Am I Depressed or Just Despondent?

by Jerry Kennard, Ph.D. Medical Reviewer

If you've ever
had flu you certainly know the difference between that and a head cold. So, is despondency the head cold equivalent as depression is to flu? Many people have all the symptoms of depression but they
try to avoid the prospect of
giving in to a mental illness. With depression comes anxiety and sometimes they worry about being considered self-indulgent and that their doctor has better things to do than listen to their moans and groans. Despondency is certainly a feature of depression so if you find yourself confused it may be helpful to lay out
the typical signs of depression:

Signs of Depression

You feel weary, indifferent and you lack motivation. You no longer have an interest in doing things like hobbies. Your performance at work has dipped. You feel restless and irritable. You catch yourself staring into empty space. Getting up and dressed has become slower and more effortful.

Life is gloomy, predictable and monotonous. Every day feels the same or worse than the days before. You feel like this most of the time.

There are changes to your diet. Maybe you are eating more and putting on the pounds or maybe you have gone the other way and you're losing weight.

Sleep is disturbed or has become a place of refuge. Maybe you have problems getting to sleep then staying asleep. Maybe you sleep too easily and stay asleep much longer than you used to but still do not feel rested.

You move the way you feel - sluggishly, heavily, slowly. Maybe when you are sitting or lying you can't properly relax because you feel agitated and irritated. Your muscles may also ache, which adds to your discomfort.

You feel tired nearly all the time. You feel spent both physically and emotionally. There's nothing left in you to give to others. You feel it's easier, perhaps even better, that you don't bother contacting others.

You feel pessimistic about pretty much everything. You see things in black and white terms. When people point things out about your emotions or behavior you feel attacked, defensive, sensitive and suspicious.

It seems harder to make decisions about what to do. Reflecting on the decisions you've made previously you regret them. To others you may seem absent minded but you actually find that you can't think straight. You find it hard to choose between simple alternatives. Everything is just so effortful.

You try to behave in a way that no-one can see the way you feel. Inside however you feel like you've been painted into a corner. Nothing you say or do will make the slightest difference. Thoughts of the pointlessness of it all have crept in.

The Difference Between Depression and Despondency

If one of these
symptoms looks all too
familiar the chances are that some or all of the others will too. If this is the case you may be experiencing depression. Despondency is a characteristic of all forms of depression but during a major depressive episode it feels deep and long lasting. The analogy between head-colds and flu isn't terribly helpful either, but surprisingly it is
not uncommon to find people relating the two. Unlike flu, which certainly provides several days of misery, depression can last for months or longer and is ultimately far more debilitating. People treat flu seriously but your mood state is of equal or greater importance, so don't worry if you feel ambivalent about your symptoms. See your doctor.

Jerry Kennard, Ph.D.
Meet Our Writer
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D.

Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s work background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of