You didn’t get recognized at school. Maybe you lost your job or broke up with your partner. You may be quick to say, “I’m depressed,” after any (of all) of these situations. But you may just be feeling sad (which would be totally normal, btw). There’s a difference between sadness and depression that people often confuse. Understanding the differences between sadness and depression will allow you to better understand your own feelings and know how to cope with them.
What is Sadness?
Sadness is an emotion that follows a disappointing event. It’s a universal emotion shown through slumped shoulders, a frown, and/or tears. Being sad is a part of life that everyone will experience, and that’s okay. In fact, letting out a good cry lets you purge your emotions and leave you feeling a sense of relief.
Sadness is temporary.
It is important to note that your sad mood will eventually go away, whether because time has passed, the situation has become irrelevant, or because you worked through your emotions. Finding ways to cope with sadness is vital to overcoming it. Whether it’s listening to music, a dance party, journaling, talking to a friend, or exercising, these small moments you spend focused on yourself and reflecting will help you get over your sad mood. Being able to stay present in the moment and remind yourself that sadness is temporary has also shown to be useful.
Being sad for too long is not sadness anymore.
Let’s be real – anything in excess is never a good thing. When you start isolating yourself, or to feel helpless, hopeless, or worthless in addition to sadness, those are signs that things taking a serious turn. The longer you allow these feels to persist, the more established they get, making it difficult to figure out what brought them on in the first place. Timing varies by person, but generally, it may be time to get some professional help if you’ve been feeling sad most of the day for most days during a 2-week period or more.
What is Depression?
The American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5 categorizes depression as a serious mood disorder that significantly impairs someone’s interest in activities and daily living. Recent estimates from NIMH suggest that 6.7% of the US population has experienced a depressive episode. There are different types of depression (e.g. Major Depressive Disorder, Persistent Depressive Disorder, etc. Read more about them here).
Depression is not an emotion. It’s a mental illness and it’s common.
In order for you to be referred to as “having depression”, you must be diagnosed by a psychiatrist, licensed psychologist, or other qualified mental health therapists. The mental health professional will learn about you and your life to determine if you’ve been experiencing any of the following symptoms for an extended period of time.
Depression alters you physically, emotionally and behaviorally.
- Depressed mood most of the day for most days for at least 2 consecutive weeks
- Diminished or complete loss of pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Significant and unexpected weight loss or weight gain
- Significant and unexpected changes to your sleep
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Difficulty paying attention, concentrating or remembering information
- Thoughts of hurting yourself
When you experience depressive symptoms, your brains get rewired and more sensitive to negative emotions. This changes your perception of the world around you. The good news is that depression is very responsive to treatment, and there are many treatments available like counseling, medication, hypnosis, and biofeedback to name a few.
Hopefully, you have a better sense of the difference between sadness and depression, and when/if it’s time for you or a loved one to get help. Feel free to call us at (305) 501-0133 or click here to schedule a free 20-minute Clarity Consult to learn more about how working with one of our therapists can help you improve your life.