Sadness Versus Depression
The million-dollar question is whether you are just sad or depressed.
Everyone experiences sadness, bad days, and bad moods. Feeling sad is not the same thing as depression. Sadness is characterized by sad feelings, whereas the main feature of depression is numbness. The main thing to remember about sadness versus depression is that sadness lifts, while depression persists. Feelings of sadness and grief are de? nitely common and normal in an in?nite variety of circumstances.
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Symptoms of Unipolar Depression
It’s impossible to de? ne what a normal mood is, since we all have such complex personalities and exhibit different moods throughout a given week, or even a given day. But it’s not impossible for you to de? ne what a normal mood is for you. You know how you feel when you’re functional: you’re eating, sleeping, interacting with friends and family, and being productive, active, and generally interested in the daily goings-on in life. Depression is when you feel you’ve lost the ability to function for a prolonged period of time, or, even if you’re functioning at a reasonable level as seen by the outside world, you’ve lost interest in participating in life.
The symptoms of unipolar depression vary from person to person but can include some or all of the following:
• Feelings of sadness and/or “empty” mood
• Difficulty sleeping (usually waking up frequently in the middle of the night)
• Loss of energy and feelings of fatigue and lethargy
• Change in appetite (usually a loss of appetite)
• Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
• Loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities, including sex
• Anxiety or panic attacks (this may also be a symptom of thyrotoxicosis
• Obsessing over negative experiences or thoughts
• Feeling guilty, worthless, hopeless, or helpless
• Feeling restless and irritable
• Thinking about death or suicide
Managing Unipolar Depression
When your depression is related to life events, talk therapy is the ? rst logical step. Talk therapy can also be combined with antidepressant medications. Before you accept antidepressant medications, make sure to have a thyroid function test to detect for mild, moderate, or severe hypothyroidism. Many people who are diagnosed with depression and have mild hypothyroidism report improvement when they are treated with thyroid hormone. However, when you have a thyroid condition and depression independently of one another, the fact that your depression persists after your thyroid problem is treated does not necessarily mean your thyroid is acting up again.
Anxiety, Panic Disorder, and Thyroid Disease
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic attacks are commonly confused with or aggravated by thyrotoxicosis. As previously outlined, when you’re thyrotoxic, the number of beta-adrenergic receptors increase in your body’s cells. This makes you much more sensitive to the effects of your own adrenaline and, even if you are ordinarily able to cope with various stressors, predisposes you to panic attacks and greater anxiety. The key to managing panic attacks and anxiety related to thyrotoxicosis is treatment with a beta-blocker.
Obviously, not everyone who suffers from anxiety and panic is thyrotoxic. You can be coping with other types of thyroid problems and become anxious from worrying about your thyroid condition.
And, of course, you have a life outside of your thyroid condition. In the general population, other causes of anxiety are usually normal, garden-variety problems. Worrying about jobs, ? nances, relationships, and health are all common reasons for anxiety. But when you’re under increased stress, normal worries can cross over into anxiety and low-level anxiety can also worsen.
Managing Anxiety and Panic
If you’ve ruled out thyrotoxicosis and do not require a beta-blocker, talk therapy (speci?cally, cognitive behavioral therapy) is an excellent way to manage anxiety and panic. This style of therapy can teach you to anticipate the situations and bodily sensations that are associated with panic attacks; having this awareness can help you control the attacks. There are also a number of mental exercises that can help you control hyperventilating or fearful thoughts that could heighten the panic in the throes of an attack. For instance, by replacing the thought “I’m going to faint” with “I’m just hyperventilating—I can handle this,” panic attacks can be calmed before the “complete fear” takes over and the symptoms worsen.
Your doctor may also prescribe antidepressants or tranquilizers, depending on how severe your anxiety and panic are and whether they are affecting your ability to function normally.