How Does Depression Differ From Occasional Sadness?

Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act. Fortunately, it is also very treatable. Depression symptoms include feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. It can also lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. Sometimes it will decrease your ability to function at work and at home. People who are depressed may become overwhelmed and exhausted and may stop participating in their routine activities. They may withdraw from family and friends. Some may even have thoughts of death or suicide

Everyone feels sad or "blue" on occasion. It is also perfectly normal to grieve over upsetting life experiences, such as a major illness, a death in the family, a loss of a job or a divorce. But, for most people, these feelings of grief and sadness tend to lessen with the passing of time.

However, if your feelings of sadness last for two weeks or longer, and if they interfere with daily life activities, or you have some of the symptoms listed above, something more serious than "feeling blue" may be going on. Which is why it is imperative for you to reach out to a mental health professional if this is happening with you.

Depressed individuals tend to feel helpless and hopeless and to blame themselves for having these feelings. I am here to help you understand that you do not have control over these feelings. Depression can be caused by a chemical imbalance, genetics, abuse, certain medications, and serious illness.

There is a difference between depression and sadness but the thing they have in common is that they can both be treated effectively with therapy.

How do I know if I have depression?

Everyone experiences sadness at times. But depression is something more. Depression is extreme sadness or despair that lasts more than days. It interferes with the activities of daily life.

Signs of depression include:

  • Prolonged sadness or feelings of emptiness.
  • Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness.
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness.
  • Anger and irritability.
  • Restlessness.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Fatigue.
  • Changes in sleep patterns.
  • Appetite changes.
  • Loss of interest in activities.
  • Withdrawal from friends and family.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide.

Depression isn't a sign of weakness. It's not something you can just "snap out of." It's an illness that requires professional treatment. Depression is not uncommon, I guarantee many more people are on medication and/or are in therapy than you think. With the right care, you can feel better.

Can Depression Be Successfully Treated?

It absolutely can! A person's depression is highly treatable when he or she receives competent care. It is critical for people who suspect that they or a family member may be suffering from depression seek care from a licensed mental health professional who has training and experience in helping people recover from depression. Simply put, people with depression who do not seek help, suffer needlessly. Unexpressed feelings and concerns accompanied by a sense of isolation can worsen a depression; therefore, the importance of getting appropriate help cannot be overemphasized.

Treatment for Depression

Psychotherapy is also an effective treatment, either alone or in combination with medications. Antidepressant medications can be helpful for reducing depression symptoms in some people, especially in people with severe depression. The benefits of psychotherapy may have an enduring effect that protects against symptoms returning even after it has ended. Although the most effective course of action to treating depression is by using antidepressants and psychotherapy together, it can be treated by using psychotherapy alone in mild and moderate cases. In cases in which the depression is caused by an external factor, such as a divorce or death, medication is probably not necessary at all.

Seeing a Therapist About Depression


Psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” is sometimes used alone for treatment of mild depression. Two of the most common evidence-based therapies for depression are cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy. The two approaches I use are:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an empirically supported type of therapy in which patients learn to identify and manage negative thought and behavior patterns that can contribute to their depression. CBT helps patients identify unhelpful or negative thinking, change inaccurate beliefs, change behaviors that might make depression worse, and interact with others in more positive ways. Therapy consists of identifying self-destructive/irrational thoughts, also known as Cognitive Distortions, correcting them, and applying certain behavioral skills in everyday living to change maladaptive behaviors.

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) is a form of therapy in which patients learn to improve their relationships with others by better expressing their emotions and solving problems in healthier ways. IPT helps patients resolve or adapt to troubling life events, build social skills and organize their relationships to increase support for coping with depressive symptoms and life stressors.

Psychotherapy may involve only the individual, but it can include others. For example, family or couple’s therapy can help address issues within these close relationships. During your therapy with me I may ask you to bring in a family member for a session or two if you are comfortable and think it would be helpful.

In your therapy sessions with me we will:

Pinpoint the life problems that contribute to your depression and help you understand which aspects of those problems you may be able to solve or improve

I will guide you to identify options for the future and set realistic goals that enable you to enhance your mental and emotional well-being. I also help you identify how you have successfully dealt with similar feelings if you have been depressed in the past.

Identify negative or distorted thinking patterns that contribute to your feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that accompany depression

For example, depressed individuals may tend to overgeneralize, that is, to think of circumstances in terms of "always" or "never." They may also take events personally. I can help nurture a more positive outlook on life.

Explore other learned thoughts and behaviors that create problems and contribute to depression

For example, I can help you understand and improve patterns of interacting with other people that have contributed to your depression.

Help you regain a sense of control and pleasure in your life

Psychotherapy helps people see choices as well as gradually incorporate enjoyable, fulfilling activities back into their lives. I will help develop skills to cope with symptoms and problems and identify or prevent future episodes of depression, and we will set realistic goals for the future.

There is no one "right" approach to therapy. I work closely with their patients to create tailored treatment plans to address their unique needs and concerns. I will help you learn ways to better cope with stress and manage your symptoms of depression. Depending on the severity of the depression, treatment can take a few weeks or much longer. In many cases, significant improvement can be made in 10 to 15 sessions.

Please contact me to schedule an appointment or a free 15 minute phone consultation.


We Must Be Willing to Let Go of the Life we have Planned so as to Have the Life that is Waiting for Us

Constructive Strategies for Rational Living, LLC
Patti Lyons, LMFT


57 Executive Park South NE
Ste 360
Atlanta, GA 30329

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