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How do I know if I’m really depressed or just extra cranky?

Dr. Roshini Raj
June 02, 2015

How do I know if I’m really depressed or just extra cranky?

Depression is more than just feeling down or crabby. It’s caused by a chemical imbalance in your brain that usually affects your mind and body. So while feeling sad is one sign of depression, there are usually also physical clues, such as changes in appetite (typically loss of appetite), insomnia, frequent tearfulness and extreme lethargy. You may also stop enjoying activities you used to love. As long as your bad mood isn’t causing problems at home or work or interfering with your ability to get through your daily routine, it’s probably not depression.

We don’t know exactly what causes depression, but many people with the disorder have lower levels of neurotransmitters, brain chemicals that are directly linked to mood. Most doctors will prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), like Prozac or Zoloft, or serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), like Effexor or Cymbalta, to increase neurotransmitters. It’s also a good idea to talk to a mental health professional.

Just remember that there is no reason to suffer. Depression is a real illness and, thankfully, there are plenty of good treatment options for it.

Health‘s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and co-founder of Tula Skincare.

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