Many people experience periods of sadness during their lifetime. This feeling may last as little as a couple of hours or much longer.
Significant differences exist between clinical depression and sadness, with the latter being a natural reaction to a painful circumstance, such as the death of a relative or a divorce. Depression, however, is a medical condition with several more symptoms than an unhappy mood and normally lasts for more than two weeks. People with depression complain of low energy, sadness or irritability, and an inability to enjoy activities. Other symptoms include concentration problems, memory lapses, difficulty making decisions, changes in eating and sleeping habits, and a preoccupation with thoughts of death or suicide.
Suicidal thoughts or intentions should always be taken seriously, especially if they accompany a history of depression or substance abuse. Suicide risk factors can include:
- Previous suicide attempts
- Possession of weapons, including firearms
- History of sexual or physical abuse
- Physical illness
- Family history of suicidal behavior
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please go to an emergency room, call 911 or a suicide or crisis hotline. In San Diego, you can call 888-724-7240. Nationally, you can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Actions that are cause for concern include:
- Risky or life-threatening behavior
- Withdrawing from activities, family or friends
- Preoccupation with death
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Putting personal affairs in order, including updating, creating or changing a will (in combination with other warning signs)
- Abruptly shifting from being very sad to being very calm or happy