like to help. I hope that you feel better soonest.
posted by Draccy at 8:02 AM on March 28, 2014

Yes, and I like BibiRose's description of the loop. It might start for a reason but then, even if that reason gets better, you may still be stuck with the depression so it's worth it to go and get help for it. Even if you didn't feel sad and hopeless, any of the things you mentioned would warrant therapy. Just remember that for it to work well, you need to really click with your therapist so if you don't like the first one, move on until you find one that you like.
posted by dawkins_7 at 8:04 AM on March 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

This was me. I was depressed but all for specific reasons. Talk therapy and having a place to express all the things I was feeling (and the things I didn't even know I was feeling) helped tremendously.
posted by cecic at 8:07 AM on March 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I asked a very similar question (anonymously) about 3 years ago. It took me a while to realize that my depression was making some of my bad situation stuff worse than it needed to be.

It's easy to sink into it and let everything go, and I did that for a long time. Meds really helped me get a handle on my spiraling down, and made me feel less like I wanted to stay in bed all day. They helped me have the courage to change some of the things in my life that were making me miserable. It's easy to feel like you aren't in control and just sink into the despair.

I went off the meds once a lot of the stressful/depressing situations went away, but I'm sure I'd still be curled up in bed crying instead of working on improving my situation if I didn't use them.
posted by elvissa at 8:08 AM on March 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Depression can be jump-started by upsetting circumstances, or it can develop on its own. Either way, the symptoms and treatment are often the same. And therapy can be extra good for situational depression because sometimes there's so much shit going on right now and you get a regular place to dump it.

There are no right or wrong times or reasons to seek mental health care; if you think you might benefit from it, go for it.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:12 AM on March 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

It sounds like it might be really nice and helpful for you to have someone who is objective and trustworthy with whom to talk about these things. That is why I might recommend a therapist - you may or may not be depressed; no one on Metafilter can really tell you the answer to that question. But the things you discuss in your question would be good to talk about with a therapist or counselor, I think.

I wish you the best of luck.
posted by sockermom at 8:32 AM on March 28, 2014

The first time I went to a therapist, it was for depression; she spent six sessions talking to me, then essentially said "you have a perfectly valid reason to feel as bad as you feel, and you really need to [change the thing that was the perfectly valid reason]." I changed it, I felt better.

But I also have a relationship that is secretly falling apart, body image issues directly related to the relationship problems, trouble finding enough work to be comfortably financially independent, parents on the other side of the country who are suffering in ways I cant do anything to help with

So let's see: you have a secret problem, so you can't get support from anyone to help you through have related issues directly caused by that secret're worried about the future...people you love who are suffering and you have no control over it.

Sounds like good reasons to be depressed to me! And you can't directly control your parents' suffering or your financial concerns. So start by getting to a therapist and getting support to help you through the secret relationship disaster, and once you're feeling better about that, you'll have more energy to deal with the other stuff and you'll start to feel better. Keeping secrets is stressful and demanding, and you legitimately need support if that relationship is falling apart.
posted by davejay at 8:52 AM on March 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

So when I have bouts of crushing sadness and feelings of hopelessness, I'm not surprised. But the bouts have been lasting longer and coming more frequently, and things feel more and more hopeless...

Crushing bouts of sadness and hopelessness that are coming more often and lasting longer? No idea who to get out this situation (giving in or running away aren't actual solutions)? Don't just allow yourself to continue to suffer. You already said that you don't how to fix this on your own - GET HELP! Counseling can really help with this stuff.
posted by metahawk at 9:28 AM on March 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

And if you do start to feel like you can't go on, remember you can always give someone a call.
posted by danteGideon at 9:38 AM on March 28, 2014

To me, some of the differences between appropriate sadness and depression are one, with depression, you feel hopeless, there's a sense of giving up or wanting to give up (vs regretful acceptance of faits accomplis about which nothing much can be done), and the giving up is related to feeling powerless, pushed beyond your ability to cope. Two, with depression, vs sadness, it impacts your functioning - you can no longer engage in your regular life, you stop caring about things you used to care about. And depression is persistent, it hangs over you all the time. I think sadness is more flexible, there can be moments of lightness, humour, it can be more readily if momentarily lifted by eg comforting others. And depression has to do with a loss of purpose and meaning, in a way sadness doesn't.

