Depression vs Sadness: What's the Difference?

Depression vs Sadness: What's the Difference?

How do you know if they are right? If you're going through a hard time, are you just sad - or are you actually depressed?

Depression is a common mental health challenge that needs support from loved ones or a trusted professional. Sadness is temporary and the clouds will lift before long. Here's how to look at the symptoms and know the difference between depression vs. sadness.

Depression vs Sadness: A Key Difference

One of the key difference between depression and sadness is what you're sad about.

When you're sad, you're sad about something. Perhaps you lost a dog, a family member, or a job. You may be facing financial setbacks, the end of a relationship, or other concerns.

These are normal things to be sad about. The grieving process takes a different amount of time for different people, so don't be concerned if you're not "better" when someone else thinks you should be.

When you're depressed, however, you're sad about everything. There may be no trigger event at all, or perhaps sadness spiraled out of control.

Depression affects your energy, makes even the things you used to love look dull, and makes it hard to experience joy. Everything seems less interesting, less important, less fun, and less worthwhile.

Sadness Can Be Very Intense

None of this means that sadness is "less than" or unimportant. It's not like sadness is an easy emotion to deal with and only people with depression are having a hard time.

One of the things that make sadness seem like depression is how hard it is to handle. It feels overwhelming and all-encompassing. The events that made you sad dominate your thoughts, and you're not sure you'll ever feel better.

The only good news is that sadness doesn't affect the body and mind as broadly as depression. When you're sad, you can still enjoy small things about your life. You still have an appetite, and you sleep pretty much like you used to.

Sadness can be very difficult. It's a normal part of human emotion. Fortunately, it lifts over time and your joy will return.

Symptoms of Depression

Depression is an mental health challenge, not an emotion. As a psychological disorder, it has a specific definition. You have to experience at least five of the symptoms every day for at least two weeks continuously.

One of the most important aspects that differentiate depression from sadness is the experience of "anhedonia", which is the lack of interest or enjoyment in things you used to love. If favourite hobbies or activities seem pointless and you experience other symptoms, you may have depression.

Do you think you might be suffering from depression? You should see a mental health professional for a conclusive diagnosis.

Here are the symptoms they'll ask you about.

  • A low or irritable mood most of the time

  • A loss or decrease of pleasure or interest in most activities, including ones that had been interesting or pleasurable previously

  • Significant changes in weight or appetite

  • Disturbances in falling asleep or sleeping too much

  • Feeling slowed down in your movements or restless most days

  • Feeling tired, sluggish, and having low energy most days

  • Having feelings of worthless or excessive guilt most days

  • Experiencing problems with thinking, focus, concentration, creativity and the ability to make decisions most days

  • Having thoughts of dying or suicide

Being sad can give you some of these symptoms, but not for two weeks straight. Being sad won't cause you to experience five or more symptoms, either.

What Causes Depression?

Sadness can be caused by a variety of common life events. But what causes depression?

There are three types of factors that can play a role in the onset of depression.

First, there are biological factors. Your brain chemistry and the structure of your brain can cause it to not create the chemicals you need. Your genetics can make a big difference as well. Prescription medications can be prescribed to help your brain regain a balanced chemical makeup.

Secondly, there are psychological factors. Major traumatic events can cause depression. Things like childhood abuse, a devastating life event, long-term stress, and more can cause depression to occur.

Finally, social factors can play a big role in depression. The roles you have in life and the expectations that those roles bring can cause stress and pressure that lead you to experience the symptoms of depression.

Fortunately, Having a good support network of family, friends, and coworkers can help you stay healthier mentally.

Depression happens in both men and women of all ethnicities and ages. It doesn't discriminate - so don't be shy about getting help. Depression is increasingly common, and according to the World Health Organization it is a leading cause of disability worldwide.

When to Get Help

If you've been experiencing depression symptoms, it's a good idea to see a mental health professional for help. They can help you understand if you have depression, and can help you with coping mechanisms to make things easier.

Getting help can make sadness more bearable as well - it's not just for depression. Counseling or therapy can help you come to terms with a loss or setback and help you find balance again more quickly.

If you have suicidal thoughts, you should seek help immediately. The suicide hotline has an online chat you can access from anywhere in the world. If you need it, contact them right away.

Rashid Hospital in Dubai is also a great resource.

Take Care of Your Mental Health!

Mental health challenges are common but unfortunately can carry a stigma. There are steps you can take to keep yourself mentally healthy, but with depression you may need additional help.

Now that you know the difference between depression vs sadness, you have a better idea of what you might be struggling with. Interested in more? Discover how emotions are actually the key to your wellbeing!

Sarah Rasmi