Occasional instances of sadness are a normal part of life. It is a natural reaction to certain situations such as losing a job, a recent breakup, a pet or family member’s death, or the ongoing pandemic. However, persistent feelings of loneliness not only show up as large eyebags or a stuffy nose—it can also take a toll on your entire body. Being sad most of the time can affect how you eat, sleep, think, and feel. Depression can make you more prone to various diseases—worse, it can even cause death.
It is essential to understand that sadness can turn into more severe mental and physical illnesses. Individuals need to keep their emotions in check and learn to seek help or reach out so they can overcome constant loneliness and bounce back into the sunshine of life.
How do you recognize if it’s just a case of the blues or something more? Does crying count as sadness or grief? Is it just a ‘moment’ or a constant struggle? Here are a few ways to differentiate sadness from clinical depression.
• Duration. Sadness is synonymous with ‘feeling down’ or ‘feeling blue’ but often goes away in time. It is a fleeting emotion. Once gone, it enables a person to go on with life. On the other hand, being consistently sad for two weeks or longer can significantly indicate depression if it interferes with your day-to-day activities.
• Intensity. Sadness is normal for disappointments, loss, or problems. However, persistent feelings of despair, worthlessness, and suicidal thoughts can indicate a more serious mental health issue.
• Expression. Crying is a common expression of grief and is usually triggered by a specific event, such as change or difficulty. With depression, tears may seem endless and for no particular reason. Others may not even shed a single tear but express depression as anger, irritability, or gradual detachment.
Learning how to differentiate between sadness and depression is essential. It can help individuals keep their emotions checked and watch out for symptoms that may need professional intervention. If you experience prolonged sadness or any of the symptoms above, Jacksonhousecares.com can help you through proven treatment programs.
Depression is a severe mental health illness that should not be taken for granted. It affects ways of thinking and feeling and can also influence how our bodies respond to constant stress. Being sad for long periods can cause complications and can even result in life-threatening situations.
The pain of the mind can be expressed as the pain of the body through:
Scientists explain that people diagnosed with depression feel pain differently because of lower pain tolerance. They are more sensitive to the slightest of pain and have trouble coping with it.
People who are depressed feel headaches, pain in their limbs, joints, and back. A study even revealed that 60% of people with depression experience lower back pain. Some may even feel vague aches all over their body that persist despite medication.
Chronic pain can affect mood, disturb sleep, and cause stress. It may cause low self-esteem and impede participation in social activities. Pain and depression can turn into a vicious cycle in which depression causes numerous body aches and pains, while the resulting pain can cause further depression.
Experts have established a mind-gut connection in which diseases that affect the mind are linked with decreased serotonin production in the gut. The chemical is responsible for regulating not only memory, mood, and behavior, but also aid in regulating appetite, digestion, and bowel movement.
People with decreased serotonin levels tend to lose control over their eating habits. This decrease can cause eating disorders that manifest as either binge-eating or a total aversion to food. In binge-eating, a person eats more than is required and continues to eat despite being full. Food becomes a coping mechanism for the sadness that they experience. Unfortunately, binge eating can lead to undesirable weight gain and low self-image as well as other health problems.
The reverse is also true for people with depression. They may not feel any desire for food and can result in various nutrient deficiencies (B vitamins, minerals, omega-fatty, and amino acids). Sudden weight loss and malnutrition can be as severe as binge-eating and obesity. Unhealthy diets and loss of appetite can weaken the immune system and impair body functions.
Sleep is an essential aspect of normal body function. Adequate amounts of rest allow us to recharge our bodies and give us sufficient energy for the next day. Unfortunately, people who are constantly lonely can have difficulty falling or staying asleep. They can suffer from insomnia or sleep apnea that they always feel exhausted because they are up all night with their thoughts.
Other people with depression can do the opposite—sleep longer (hypersomnia) and still wake up feeling fatigued. They feel sluggish and heavy, struggling to get out of bed and fulfilling daily routines.
It is also possible to cycle between insomnia and hypersomnia during depression. Lack of sleep can weaken the body’s immune system, making a person susceptible to illness and diseases. They experience illness longer, and recovery can take more than usual. On the other hand, oversleeping can increase diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even death. Cycling between lack and excessive sleep can prove dangerous for anyone.
The brain is responsible for signaling pleasure in various activities, including sex. It communicates the desire to the body and increases blood flow to the sex organs. People who are feeling sad for more extended periods are no longer sensitive to arousal. They may encounter problems achieving orgasm or experience erectile dysfunction. Some may even entirely lose the desire for sex. Sexual dysfunction not only affects self-esteem—it can also strain intimate relationships.
Experiencing long-term sadness can speed up heart rate and constrict blood vessels. Prolonged stress can elevate blood pressure, which in turn can lead to heart disease. Several studies by the American Heart Association in 2018 show a connection between depression and heart disease. One of the studies reported one-fifth of all heart patients to suffer from depression, while another showed an increase in abnormal heart rate in one-third of patients. A third study also showed that patients who have heart disease have higher chances of premature death than those suffering from heart disease. These studies led the AHA to conclude depression is a marker for heart ailments.