But sadness can easily shade into depression. You've got a lot going on, probably tons of anxiety about your problems, you're probably too overwhelmed to figure out what kinds of problem solving actions you realistically could take, what sense to make of things, what sense to make of your feelings. A therapist could totally help with that. Better to head the black dog off at the pass.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:07 AM on March 28, 2014

Honestly it doesn't matter if you have "lifelong" depression or "situational," you sound like someone who is depressed and would benefit from treatment.
posted by radioamy at 10:12 AM on March 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

It is possible to seek therapy to treat sadness that is caused by events. My mother got some very good help after my father died to cope with her grief, I had some therapy to help with a family situation that cased a lot of sadness on my part. You don't have to have depression to get help, being sad is a perfectly viable reason. If your leg is falling off you don't worry about why it's falling off you go see a doctor, the treatments might be different but if help is available I would highly recommend getting it.
posted by wwax at 10:15 AM on March 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Most people diagnosed with depression can explain why they're sad. The "trick," so to speak, is that there is no "right" way to respond to situations, and you can be more or less upset by circumstances and issues depending on your perspective.

Taking drugs, whether prescribed or otherwise, is one way people have traditionally changed perspective instead of circumstance to alter things. You can also change your perspective through other methods of therapy, diet, exercise, meditation or self-help, or you can change your circumstances. All of these are legitimate options for making yourself happier, and the question of "am i depressed" is just a category judgment (which contemporary medical professionals can make for you, and plenty will be ready to diagnose anyone not constantly optimistic if you ask).

But really what matters is: Do you feel how you want to feel? if no, you need to change something. Your experience - your life - is the relationship between your perspective and your circumstances, so you can work on either end.
posted by mdn at 10:24 AM on March 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Depression can co-exist with legitimately sad things.

But, it's a little irrelevant. You are having crushing feelings of sadness and hopelessness that you are having trouble coping with. I actually think it's a bit telling that you've buried the lede here--

But I also have a relationship that is secretly falling apart, body image issues directly related to the relationship problems, trouble finding enough work to be comfortably financially independent, parents on the other side of the country who are suffering in ways I cant do anything to help with, and a few other things going on that are legitimately upsetting.

This is some seriously difficult things to deal with. You are ALLOWED to feel helpless, sad and depressed about things even if you have lots of great things in your life.

Many, many people seek therapy and other treatment to help them deal with difficult situations. It's very common, and will probably help you resolve the other issues you are dealing with.
posted by inertia at 11:05 AM on March 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have this--sadness due to external circumstances I cannot change. Yes, you are legitimately sad for good reason. My experience has been that you absolutely should not let mental health professionals label it depression--that doesn't help you and only makes it worse. If you see a therapist or psychiatrist and they try to turn it back on you like that--well, lets just say I wasted tons of money and time with therapists and shrinks who kept telling me "no, even if your external circumstances changed you would still feel depressed, you just think it has something to do with it" and they were completely, utterly, and totally wrong. Like, when my external circumstances change (again, unfortunately completely out of my control--believe me, if I had a way to change this I would move heaven and earth to do it) my sadness goes completely away. I think therapists would rather it be something internal with you because then if it were, you might be able to change it. That doesn't help when it isn't.

CBT was a horrible experience trying to deal with this since your self-esteem is mostly fine (and if it isn't, it's because of what happened, not you) and your thinking isn't disordered. It rings completely false to try to work at it that way.

Sigh. It sucks. I've been dealing with this for more than twenty years and nothing has helped. Lately I've been looking more into the types of therapy that are supposed to ease grief or trauma, since those deal with external circumstances.
posted by Violet Hour at 2:07 PM on March 28, 2014

(By the way, I'm not saying you shouldn't try seeking treatment, just that someone who tries to treat it like an internal thing may not be the best fit. Also, I have nothing against labeling it depression for insurance purposes, since there may not be any other category it fits in.)
posted by Violet Hour at 2:19 PM on March 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I can't give any advice other than to see a doctor, first for a physical exam and then, if nothing shows up, for a mental exam, but what I do want to say is this: When I was diagnosed with a major depression, there were plenty of things happening in my life that would depress anyone, so it's not like I was just making up things to be sad about. But when I was put on an antidepressant - and I was put on three before they found the one that worked - the difference it made in my outlook was incredible, and I think the big thing was that I no longer stacked things up that hurt me so I had this huge monster of hurt overshadowing my every move. The antidepressant kept me dealing with one incident at a time and it eliminated the sense of being overwhelmed all the time.

I didn't realize what a hard time I was having until it changed. I hope you get whatever help you need, and soon, because no one should have to describe themselves as "sad" for any length of time.
posted by aryma at 10:34 PM on March 28, 2014

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