Depression: When Sadness Becomes a Disorder

Aisha and Temi are both undergraduates of the Faculty of Law and very good friends, but Aisha recently observed that Temi has not been showing up in class. She is also not picking or returning calls, so Aisha decided to drop by her room to check on her.

Aisha: ‘Hi Temi, long time no see. Why are you in bed at 11a.m? Are you sick?’

Temi: ‘I don’t even understand what is happening to me. I am just not myself these days.’

Aisha: ‘Really? What’s happening?’

Temi: ‘I feel tired all of the time and I just can’t cope anymore. It feels like too much work to simply do basic things like get up, have a bath and come to class. I just want stay in bed all day and be alone.’

Aisha: ‘That is serious. Do you have a fever? I think you should go to the hospital.’

Temi: ‘I don’t have a fever, and I don’t have a headache. I just feel very sad and I cry all the time. I feel very useless, and alone in the whole world. I have no interest in eating food, and it’s as if my brain is in slow motion.’

Aisha: ‘But you are not alone and you are certainly not useless. You are young, beautiful, from a comfortable family and the most brilliant student in our class. How can you think like that?’

Temi: ‘All those things don’t really mean anything to me right now. I just feel terrible.’ Starts weeping really hard.

Aisha: (Confused, but wants to help). ‘Sorry, now. Please don’t cry.’ Hugs and holds her until the sobbing subsides. ‘I think you are not really sick; it is just your thinking. Temi, your life is perfect and everyone wants to be as smart as you are. So come on, shake yourself out of it. Stop thinking all these negative thoughts.’

Temi: Starts another fresh round of sobbing. ‘But I can’t help it. I don’t know what to do anymore. I feel really miserable and empty. I am in emotional pain and I don’t even know why. Sometimes, I wish I can just sleep and not wake up again. Maybe then, I will eventually find peace and this heavy sadness will stop.’


It is normal for our mood or emotions to fluctuate from time to time – some days we feel happy and some other days, we are not so happy. Episodically, we may also have happy events which make us extremely happy – such as when you receive a promotion or a surprise gift. Other times, we may feel very sad for example if a loved one dies or we misplace our phone e.t.c. However, these episodic events which affect our mood usually lasts only for a short time – from minutes to hours or a few days, and then we return back to our normal selves.

However, in depression, the feelings of sadness are very intense and overwhelming (severity); and also last continuously for a fairly long time (duration), usually lasting for more than two weeks. It is a common mental disorder that is characterized by extreme levels of sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in life, feeling tired all of the time, feelings of guilt, low self – esteem, poor sleep, loss of appetite and poor concentration. And unlike what happens to everyone from time to time when we experience some unhappiness, these feelings STAY WITH THEM FOR A LONG TIME. In severe cases, they may also begin to have suicidal thoughts.

Depression can affect anyone, including famous and apparently very successful people who appear to have everything going smoothly. It is commoner among females, and can occur across the lifespan – affecting children and adolescents, adults as well as the elderly. However, because the affected individuals are not easily recognized as suffering from a disorder, they often don’t receive support and encouragement.

Family members and friends may be confused and unsure how to handle the situation. So they often tell them to get a grip on themselves and stop being lazy – simply because they can’t understand what they are growing through. It’s like telling someone with diarrhea who is going to the toilet frequently to simply get a grip on themselves. Of course, that will be a useless suggestion – because they can’t help it.


If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of depression, let’s talk about it. Let them seek professional help. It is a medical condition that requires treatment – it is not weakness of faith, laziness or ingratitude.

Written By:

Dr Jibril Abdulmalik

Psychiatrist and Founder, Asido Foundation

Managing Partner, Asivuri Consulting

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