Joyful Musings

By Joy Birnbach Dunstan, MA, LPC, MAC
Understanding Depression


Yesterday I received an email from a professional organization reminding me that October 7 is National Depression Screening Day. Depression is a word we hear a lot these days, but I got to wondering how many people really understand the difference between sadness and clinical depression.

While sadness is a painful feeling, it is not a sign of illness. When a person suffers a major loss, it’s normal to feel sad. It would be unhealthy not to feel sadness in at a time like that. Sadness is horrible to feel, but it is a part of the healing process. Sadness is not a sickness, and it generally won’t develop into depression.

Clinical depression, on the other hand, is different. People who already tend to depression may have it triggered by an episode of sadness, but depression can also happen without any connection or apparent trigger.

In any given year, approximately ten percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older suffers from major depression, and women are affected at nearly twice the rate of men. Here’s a brief quiz to see how much you know about this surprisingly common affliction.

1. Which age group is most likely to experience depression?

A. 16-24

B. 25-44

C. 45-49

D. 50+

2. A major cause of depression in women is the inability to express or handle:

A. Joy

B. Sadness

C. Anger

D. Jealousy

3. Which of these behaviors is characteristic of depression?

A. Hyperactivity

B. Loss of interest in things formerly enjoyed

C. Rapid mood swings

D. Unexplained aggression

4. What is the best way to treat a depressed friend?

A. Be a good listener

B. Encourage them to spend time alone

C. Ignore them

D. Be upbeat and cheerful

5. Which of these may be harmful if you are trying to help a depressed friend?

A. Telling them they should snap out of it

B. Analyzing their problem

C. Schedule leisure activities

D. Both A & B

6. Some symptoms of depression include:

A. Sadness, sleep problems, lack of pleasure, increased use of drugs or alcohol, fatigue

B. Thoughts of suicide, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, guilt

C. Excess energy, spending sprees and hypersexuality

D. Both A & B

7. Talk about suicide should not always be taken seriously.

A. True

B. False

8. What dietary changes can help depression?

A. Avoid sugar

B. Avoid caffeine

C. Avoid alcohol

D. All of the above

The correct answers are: 1B, 2C, 3B, 4A, 5D, 6D, 7B, 8D.

Occasional sadness is part of life. Know what to do and when to ask for help if the sadness gets too intense or just won’t go away.

Editor’s Note: Joy is a practicing psychotherapist in Riberas. She can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 765-4988

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