12/14/2011 04:09 pm ET | Updated Feb 13, 2012

Identifying Depression

People often confuse clinical depression with sadness. That's a mistake. You can be sad without being depressed and vice versa. Sadness is a normal reaction to many life circumstances, such as bereavement, loss of a job or a financial setback. When these things happen, sadness is to be expected.

Depression is a different type of beast, a "black dog," as Winston Churchill often used when describing his own signs and symptoms. How do you know if you're depressed and not just sad? Here are seven tell-tale signs, which may exist even in the absence of sadness.

Seven Signs You Might Have Depression:

If you diagnose yourself as having one or more of these symptoms, especially feelings that life is not worth living, you would certainly be well-advised to consult a qualified professional.

• Running on empty
• Nothing seems like fun anymore; life seems dreary
• Putting yourself down
• Failure -- at work and in relationships
• The future looks bleak
• Life seems not worth living
• Biological disturbances -- in sleeping, eating, weight and sex drive

The last symptoms are particularly suggestive of a real clinical depression, and are often called vegetative symptoms of depression.

Vegetative symptoms of depression often cluster into two different types of depression. In one type, people tend to eat less, sleep less and lose weight. The other type is just the reverse. People tend to eat more (often craving sweets and starches), sleep more and gain weight. The first type of person may be more likely to be agitated, while the second type may be more likely to be lethargic.

The good news is that both types tend to respond to antidepressant medications and psychotherapy (especially cognitive behavior therapy), as well as healthy habits such as exercise and reaching out to friends and family.

Wishing you light and transcendence,


Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Copyright Norman Rosenthal.