The incidence of depression in our society seems to be on the rise. Recent estimates suggest that as many as one in three of us will experience some form of depression within our lifetimes. Others claim that depression may even represent a symptom of our times which are characterized by alienation, lack of strong community bonds, and hopeless economic situations for many.
It is normal to feel sad and experience down days occasionally. Most people go through normal periods of feeling dispirited, especially after they experience a loss or any other period of stress.
But what specialists call clinical depression is different from just being “down in the dumps.” The main difference is that the sad or empty mood does not go away after a couple of weeks – and everyday activities like eating, sleeping, socializing, or working can be affected.
We don’t always have the full range of words to explain what we are going through.
For example, we might say that we feel sad. Yet, in fact, we might have clinical depression and not even realize it. Alternatively, we might recognize depression in someone else who insists that they are “just sad.”
Honestly, it can be hard sometimes to tell the difference.
Sadness is a regular, temporary, human emotion. Depression, in contrast, is a mental health condition. Usually, it requires some kind of dedicated treatment before the condition will improve.
Here are seven key differences between sadness and depression.
1. The Cause for Sadness or Low Mood
One key difference between sadness and depression is whether or not something provokes the emotion. We feel sadness in response to something. For example, a breakup causes people to feel sad.
In contrast, depression doesn’t have a specific cause. We can sometimes point to reasons, finding a cause. However, when the mood doesn’t lift, we see that’s not the real reason. Something underlying it all is at the root. If we can’t find a concrete cause for feeling blue, then we need to consider that it might be depression.