Having the Blues vs. Depression: How You Can Know the Difference

having the blues vs. depression: how you can know the difference

You have been feeling blue. Do you have depression?

Not every case of the blues is depression. In fact, it’s very common for people to experience sadness. It’s one of the human emotions that we all feel from time to time.

Many things can provoke the blues. Breakups, job changes, and transitions are common causes. We also get sad because of grief. That’s normal. All humans go through it.

Unfortunately, sometimes normal sadness can become major depression. Additionally, it’s possible to experience depression with no specific cause.

The Blues Usually Have a Cause

Of course, it’s possible to just be sad for no reason. However, you can often identify the cause of the blues. Common causes include:

  • Arguments with family and friends

  • Breakups, loved ones moving away, and other similar relationship losses

  • Feeling disappointed in yourself, such as when you fail a test

  • Disappointment in general, such as when you can’t have something you want

  • Grief after the death of a loved one, including a pet

There can also be a dietary cause for the blues. Crashing from sugar, caffeine, or alcohol can cause sadness. If there’s no obvious cause, you might have depression.

Feeling Worthless and Hopeless

Hopelessness is one of the big things that distinguishes sadness from depression.

When you’re sad, you still know that things will eventually get better. When you’re depressed, you feel like it will last forever. You feel hopeless. You can’t imagine a better future.

Additionally, depression is often accompanied by a sense of worthlessness. For example, it’s normal to be sad about a breakup. However, if it causes you to believe that you don’t deserve to be loved, then you might be looking at depression.

Loss of Interest in Things is Usually Depression

Have you lost interest in the people, things, and activities that you used to enjoy? This is one of the biggest signs that you have depression.

Take notice if you:

  • Stop participating in sports and clubs

  • No longer join co-workers at lunch or happy hour

  • Don’t take pleasure in hobbies you used to love

  • Don’t want to attend events that used to excite you

  • Feel bored or restless but nothing sounds enjoyable

A separate symptom, but one that is related to this, is fatigue. Sometimes you may get a small flicker that you want to do something. However, the flicker is extinguished by your lack of energy. You are so tired and just can’t seem to move. This is a warning sign of depression.

Changes in Sleep and Eating Patterns

Usually, depression is accompanied by fatigue. Often, this means that you sleep a lot. Ironically, though, it may mean that you can’t sleep. Insomnia can plague you even though you feel very tired.

If you are sleeping significantly more or less than usual, then this could be depression.

Eating patterns and weight changes are also common during depression. You may feel hungry all of the time. Alternatively, you may crave specific foods, including sugar. On the other hand, you may not want to eat at all.

If your sadness is accompanied by a big change in weight, whether it’s a loss or a gain, then it might be depression.

Additional Symptoms of Depression

Here are some other signs that you might have depression, not simply the blues:

  • Frequent crying

  • Feelings of emptiness

  • Irritability

  • Feelings of guilt

  • Inability to concentrate

  • Trouble making decisions

  • Thoughts of suicide

Duration and Persistence of Symptoms

Sadness tends to be short-lived. Even grief has a time limit. Eventually, you start to feel happy again.

It might be depression if:

  • Your symptoms last most of the day

  • You have the symptoms most days of the week

  • You’ve had the symptoms for more than two weeks

Even if you don’t meet the criteria for major depression, you could still be experiencing a depressive episode.

It often helps to speak with a therapist who can support you in sorting things out. If you’re ready to take the next step, please reach out today.

To learn more about depression counseling, click here.