Depressed, or “Just” Sad: The Difference and When to Seek Help

Depressed, or “Just” Sad: The Difference and When to Seek Help

Many psychological diagnoses have made their way into popular language as adjectives—descriptive words that give information about something or someone. In today’s world, it is not uncommon to hear people saying that they feel “depressed,” “bipolar,” or “OCD,” when they really might mean that they are feeling “sad,” “stressed and agitated,” or “peculiar about how they like their socks arranged.” But when does “sad” become “depressed,” and when should you seek a professional counselor in Littleton?

Feeling vs. Disorder

Feeling sad is a part of depression, but feeling sad is also a part of life. Most people feel sad on occasion, such as when their children are struggling in school, when their loved ones are far away, or when little things in life build up and you miss an event or get a parking ticket. However, when you feel sad, you can usually realize that your sadness will come to an end, or that you can take steps to cheer yourself up! On the other hand, depression takes over your life. One of the key criteria for a diagnosis of depression is that you must have felt depressed for most of the time over the past two weeks. In addition, those things that used to cheer you up no longer work, because you may have difficulty finding pleasure or satisfaction in anything. You may notice changes in your body, such as a lower energy level, new inability to sleep or desire to sleep all day, or changes in weight. Others may notice these differences as well. Being sad is a temporary state, like being tired after a long day. Depression is a long-lasting shift in mood, like being tired simply from drawing breath.

Signs You Should Seek Help

If you have a sense that you are more than just sad, you should consider consulting with a trained mental health provider. If you find yourself unable to enjoy life, unable to get out of bed, or if you have experienced problems at work, home, or school because of these feelings, you should consider visiting with a psychologist. If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or others, or if you find yourself so confused that the world makes no sense, you should call a crisis hotline, 911, or visit an emergency room.


By taking steps to protect your mental health before it becomes an emergency, you can start getting on the path to good mental and physical health sooner. Different people require different treatments, including traditional “talk” therapy, behavioral interventions, and psychiatric medications, but your first step is to meet with a qualified professional to figure out your next steps. Dr. Steve Lazarus, our Littleton psychologist, has helped many adults, teens, and children to improve their emotional lives and well-being. To set up an appointment, or to schedule a free phone consultation, please fill out the contact form.

Can Play Therapy Really Help My Child?

Can Play Therapy Really Help My Child?

If you are a parent of a young child, you know that they play—a lot! In fact, the majority of a child’s day is filled with what some would call “the work of play.” If you have ever observed your child at play, you might realize that not all is fun and games. Children express deep thoughts and work through the challenges of life by playing, re-enacting, and engaging with the world symbolically. For children, play can be just as important as journaling, talking to friends, or trying out new ideas.

Starting Play Therapy

If your young child is showing behavior or emotional problems, you may have decided to seek out a Littleton child behavior psychologist. A specialist in child behavior problems will usually start out by talking with the parents and getting a good history of the child’s experiences and current functioning, and will likely start off a strong, trusting relationship with the child by playing with toys or games. However, many parents wonder when the “real” therapy is going to start. Believe it or not, that therapy is already well on its way!

The Language of Play

Through the language of play, children feel more comfortable expressing emotions, asking for help, and thinking through real-life issues. The best example that most parents have witnessed usually happens after children visit their pediatricians for the first time. Suddenly, the child’s play will reflect a new interest in the medical kit, they may ask visitors to play the patient or the doctor, and unsettling events such as shots or foul-tasting medicine may be represented frequently in the play. This is how the child “discusses” these strange, new events, and the same is true in therapy. When you bring your child to Highlands Ranch for children’s play therapy, you are giving them the chance to “talk” to the therapist through the actions and words of the toys. Just as you trust your child therapist to ask the right questions and provide helpful feedback through words, you can trust that skilled play therapy will produce these same results.

Effectiveness of Play Therapy

By this point, you know what play therapy is—but does it work? Numerous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of play therapy for children under six years old, and some have even found success in using play therapy techniques for children up to twelve in certain circumstances, including children who are developmentally delayed, verbally limited, or extremely disengaged. The Association for Play Therapy has found that play therapy can help children to become more responsible, develop creative problem-solving strategies, increase self-acceptance, learn to recognize and express emotions in a healthy way, and learn new social skills. The best treatments always involve active parent involvement, so make sure to ask your child behavior psychologist in Littleton as many questions as you need to feel comfortable.