When Feeling Bad Is Good

Many years ago, I read a book by Ellen McGrath with the same title as this blog. McGrath’s focus was on recognizing that the early signs of depression could be a good thing, a warning sign that help is needed. Recently, I revisited this idea since so many people are talking about the depression they feel arising from world and national events that are troubling.

I think all of us can agree that war, isolation from a pandemic, and lack of civility in politics does not make the world an easier place to live in. But what is the difference between a fleeting bad day during which you feel blue or down, and a sense of depression that does not go away.

When something bad happens, it is normal and appropriate to feel bad, but to still be able to function, deal with our jobs and families, and recognize that while you may have less energy or function less well, you will bounce back.

It is when you do not bounce back, and when the depression does not diminish that help is needed. Sometimes this can be due to a severe loss, such as the death of a loved one, or a crisis of confidence due to the loss of a job. Help is also needed when small things, such as a disagreement with a friend or a bad grade on a test, push a person over the edge and the feeling of worry or depression does not lift.

The symptoms of depression are listed below. Depression can be milder and longer-term, or can occur over a shorter period of time, only two weeks, and be more severe.

1. Feeling sad, blue or gloomy

2. Not taking pleasure in things you usually enjoy or not feeling motivated

3. Having trouble going to sleep or staying asleep

4. Eating more or less than normal, or losing or gaining weight without trying

5. Feelings of fatigue or low energy

6. Having trouble concentrating

7. Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt

8. Feeling sluggish mentally and physically, or feeling agitated mentally or physically

9. Having thoughts of suicide

Regardless of which of the above emotions you encounter, if the feelings persist, seek help. Know that mental and emotional problems are just as significant as physical ones and can benefit from the help of a psychologist.