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.
2. Sadness Doesn’t Leach Away Interest
When we are sad, we might want to skip a few activities. For example, we might not feel like keeping a standing Saturday night date with friends. However, we don’t lose all interest in everything. We quickly back bounce and enjoy the same activities as always.
In contrast, depression eats away at all interests. In depression, we lose desire or motivation to do the things that we used to enjoy. Nothing feels pleasurable anymore. We don’t want to see people we used to like or go to events that we previously thought were fun.
3. Sadness Isn’t Irritable
Sadness can make us feel more sensitive. However, it doesn’t tend to cause major mood changes. If you feel especially irritable, then you might have depression. Other similar signs include:
- Feeling easily frustrated
- Outbursts of anger
- Quicker than usual to feel overwhelmed
- Slower than usual to “bounce back” from a bad mood
4. Sadness Doesn’t Make Us Feel Worthless
When we feel sad, we simply feel it. It’s an emotion, and we know that it will pass, no matter how strong it is. More importantly, we see that it’s an emotion outside of ourselves.
In contrast, depression feels like a part of us. As a result, we can feel worthless, guilty, or ashamed. We might not have any clear reason for those feelings. Depression causes them.
If we are very self-critical in our “sadness”, then we might need to get evaluated for depression.
5. Sadness Rarely Impacts Sleep and Diet
Sure, sometimes we change our behaviors a little bit when we are sad. For example, we eat more ice cream than normal. However, sadness doesn’t tend to cause a significant, lasting impact on our eating and sleeping routines.
Depression, however, does so significantly.
If we dramatically lose or gain weight, we should look at the possibility of depression. Likewise, if we are suddenly sleeping a lot more or struggling with insomnia, then chances are something beyond sadness is going on.
6. Sadness Doesn’t Make Us Want to Die
When people feel sad, they don’t automatically feel like they want to die. But whenever there are thoughts of death or suicide, we have to take those seriously.
While this alone doesn’t mean that you have depression, it’s a good indicator that you might and that you need to seek help.
7. Sadness Goes Away
One of the defining features of depression is that symptoms last for at least two weeks without reprieve. Sadness should go away within that time frame.
If your low mood is persistent, it’s time to see a professional.
Therapists are trained to help you understand whether you’re experiencing sadness or depression. Moreover, they can help you work through your situation. Therefore, I invite you to contact me to find out how I can help.
Please contact me at 949-760-7171 or text 949-244-8572 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or to schedule an appointment.