Depression vs. “Feeling Depressed”

“Oh my God, I’m just so depressed.” We’ve all heard it before. Our friend or coworker or parent says it and we know what it means immediately. But does that mean that its meaning is as simple as we perceive it to be?

As someone who is clinically depressed, I know that whoever uses the word “depression” in that way never intends to do me or anyone else harm. But it’s important to know the difference between that and clinical depression. More people need to be educated about what depression really is as well as alternatives to the oh-so-common phrase. So, let’s get to the bottom of “Depression vs. Feeling Depressed” debate:

Major Depressive Disorder, as defined in the DSM-5, is “depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities for more than two weeks.” So no, if your favorite TV show gets canceled or the barista doesn’t get your Starbucks order right, “feeling depressed” doesn’t cover it. It’s much more than your everyday ailments and struggles; the disorder can be crippling and hinder life in general. To give you an idea of what depression looks like, I’ll describe what my average day was before medication:

I’d wake up. I’d go back to sleep. I’d wake up at 3 P.M. I wouldn’t eat until 5. I’d hear a song and get taken back to an old memory. I’d start to cry. I’d drop something on the floor. I’d get irrationally riled up about it. I’d watch TV for 10 hours and fall asleep. I’d do it all over again.

So here’s how we can change the way we talk about depression: For starters, we can try to understand what depression is and know the signs so we can help other people. We can also try to expand our vocabulary and use more basic words. For instance, you could say you’re “sad,” “disappointed,” “angry,” etc. It takes work to get to a point where it’s automatic, but that’s okay.

What’s important to the mentally ill like myself is that other people try to be more conscientious and understand our points of view. It is important to educate others on what depression really is as a disorder and recognize that it is also okay to be depressed. It’s okay not to be okay and it encouraged to speak out about it. The way we change how we talk about mental illness is by keeping open hearts and minds.