Depression thus extends beyond feelings of hopelessness and bouts of inactivity, as it can also alter body processes and functions. It can disrupt memory and decision-making, modify sleeping and eating patterns, and even affect self-image and strain intimate relationships. As a constant stressor, depression can manifest as serious health risks such as diabetes, obesity, malnutrition, hypertension, and compromise the body’s immune system. It can even lead to heart attack, stroke, and premature death.
Depression causes serious health problems. Knowing its effect on physical health can help a person manage symptoms and eliminate associated health risks. Medication, lifestyle changes, and therapy can help manage mental and physical manifestations of depression.
Lifestyle changes can help alleviate the pain of both the mind and body. They are often the first steps in treating depression, and they can even help prevent it from coming back. Some of the common lifestyle changes include exercise, proper nutrition, adequate amounts of rest, stress reduction, and taking advantage of support groups.
Exercise has the potential to make the body feel better. It triggers the release of mood-enhancers such as serotonin and endorphins. Physical activity also facilitates the growth of new brain cells and neural connections. You can engage in simple activities such as walking and aerobics 30–60 minutes a day and stick to a regular exercise program to keep the sadness away.
Proper nutrition is also essential in restoring the body and its functions. Adequate vitamins and minerals from grains, fruits, and vegetables provide needed energy and keep the body’s immune system strong. Eating healthy is key to managing weight. It can also help lower risks for diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases.
Getting adequate amounts of sleep can also reduce fatigue, sadness, and irritability. Establishing a sleep routine helps the body repair and recharge. Adults should have between seven to nine hours of rest every night to give the body enough time to repair damaged cells and recharge for the coming day.
Reducing stress is also vital in managing depression. Certain persons or situations can act as triggers that can cause depression to persist or recur. It is recommended that you evaluate which aspects of your life cause stress and develop proper coping mechanisms to reduce stress.
Apart from personal initiatives to overcome depression, individuals can also seek the help of support groups. This process entails reaching out to family members, confiding in trusted friends, and participating in volunteer work to give you an added sense of self-worth and acceptance.
Several types of therapy can help manage depression. Depending on the type and severity of depression, experts may employ one or a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal, or psychodynamic therapy. Therapy teaches individuals to repurpose their thinking and equip them with positive behaviors to overcome depression. They help individuals understand the cause of their depression, identify stressors, and create a positive response to such situations.
Doctors may also prescribe medication after a thorough evaluation of your condition. Anti-depressants given to patients help manage mood swings, promote sleep, and other symptoms. Common anti-depressants include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic anti-depressants (TCAs), tetracyclic anti-depressant, dopamine reuptake blocker various receptor antagonist, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, and noradrenergic antagonist. These drugs help manage symptoms associated with depression.
It is important to note that while anti-depressants can manage symptoms of depression, a doctor will also look into potential and existing health conditions (diabetes, hypertension, etc.) to ensure that anti-depressants will not cause adverse reactions.
Besides lifestyle changes, therapy, and medication, a person can also seek alternative treatments to improve outcomes. One of these is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which uses magnetic energy impulses to mood-associated regions of the brain. These stimulate brain cells and enhance their connection to other parts of the brain to reduce symptoms of depression.
You can also try taking natural and herbal supplements to treat depression. St. John’s wort has the potential to treat mild to moderate levels of depression. Vitamin and mineral enhancers can also give energy and enhance moods. Inform your doctor or therapist about taking these medications to ensure it does not cause unpleasant side effects and does not interfere with anti-depressants.
Relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing exercises, and meditation can also calm jittery nerves and eliminate intrusive thoughts. They are effective in reducing stress and can even increase positive feelings and overall well-being. Aside from relaxation techniques, you can also try acupuncture from a licensed professional.
Feeling sad is a normal reaction to loss, disappointment, and problems. However, being sad for too long can produce symptoms of altered mental and emotional states. It can also cause physical problems such as chronic pain, insomnia or hypersomnia, obesity and weight gain, malnutrition, weak immune systems, and heart disease. Feeling sad for long periods can lead to several health risks and, if left untreated, can lead to premature death.
The good news is that the physical effects of depression are treatable with lifestyle changes such as daily exercise, proper nutrition, enough sleep, and stress reduction techniques. Support from family and friends is also essential in helping individuals regain their self-worth and enthusiasm for life.
Therapy can also provide individuals with coping skills to manage symptoms and eliminate depression from coming back. Drugs and alternative treatments can also help alleviate physical conditions caused by depression.
Available treatments work to reduce the physical effects of depression. These serve as multiple approaches to overcoming depression. All aimed to help the individual conquer the shadows of hopelessness and restoring them to total activity and renewed enthusiasm for life.