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How do I know if I’m depressed or just unhappy?

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People will sometimes say, “I’m depressed” when they are feeling sad. For some, these feelings quickly pass. But for others, the feelings continue and start to affect their overall quality of life. How do you know if you are truly depressed or just unhappy?

 “Normal” is Unique to You

Everyone gets the blues once in a while. If you’re just kind of down, try to establish some new habits:

  • Eat healthier
  • Sleep a full 8 hours a night
  • Exercise daily
  • See friends and family
  • Enjoy the outdoors
  • Avoid the couch and TV until you’ve earned it

These things can give you a feeling of accomplishment that sometimes breaks the chain of unease or sadness.

But what if it’s more than that? Here are some of the signs that indicate your feelings are more than temporary unhappiness and could be diagnosed as depression.

Duration of Feelings

People who are depressed feel sad most of the day, nearly every day. There is a markedly diminished interest in things that used to make you happy. Looking ahead, nothing on the calendar gives you any pleasure or sense of anticipation.

Physical Health

Those suffering from depression can experience fatigue, loss of energy and a diminished ability to think or concentrate. Everything appears to happen in slow motion, like you’re moving in a fog or sinking in quicksand. Weight loss or weight gain can occur as well as changes in sleep patterns. Sleeping too much or sleeping too little are both signals of a more serious condition.


Depression often manifests as anger. Children and adolescents, who have fewer filters, appear irritable or act out. Adults can too, but they usually have better coping skills. Male adults, however, are prone to lashing out in anger when depressed.

Destructive Thoughts

The things that people think about when they are depressed are most often very negative. Feelings of worthlessness and a sense of failure are common. Recurring thoughts of death can dominate the mind and are impossible to suppress.

Daily Performance

Depression is not just being in bed and crying all the time. Believe it or not, many people with severe depression still perform at a high level. Functioning depression means you can still get up, go to work, and do what needs to get done. These people have found ways to adequately cope with tasks and mimic healthy relations with others. However, the extreme effort this takes usually causes them to crash when they finally are alone and can give in to their true emotional condition.


People often like to think that nothing is wrong. We sweep medical issues under the rug and ignore emotional pain. Functionally depressed people are often in denial. “I go to work, see people, I’m not depressed.” That’s not necessarily true. They function, but they’re not leading a totally healthy life. People in denial still can’t act and feel how they really want to. They’re not just robbing themselves, they’re robbing those around them of what an emotionally healthy version of them would be.


Just because you recognize some of the symptoms mentioned above in yourself doesn’t mean you’re depressed. An actual diagnosis can only be made by a professional, determining a benchmark for what is normal for you and measuring how far your current feelings are from that point.

What to do

First of all, it is important to know that labeling how you feel is not as important as dealing with how the feelings are affecting you. Whether a simple case of the blues or a more serious condition, it is important not to suffer in silence. If you’re not sure, it’s always good to get a professional assessment. You see a medical doctor or dentist regularly for your physical health. An emotional check-up at Stenzel Clinical can also be very beneficial.

Come in and talk with one of our counselors and work on what you’re feeling. No matter what you call it, if you’re upset with how you are feeling and don’t know where you’re going, get some advice that will put you on the correct course. Because feeling better about yourself is what’s really important.