Today you don't feel like yourself. Usually, you greet people with a smile, reply with energy when talked to and socialize whenever the opportunity shows up. But not today. Today you have decided to lock yourself up away from the world around you and stay there till you feel better. All this because today morning in the office your boss yelled at you for no reason whatsoever. You felt as if you had been wronged. And what happens when something unexpected and unreasonable happens to us overpowering our capacity of comprehension? 

We feel sad. We go to bed with a heavy heart, crying occasionally in the process, get up in the morning, and get out there back to the office to do what we do. We get on with life. Sadness is a human emotion that we experience on a daily basis. It can't be eradicated. It is a common human reaction to anything hurtful that happens to us. Agreed, it makes us feel awful as long as it lasts; but it eventually subsides and gives way to more pleasant emotions and a healthy state of mind. So the question is when we all have been sad at one point or another, have we all been depressed? Isn't sadness the same as depression? Can't the words be used interchangeably?  Well, not quite. I am here to explain.

Depression is a mental disorder that happens not due to the circumstances that we find ourselves in, but due to anomalies in the brain that occur when certain chemical changes take place deep within the neurons. Therefore, what's important to understand here is that one needs proper psychiatric help to fight the condition. Telling someone to just snap out of depression by using their will power is like asking someone with a broken leg to just ignore it and run. Here lies a fundamental difference between sadness and depression. The former goes away automatically when things look up, the later gets fortified with time and refuses to budge. To the friend or family member who observes from a distance, it can sometimes be hard to differentiate. For the person affected by it, it is almost always difficult to explain. So much so that it is often easier for him or her to suffer in silence rather than reach out to someone. Allow me to get a bit more technical. 

Explained below are the 9 main symptoms of this ailment we call depression that health experts say will be the next big pandemic in the world.

1. Persistent low mood- You feel down and out throughout the day

2. Lack of interest in previously pleasurable activities- What are your hobbies? What cheers you up? Watching a movie, listening to music, chatting with your best friend? Depression makes all such activities dull. It takes the color out of your life. Nothing feels good anymore.

3. Disturbed sleep- You used to sleep peacefully at night. Depression makes it difficult for you to fall asleep. It wakes you up several times in the middle of the night. You get up early from the bed in the morning and stay drowsy throughout the day because you couldn't sleep well the night before.

4. Disturbed appetite- You were a foodie, Chinese being your favorite cuisine. Now even when mom orders Chinese you don't feel like taking a bite. You have lost weight in the recent past and all your clothes have now become loose.  You know it but you don't care.

5. Lack of energy- Once a tireless worker, now the thought of work makes you feel exhausted. Any mental or physical activity seems Herculean to you. Regardless of how long you rest, the energy void never gets replenished.

6. Lack of concentration- Focusing on the task at hand becomes impossible as the mind is easily diverted to negative thoughts that are residing in it. Routine work takes longer to accomplish, planning for the future goes for a toss.

7. Feeling excessive or inappropriate guilt- You start blaming yourself for mistakes you didn't commit. You start believing that you are the reason for everything that is wrong with the world and are therefore deserving of punishment.

8. Hopelessness, Helplessness and Worthlessness- Does it need any more explaining? You feel that life's over, that's what it means. You feel as if your entire life has been wasted, that no matter what you do you can't change things around, and that there isn't a soul in existence who can help you change it for the better.

9. Suicidal thoughts and attempts- It all comes down to this. Unable to find any other way out of your relentless misery you start wishing you were dead. 

Now one can tell me that most of us have had experienced the symptoms mentioned above in some form or the other in our lives. So have we all been depressed? For someone to have clinical depression he/ she has to experience most of the above-mentioned symptoms regularly with such severity that hampers his/ her occupational, social, or personal life. Job performance falls, relationships fail, the social circle grows smaller and the world collapses. Every minute aspect of life is affected. The efficient social being becomes a shadow of his past. That is what depression is, and it does what it does. 

It doesn't differentiate. Rich or poor, men or women, about 10 percent of the world's population has it. The saddest truth is that only a fraction are actually seeking out treatment. Notwithstanding the atrocity that it appears to be, depression can be treated. Timely interventions, which include medicines called antidepressants along with proper counseling, can bring respite to most people lying within the grasp of this monstrosity. Always remember that seeking help when needed is the greatest sign of strength. Its time we recognized this illness which affects so many of us and makes a difference. So the next time you come across someone who is depressed, don't tell him to be mentally strong and forget about it, do the right thing by seeking psychiatric help at the earliest.