“Why Am I So Sad?” Persistent Sadness as a Mental Health Symptom
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Persistent feelings of unexplained sadness can cast a shadow over your whole world. And not knowing the reason behind your emotions can make it extremely difficult to explain your experience to others, leading to frustration and a sense of isolation. 

If you’ve been struggling to cope with persistent, unexplained sadness, it’s important to know that isolating yourself can make matters worse.

While easier said than done, in some cases, talking with a friend or family member can make a significant, positive impact on your mood. In other cases, talking to a trusted loved one just might be the first brave step toward addressing an underlying mental health issue. Either way, the path to alleviating sadness requires support.

Feeling sad is a characteristic of these 4 mental health disorders 

Quite a few mental health disorders are characterized by feelings of persistent sadness, for example:

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD) — Persistent and overwhelming sadness is one of the most prevalent symptoms of MDD, also known as depression. It’s often coupled with feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest in activities and social withdrawal. Diagnostic criteria for depression include feeling constantly sad for two weeks. 
  • Bipolar disorderBipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). During depressive episodes, which can last for weeks or longer, individuals may experience persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness or guilt. Without support, treatment intervention and adherence, bipolar disorder can significantly impact daily functioning and quality of life.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — If a person experiences, witnesses or learns about a traumatic event, it can cause negative thoughts and emotions for years after it occurs. People with PTSD can have pervasive feelings of sadness and anger, especially if they are triggered by a reminder of the traumatic event. 
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) — While GAD, usually known simply as anxiety, is often characterized by feelings of worry and uncertainty, it’s linked to feelings of sadness. Due to the stress response, or “fight-or-flight response,” that’s activated from anxiety, a person can experience emotional instability, possibly causing sadness.

Sadness from one disorder can trigger symptoms of another. For example, it’s common to have depression and anxiety at the same time. Also, people with PTSD are up to five times more likely to experience episodes of depression than those without it.

How to get a formal diagnosis for a mental health disorder in which sadness is a symptom

Asking yourself, “Why am I so sad?” is a significant first step toward addressing negative emotional patterns. 

The next step is talking to your health care provider about how you’re feeling. If they determine that your sadness may be a sign of a mental health disorder, they can refer you for an evaluation by a psychotherapist or psychiatrist. At Lightfully, we can also provide you with an assessment with one of our licensed clinicians.

A mental health care professional will ask you about how your sadness interferes with your quality of life as well as your cognitive, emotional and behavioral patterns. Using psychological evaluations as well as criteria outlined by the fifth edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, they can assess if you have a mental health disorder that may be contributing to your sadness.

How to reduce sadness from a mental health disorder

With treatment, you can learn to manage your symptoms, cope with sadness and improve your quality of life. Your treatment plan may include a variety of approaches such as therapy, medication, lifestyle changes and support groups. It’s important to work closely with your health care provider to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs. Remember, you are not alone, and help is available. 

Here are some options for reducing sadness:

  • Self-care — One of the best ways to combat persistent sadness is through self-care. By taking care of your body through habits like exercising on a regular basis, eating enough nutrients and regulating your sleep schedule, you may be able to improve your mood and reduce negative thoughts and emotional patterns. However, it’s important to acknowledge that severe sadness often requires more comprehensive treatment, such as therapy or medication. 
  • Creative outlet — It’s not always easy to express your sadness in words. While sadness can sometimes feel like it takes over every inch of your body, it’s not easy to describe. That’s why finding a creative outlet, such as drawing, dancing or writing poetry, can make a big difference. It gives you a way to showcase and process your emotions.
  • Psychotherapy — One of the first courses of action following any mental health disorder is psychotherapy. By regularly talking to a licensed clinical therapist, either individually, in a group setting or in a family setting, you can determine the root cause of your disorder symptoms, talk through situations that are causing your sadness and learn coping mechanisms to use in the future.

Lightfully Behavioral Health can help if your sadness becomes overwhelming

If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, the proper treatment can make a huge difference in alleviating your negative emotions, especially if the sadness has become overwhelming and is interfering with your daily functions. At Lightfully, we provide compassionate, evidence-based, clearly defined, data-driven and whole-person-centered care.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to find answers, visit our Contact Us page to ask about an assessment. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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