There are times in just about everyone's life when the question, "Am I suffering from depression?" emerges. The mere fact that you are asking yourself this question though isn't necessarily a reason to search for a prescription for an antidepressant.

Clinical depression can be distinguished from simply feeling down or out of sorts. There are certain objectively identifiable symptoms that come along when a person is clinically depressed:

How badly and tirelessly has your mood affected your sleep patterns? Are you suffering from insomnia or are you forever sleeping?

Do things that you once liked - such as your family and friends - no longer bring you any pleasure?

Are you irritable and cantankerous, burst into argument with little if any provokation?

Do you have recurring thoughts of death or suicide. Do these often become overwhelming and all-consuming?

Humans do feel upset and grieve from time to time. This is a normal part of life. However, clinical depression is persistent and stubbornly resilient. Friends can tell you to snap out your black mood, but if you are sincerely in a depressive state, it is not within your power to comply. Often too it is challenging for you to pinpoint a specific reason for your agony. You know that you are deeply distraught, irritated or angry, and can give a hundred good reasons to justify your mood, but you're not truly sure about what the source of the pain is!

So are you suffering from depression or just going through a rocky period?

Life changing events and misfortunes, like a death in the family or a divorce, can throw you into a dark chasm of terror and gloom. This is to be expected. This type of pain is not to be diagnosed as an illness, as there is good reason for the negative emotions and feelings of dread. Not all pain and fear is a sign of illness. Healthy folks get anxious and fearful too. The difference is that their fears are realistic.

Grieving over the loss of someone close or over the collapse of a relationship is also normal and healthy, and should not be avoided. Indeed, geninue depression is sometimes the outcome of when the grieving process has been cut short and not allowed to run its course!

So how do we know when mental distress has become a depression that needs treatment? It's when the painful emotions persist beyond the normal grieving period, or when they become all encompassing, or when there is no obvious foundation for the pain, that it is time to look for professional help.

If you are looking to give yourself a self-diagnosis, ask yourself if your state of mind is interfering with your ability to carry on normally. Are you able to complete your usual tasks to satisfaction, in spite of your current outlook? Are you able to sustain healthy relationships with co-workers, good friends and family?

These sorts of questions are never easy to answer, particularly if you are in the emotional throws of a life changing event. If in doubt though, always err on the side of caution, and talk to a professional.

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For more information on the signs of depression visit What is Depression?