Depression and unhappiness might seem to go hand in hand, but they aren’t the same thing, and they don’t necessarily co-exist. Unhappiness is not being happy, being sad, or being unsatisfied with life. Having a “low mood” defines both unhappiness and depression.
The difference lies in the duration, the other symptoms, and the trigger. Normally, unhappiness has a reason you can point to. You might be sad about losing a job or breaking up with a significant other. You might not be satisfied in life for any number of reasons but working to change that helps lift your mood.
Unhappiness tends to be short in duration and to lift with venting or doing things to change your situation. Unhappiness might only last a few hours, or it might come and go as you work to make things better.
Depression is different. It’s a state of chronically low mood, sometimes of hopelessness and despondency. It doesn’t require a trigger; some people seem to have everything they want and yet are still depressed.
That’s because depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. It’s an illness, not a mood or state of mind. It doesn’t respond to the usual attempts to alleviate sadness and unhappiness.
The symptoms of depression go beyond just being unhappy. They include loss of interest in things you enjoy, weight loss or gain, chronic fatigue, insomnia, inability to concentrate, feeling worthless or guilty, loss of decision-making ability, and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide. That’s a lot more than just being unhappy!
One of the criteria for diagnosing depression is the length of symptoms. Some people can lapse into a short period of depression following a major life event, such as the death of a loved one, but usually bounce out of it in quick order. Major depression involves symptoms lasting at least two weeks.
If you’re depressed, you can do everything right to make yourself happy, from working on your goals to supporting your mindset. You can eat right, exercise, meditate, and work on your relationships. But it won’t be enough. This is due to the nature of the illness.
Does any of this sound like you? If so, then you might be depressed instead of just unhappy. Depression is not something you treat by yourself. You need help. Please go see a doctor or licensed therapist to get treatment. Successful treatments for depression include cognitive-behavioural therapy and medication.
If you are contemplating suicide, please call the Samaritans on 116 123 . And always remember that you’re valuable and have worth!