The fact that many people with clinical depression experience sadness can make the two easily confused, but they are two very different things. If you've been wondering whether you're experiencing depression or sadness, one thing you'll want to do is learn the differences between the two.
Sadness is a terrible feeling that we get when we go through a loss, a rejection, or some other kind of painful experience that disrupts our normal way of thinking. Every human being experiences sadness at some point in their life. Despite how intense sadness is, or how much it hurts, it is a healthy reaction to a negative experience, and over time, it fades away. Some normal symptoms of sadness are feelings of disappointment, sleeping too much or too little, crying, feeling emotionally drained, a fluctuating sex drive, or feeling purposeless.
Depression is not an emotion; it's a condition that is typically caused by a mix of environmental, genetic, biological, and psychological factors. Depression doesn't necessarily follow a loss or a negative experience, and it tends to last for a much longer time than does sadness.
Depression and sadness can look similar from the outside (or even the inside), and there are different types of depression that people experience. Some of the more common symptoms of depression include: a long-lasting negative, anxious, or flat mood; weight gain or loss; a change in appetite; difficulty making decisions; poor memory or concentration skills; low energy; loss of interest in hobbies; a pervasive sense of hopelessness or negativity; an increasing sense of grumpiness or irritability; pains, cramps, soreness, or digestive issues that seem to come out of the blue; or an overwhelming sense of guilt of self-criticism about one's life and its events.
By now, you might have a slight idea of whether you're experiencing sadness or depression. But if you still have any doubts, the best way to be sure is to visit a mental health professional. He or she will ask about your moods, any medications that you've been taking, and your family's medical history; they may also run tests to rule out other conditions. A visit to your healthcare provider or another mental health professional will help you get treatment faster if you are experiencing depression. If it's determined that you don't have depression, then you'll be able to focus your energy on doing more things that make you happy, while knowing that in time, the negative feelings will subside.
There are other resources to help you identify whether you might have depression as well. The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale is a clinically-validated scale that can help clue you in to whether it's worth having a conversation with your healthcare provider about depression or anxiety. You'll likely be asked to take this throughout the postpartum period.
Sharing your feelings with your healthcare provider is always a good idea, but just talking to somebody you trust can be helpful as well. This person doesn't have to be a medical professional; a friend or sibling will do just fine, so long as you feel comfortable opening up to them. Try to remember that many, many people postpone a diagnosis and treatment for depression because they underestimate how much of a toll it is taking on their lives. Ask your trusted person for some time where they listen to you and what you have to say and hopefully they will be able to tell you whether will need to contact your provider.