When I wrote Dealing With Depression Doesn’t Mean You’re Crazy, I was amazed at the heartfelt response from the Sixty and Me readers.

Many commented on experiencing what I always called “the black cloud” after such life changes as divorce, loss of job, loss of income, isolation, the death of a spouse or parent and a loss I cannot even begin to imagine… the loss of a child or grandchild.

Everyone experiences feelings of sadness and being overwhelmed at times. And let’s not forget about the healthy response called anger! But I wondered about the whole spectrum of normal reactions to what life throws at us over a life time and the debilitating spiral into depression that can result in some cases.

When is Feeling Sad or Blue Normal?

Sadness is a normal human emotion. It is usually triggered by some disappointing incident or experience. You can often pinpoint WHY you feel sad. My golden retriever died after 13 years; my son lost his job; my best friend’s mother died.

Sadness is an emotion. Over time, the sadness fades as we deal with the adjustment to the situation.

On the other hand, when the feelings of unhappiness are intense and persistent – and they don’t go away even when things are better – this could be depression. The medical term for this is “major depressive disorder” or “clinical depression.”

A clinical depression is an abnormal emotional state causing one to feel sad about everything. As Dr. Guy Winch says, “Depression colors all aspects of our lives.” Hence, the relationship between feeling depressed and being in a black cloud.

How is Depression Diagnosed?

When you seek help from your doctor or other health care provider, he or she will rule out any physical health problems. You will likely have a physical exam, lab tests, and a psychological evaluation including a series of questions about:

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in doing things you normally enjoy
  • Feelings of being hopeless or helpless
  • Trouble falling asleep or sleeping too much
  • Lack of energy
  • Change in appetite – loss of interest in food or eating more than usual
  • Feeling bad about yourself – feeling like a failure
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Moving or speaking more slowly or being fidgety and moving around more than usual
  • Thoughts that you might want to hurt yourself in some way

A diagnosis will depend on a number of factors including how many of the symptoms you have (you don’t need to experience all the symptoms to be diagnosed with depression) and how long the symptoms have lasted.

As you know, I am not a doctor or a health care provider but I do recognize there is a huge spectrum from feeling sad to being depressed. I am also a big advocate for enjoying life and taking care of yourself as you get older. That includes all aspects of your health – physical and mental.

The Canadian Mental Health Association promotes “mental health for all.” They have what I think is a great definition of mental health.

“Mental health means striking a balance in all aspects of your life: social, physical, spiritual, economic and mental. Reaching a balance is a learning process. At times, you may tip the balance too much in one direction and have to find your footing again. Your personal balance will be unique, and your challenge will be to stay mentally healthy by keeping that balance.”

As we get older, balance is certainly important. We have to stay physically active, socially active, eat properly and plan for our futures to ensure we maintain our precious independence.

You owe it to yourself see if you are suffering from depression. If your feelings of sadness have gone on too long and are basically ruining your life, it’s time to act.

I have found amazing websites that have pinpointed positive ways to deal with mental health. Many people have found ways to improve their mental health through diet, exercise, yoga, support groups, journaling…

The Canadian Mental Health Association has an interesting tool called the Mental Health Meter. It gives you a score on your ability to enjoy life, resilience, balance, self-actualization and flexibility.

Healthy active aging is all about being aware and taking control of our health and happiness. You can take the test for yourself – but remember it is not a scientific test, simply a method to help you take stock. It might be just the nudge you need to make a few changes.

Oh my… I need to work on my life balance!

How did you do? Were you surprised at the results? Let’s have a conversation and take control of our own healthy active aging! 

Suzanne Mulligan-BornSuzanne Mulligan-Born is the Founder of Healthy Active Seniors – a site for seniors who want to get better with age! As a writer for over 25 years, Suzanne uses her personal experience and research skills to reveal the 3 keys to long-term health and independence. You too can learn to unlock the mystery and uncover the blueprint for healthy active living. Get her free special report “The Surprising Secret to Aging Well”.

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