Am I depressed? Or do I have Depression?

There’s an easy way to determine if you suffer from Major (aka, Clinical) Depression, or if you’re just depressed, aka feeling blue.

To clarify, when I say depressed, with a lower-case “d,” I’m referring to the emotion. It’s the temporary feeling that comes and goes like every other emotion, and is caused by circumstances. When I say Depression with a capital “D,” I’m referring to the chronic mental illness that’s not always reactionary, but is always beyond your control.

Say you’re feeling down, and it’s a sensation that won’t go away. How do you know if something deeper is going on in the old noggin’, or if you’re just in a slump that’s a little harder to shake off than usual? Is it Depression or depression?

Here’s a really big clue: Your behavior around others can reveal which one you’re experiencing.

When you’re depressed, you don’t care who knows it. You tell people, you tell them why you’re feeling that way, and you want someone to sympathize with you. Emotional depression comes with the implication that it’s a temporary condition. Just like happiness or anger, depression will go away after a while. And — and this is crucial — it’s “normal.”

If you suffer from Major Depression, you go out of your way to fake seeming normal. You hide it with every ounce of energy you have. And I think that’s largely because of the societal stigma that’s still attached to mental illness. You don’t want your friends or loved ones to think there’s something really wrong with you. And that’s not even necessarily a selfish act; you may do it to keep your family from worrying.

Major Depression, the mental illness, is not temporary. It’s chronic. So you hide it, because you don’t want anyone to think that you’re becoming a nutjob who’s going to wind up in a mental hospital on suicide watch.

So here’s your litmus test:

  • If you’re depressed, you show it.
  • If you suffer from Depression, you instinctually hide it.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor and this is not a formal diagnostic tool. But if there’s a dark cloud hanging over you that won’t go away, and you find yourself actively hiding it from those around you… Please call a psychiatrist. Now.