Mental Health: Ask Dr. Alan – Do I have Depression?

Mental Health: Ask Dr. Alan – Do I have Depression?

By Natalie Taylor


I find myself to be sad about all the terrible situations regarding the Covid virus that I hear about on TV or read in my hometown newspaper. I’ve even burst into tears after reading about someone I knew, but certainly wasn’t close to. Do I have depression?


Sadness is an emotion that all human beings feel at some times in their lives. Sadness is a transient condition, similar to all other emotions that people feel, and it typically goes away when the source of the pain or the upset diminishes. Depression, on the other hand, is a form of mental disorder that lasts longer, is more intense, and has a greater negative effect on activities of daily living. Being very sad about a particular situation or event can also stretch out in time, but a long-term bout of sadness is not seen by most therapists as the medical problem that a depressive condition can be. Sadness is just one component of depression, that also includes symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue, guilt, poor concentration, and anhedonia (complete lack of interest in activities that are typically of interest and give pleasure). Anhedonia is actually a core symptom of depressive disorder.


So what happens when you turn on the TV to listen to the latest bad news, or a friend tells you about someone who acquired Covid-19 and then inadvertently passed it on to someone else? These are sad situations and can cause us to feel sad, low, or moody. But what if you are one of the people who has lost a close family member? This is a major sadness that can last for weeks and become a depression that may be difficult to stop. Most of us experience the somewhat fleeting sad bits of news that can occur multiple times in a week or even over a few days, and is quite normal and understanding. Sadness is one of the four main human emotions—happiness, sadness, fear, and anger and is felt by nearly 100% of individuals at one time or another. But deeper bouts of depression, have an incidence of about 12% in men and 20% in women, a much lesser occurrence than simply sadness. 


Humans shed tears in response to a wide range of emotions, sadness being but one of those. It certainly does not necessarily signal a depressive condition. Crying releases pent-up emotions that might hurt more if stifled. Crying can allow us to express emotions that may be more difficult to convey with words. It is very easy to envision the whole world as being somewhat sad lately. There are so many negative events and situations that cause us to be either angry or sad, depending on our views and opinions. The Covid pandemic is one of, if not the most significant major event occurring in the world, and it is certainly worthy of a good cry.


Alan Leavens PhD, is a California licensed Clinical Psychologist, living and working in SMA. For questions or concerns that you wish him to address, please email: