The Difference Between Sadness and Depression

Posted on April 5, 2017

Photo: flickr

Many who are depressed think that they are merely sad, and many who are sad wonder if they are depressed. As we primarily associate depression with a profound feeling of sadness, most of us are often confused between the two. This is dangerous and worrying, because those who need to seek help and treatment may decide not to do so, thus neglecting what could very well be a serious condition. Others may overreact, thinking that they are suffering from a mood disorder when they are experiencing a normal emotion: sadness. Depression may have long-term impacts on our emotional and physical well-being, as well as our longevity. Hence, it is essential that we learn to distinguish between depression and sadness.

First and foremost, sadness is an ordinary human emotion experienced by everyone, while depression is an abnormal emotional state. This means that sadness is something central to the human experience: we have all felt sad before, and it is basically a given that we will feel sad again. This negative emotion is often a result of an event that could have been particularly upsetting, difficult or disappointing, which means that the sadness will ebb and fade away once the situation that caused the sadness has changed, has been replaced by something else more positive, or perhaps we have simply gotten over it.

Unlike sadness, depression is a mental illness that severely affects our emotional state of mind, behaviours, perceptions and our daily lives. Those who are depressed do not just feel depressed about certain things, but about everything in life. Furthermore, depression does not have to be triggered by an emotionally upsetting event or circumstance; it often occurs without. Some can feel terrible inside, even though their lives look perfect on the outside, even to themselves.

Everything seems more grey and dull, as well as less engaging and worthwhile. The depressed are often tired and listless; they lack the energy and motivation to do things in life, and it seems like their joy or satisfaction “meter” has been completely removed from their system. Not only do they find no meaning in what they do, but they are also more irritable, cranky and break down more easily.
When people confuse depression with sadness, they might tell those who are depressed to snap out of the funk they are in, or get frustrated with them because they think that it is all just thoughts in their head. These misunderstandings will only cause the depressed person to feel worse.

For people to be diagnosed with depression, they must experience at least 5 of the following symptoms, and continually for two weeks or more. Do keep in mind that this list merely covers some guidelines and commonly observed symptoms of depression, and is by no means a conclusive diagnosis of depression.

The person:

- Is depressed or irritable almost all the time
- Is less interested or less happy while engaging in most activities, even those that he or she had previously enjoyed
- Has experienced significant changes to his or her weight, appetite and/or eating habits
- Is sleeping too much or is unable to fall asleep easily
- Feels restless on most days and slowed down in movement
- Feels lethargic and sluggish on most days
- Feels excessively guilty, worthless or incompetent
- Is having difficulties concentrating, making decisions and creating
- Has suicidal thoughts or thoughts about death

If you think that you, or someone around you, is depressed, do not hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional for a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan. Given the pervasiveness of depression in many parts of the world today, there are numerous treatments and strategies available that help many of us.


Source material from Psychology Today

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