Is My Sadness Depression?

Depression is a pathological mental issue for many Americans.  It can make many adults, as well as teens, feel worthless and aimless in life.  The ironic nature of this disorder is that it usually owes its source to no particular loss.  It is a more a general feeling of low self-esteem, lethargy,  and sadness.  One feels hopeless.  One loses interests in activities or being around others in general.  One loses energy to move sometimes even out of bed.  The disorder can come and go, persist or move with the seasons.

Understanding the differences between depression and normal grief, even complicated grief is important.  The American Academy of Grief Counseling has posted numerous blogs and videos on the issues of depression, complicated grief, prolonged grief and normal grief.  It is very important to understand when one has a pathological grief.  While no one person is the same in grieving, there are signs that can lead to what is more nefarious forms of grief or sadness.

In general, grief over a particular loss, consists in a period of 6 months to 1 year.  Note already, even complications in grief are usually associated with a particular loss or event, something which depression is not.  For those who experience a loss that is more traumatic, or sudden, there is always a greater chance of complications than if the loss was “normal”.  Even if perceived as normal, complications can exist.

Is the sadness your experiencing natural grief, complicated grief or depression? It is important to find out


Individuals who suffer a loss can experience prolonged grief within the 6 month period and it can persist well beyond the 1 year period.  These sudden feelings of sadness once associated with depression, are in themselves their own pathology.  The emotions in prolonged grief are more intense over an extended period of time and they center around the loss.  Lack of association with others or places that correlate with the individual are avoided. Disinterest in life is generally focused and centered around the loss too, as well as extreme emotional guilt or regret centered around the loss of person. All of these intense feelings flood into the person’s overall life. In contrast, depression is a more general loss of hope, a more general dissociation from places and activities.

Individuals can also, unfortunately, suffer from both depression and prolonged grief.  Certified Grief Counselors need to send any clients who show these symptoms to therapists or Licensed Professional Counselors.  A Certified Grief Counselor who is not also a Licensed Professional Counselor is not permitted by law to work with these cases.

Due to this, diagnosis of depression or any type of grief complications are reserved for therapists.

The article, “Detecting and Diagnosing Depression: It Can Look Different in Men and Women and in Teenagers, Too” by Joseph Bennington-Castro takes a closer look at diagnosing depression and the extreme importance of detecting depression early.   He lists the numerous symptoms for depression in adults and teens as well as in men and women.  He also gives additional resources for help for those who feel depressed and think these symptoms may match their behavior.  The article states,

“Depression doesn’t affect all people in exactly the same way, but the illness is associated with particular signs and symptoms. There is a minimum number of symptoms needed for a clinical diagnosis of depression, but the combination and exact number of symptoms in each person can vary. If you have been experiencing some of the following symptoms for most of the day, almost every day, for two weeks or more, you may be struggling with depression”

“Detecting and Diagnosing Depression: It Can Look Different in Men and Women and in Teenagers, Too”. Joseph Bennington-Castro. September 6th, 2022. EveryDayHealth.

To review the article, please click here


Bennington-Castro in his article lists a variety of symptoms for depression that occur within a day to two week period or more.  If someone experiences many of these symptoms without any root loss or cause, then one should seek professional help to treat depression.

Depression can haunt many lives if left untreated. Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification


Types of Depression

There are several types of depression that researchers have identified. The most common types are major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, and bipolar disorder. Major depressive disorder is characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in activities that lasts for at least two weeks. Dysthymic disorder is a less severe form of depression that can last for years. Bipolar disorder is characterized by periods of depression alternated with periods of mania.

Signs of Depression

The symptoms of depression can be divided into two categories: somatic and psychological. The somatic symptoms of depression include fatigue, changes in appetite, weight loss or gain, sleep disturbances, and slowed thinking and movement. The psychological symptoms of depression include feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and hopelessness, as well as loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed. Some people may experience thoughts of death or suicide when they are depressed.

There are a number of conditions that must be met in order to diagnose someone with depression. First, the person must have a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in activities. Second, the person must have at least four of the following symptoms: changes in appetite or weight, sleep problems, fatigue or low energy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, and thoughts of death or suicide.  These conditions are based on a period of time persisting over two weeks.  Unlike complicated grief, most cases of depression have no primary source of loss, although depression can coincide with an already existing loss and amplify it.

Causes of Depression

Depression is a mental disorder that is characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Depression can be caused by a number of factors, including genetic predisposition, brain chemistry, life events, and medical conditions.  It could be due to a chemical imbalance in the brain, it could be due to stressful life events, or it could be a combination of both. Depression is also often hereditary, so if you have a family member who suffers from depression, you may be more likely to experience it yourself.

Treatment for Depression

Depression is a serious mental illness that affects millions of people around the world. While there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for depression, there are many effective treatments available. These include medication, psychotherapy, and self-care strategies. Medication can be an effective treatment for depression, especially when used in combination with psychotherapy. Commonly prescribed medications for depression include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and mood stabilizers.


Depression can affect all genders and ages.  It can be caused by numerous factors but usually has no true source in itself.  The feelings of despair and loss of hope are more general than acute and persist for over 2 weeks.  There are a variety of physical and mental symptoms.  It is important to note that Grief Counselors that are not Licensed Professional Counselors cannot treat depression.  While Prolonged Grief can seem to appear as depression, it is a different disorder, hence it is extremely important to have an accurate diagnosis if one has some type of depression in order to receive the necessary counseling and medication that may be needed.

Please also review The American Academy of Grief Counseling’s, Grief Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification as a Grief Counselor.

Additional Resources

“What distinguishes prolonged grief disorder from depression?”. Pål Kristensen, Kari Dyregrov, Atle Dyregrov.  November 16th, 2022. Tidsskr Nor Legeforen 2017. 137: 538-9.  Access here

“Complicated Grief vs. Depression”. Tim Jewell. December 8th, 2017. Healthline. Access here

“Conditions Related to Depression”. Julie Davis.  July 17th, 2021. WebMD. Access here

“Teen depression”. Mayo Clinic. Access here