Depression vs the Blues. What is the Difference?

When Life gets you down!
Everyone experiences low mood from time to time. Days that feel like there is a dark cloud hanging over your head and nothing seems to be going your way. Sometimes this can go on for a few days or weeks especially if you are going through a rough patch. This is often referred to as ‘the blues’ and more often than not people eventually lift themselves out of it and carry on with their lives. But what if the blues start to become a cycle, where your mood drops for no apparent reason and you’re unable to just snap out of it. You can’t quite put your finger on why you are feeling the way you are feeling and for so long. When this is the case- you might be dealing with depression.

What is Depression?
Many variables play a role in the development of mental health issues. Among those include genetics, environment, relational stressors, poverty, and so forth. Difficult financial situations make people much more vulnerable to developing mental health problems and thus it is reported that people who live in poverty are more likely to develop mental illness. A rather large portion of blacks living within Canada falls below the poverty line making it statistically likely that there are more individuals within this community that are candidates for mental illnesses. Sadly, these same individuals suffer in silence and don’t seek treatment.

When a person has experienced a traumatic event such as losing a loved one or the breakdown of a relationship, it is understandable and even expected that their temperament would change temporarily. In such cases, the cause and effect is known and foreseeable. However, more often than not when one is experiencing depression, it can come on subtly over a few days, weeks or even months. People who have depression can find themselves sleeping or eating much more than usual or not eating or sleeping at all.

Additional Signs to Look for!
Things that would usually help you feel better don’t.
These can be referred to as coping strategies. They’re the things we do to try and make ourselves feel better. A relaxing bath, speaking to a close friend, taking it out at the gym or going out for a nice meal. Everyone has different strategies to cope with feeling bad; but when these traditional techniques no longer help it can be a sign that your ‘bad’ mood is something more.

No longer enjoy activities
A key to good mental health is having things that are meaningful and enjoyable. These are hobbies, outings with friends or events that you look forward to and like doing. When depression hits, many find themselves cancelling social events and not wanting to socialize with others. When you find yourself withdrawing or turning inwards, it is a sign of something more than the blues.

Not able to see things getting better
When depression hits, it can seem like there is NO light at the end of the tunnel.It is not uncommon to have thoughts like “I don’t want to be here anymore” or “It would be better if I was dead”. As scary as this is, many depressed people find themselves pondering on suicide. If and when such thoughts enter your mind, it is time to seek professional treatment.

DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria

The DSM-5 outlines the following criterion to make a diagnosis of depression. The individual must be experiencing five or more symptoms during the same 2-week period and at least one of the symptoms should be either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure.

Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
To receive a diagnosis of depression, these symptoms must cause the individual clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The symptoms must also not be a result of substance abuse or another medical condition.

What we do!
If you identify as black, African or from Caribbean heritage and you believe you may be suffering from the symptoms of depression, our organization can help. Black Mental Health Canada (BMHC) will provide low-income, at-risk individuals in the black community access to affordable, evidence-based mental health services and education in the face of stigma, risk factors, and barriers to care.

Don’t suffer in silence and don’t suffer alone!

Call 289-432-1377