Sadness is a painful emotion, but it’s not the same as depression. People who are depressed experience long-term negative feelings that interfere with their ability to live normal lives. It is quite common for people to say “I’m depressed” when something doesn’t go their way, or they are experiencing a loss of some kind, but are they really?
Depression can make people feel sad and lead to feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or helplessness. While sadness may last for only a short period of time, depression can stay for weeks or months.
Has depression become synonymous with sadness? If so, this lack of a true distinction may negatively impact people who are depressed and may prevent them from finding the help they need to live healthy and thriving lives.
Let’s take a closer look at depression and sadness to see if we can understand the differences – and how to find hope.
What is Depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that causes feelings of sadness and/or hopelessness. Depression can be caused by a variety of factors and can trigger a range of feelings. But, it is also important to recognize warning signs and seek help.
Depression is not the same as experiencing sadness or grief in response to an event like losing a loved one or getting divorced. It is more than being unhappy for a few days because you lost your job or failed an exam.
It is important to recognize the difference between feeling sad or frustrated for a few days and depression that lasts much longer.
In order to be diagnosed with clinical depression, you must experience symptoms that align with depressive moods. If you are depressed, you may experience:
- Difficulty sleeping for several days or longer
- Lack of energy, fatigue, or tiredness even without exertion
- Feeling restless and agitated such as feeling jumpy or fidgety
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering things, or making decisions
- Symptoms that interfere with your ability to work, study, and perform normal tasks
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
If any of these symptoms affect your daily life for more than two weeks and are not related to a specific event, seek professional help.
Depression can happen to anyone, and it is important for people who are in the midst of depression to seek treatment.
What is Sadness?
Sadness is a normal feeling that occurs when we experience loss or disappointment and is part of an emotional process known as grieving. Sadness is an expected part of life – it says that something important has happened in our lives and makes clear the need to take action.
Without sadness, we might never realize the significance of a situation or event. Sadness that lasts for more than two weeks is not the same as depression, but it can lead to depression and should be treated. If you are experiencing sadness that is preventing you from functioning, seek help.
What is Grief?
Grief is the emotional response we have to loss. It often follows a significant loss or change and is accompanied by sadness.
There are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Grieving takes time – it can be an ongoing process that doesn’t necessarily follow a set timeline.
Grief occurs when we lose something valuable and important, like the death of a loved one, a job that we love, our health, or a hope for the future. Grieving is not a single event – it is an ongoing process that helps us find meaning in what has happened and adjust to change. Sadness can be intense, especially at first. But, we usually recover and return to normal functioning after a few days or weeks.
It is important to recognize the difference between grief and a depressive mood or state. If you are experiencing depression, seek help from your doctor or therapist.
What are the Differences between Depression and Sadness?
Here are some of the most important differences between sadness and depression:
Depression can last for months or years, but sadness usually goes away in just a few days or weeks. However, if you feel sad for more than two weeks, it may be important to seek help. Depression symptoms vary from person to person, so the time frame for treatment should vary.
Sadness is just a feeling, while depression involves many feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Sadness can be intense or mild in intensity – it may cause physical discomforts like a headache or stomachache. It will go away after a few days or weeks unless you do something to keep the feeling going.
Frequency of Feelings
Sadness is something you feel only occasionally, while depression occurs regularly.
When someone experiences a sad event or thinks about the loss of something valuable, they may experience sadness as part of the grieving process. This kind of sadness will only last for a short time unless steps are taken to keep it going.
Sad feelings are related to specific events, but depression can be triggered by multiple life events or even no event at all.
When someone experiences a loss, they may experience some sadness as part of the grieving process. This kind of sadness will only last for a short time unless steps are taken to keep it going. Depression can be caused by a variety of factors such as chemical imbalances, genetic predispositions, or bad experiences.
Emotional Response to Loss
In the grieving process, sadness may be expressed through crying and other emotional responses. In depression – feelings are typically internalized. A person experiencing sadness usually feels that the loss is their fault, while someone experiencing depression may feel that they do not deserve anything good.
Manifestation of Feelings
Sadness tends to manifest itself in the body through physical discomforts and other sensations like headaches or stomachaches. In contrast, depression usually manifests itself as feelings without much explicit manifestation of suffering in the body.
Effects on Functioning
Sadness improves our ability to tolerate a loss and helps us find meaning in the experience. However, if sadness lasts for more than two weeks or lasts as long as depression symptoms lasting longer than two years- it is likely that help is needed. If you think that your sadness may lead to something else – speak with a trusted family member or friend and consider talking with a mental health professional.
If you have any of the following symptoms, they may be signs that your sadness is turning into depression. Speaking with a counselor, therapist, or even a trusted and caring friend can be the first step toward hope.
How to Find Help for Sadness and Depression
While there is no 100% cure for depression, there are many effective treatments to help depression seem more manageable.
One of the most helpful ways to work through depression is during consistent therapy sessions. A therapist can provide the much-needed perspective that you struggle to see from the cloud of depression you feel trapped inside. They can be a caring listener and supporter when you feel like no one could possibly understand what you are feeling.
They can talk with you about cognitive behavioral therapy and other techniques you can use in your daily life when you feel a depressive episode crashing down on you. They can help you get your life back and not feel so controlled by your thoughts and feelings.
Signs its Time to Find Help
Here are some signs it could be time to seek help for sadness, grief, or depression.
Number of Symptoms
If you have more than five symptoms that last for two weeks or longer, it may be helpful to talk with a mental health professional. If there are only one or two symptoms- and they don’t bother you too much, you can wait and see if the depression goes away on its own.
Inability to Function
If you find yourself unable to function the way you want to, it is time to seek help. If you are finding it hard to maintain your relationships or keep up with your responsibilities- this could indicate that depression has taken over and needs professional attention.
It’s ok if you have trouble functioning for a period of time after a loss. Grief is often overwhelming, but it’s not normal to be depressed all the time.
If you find yourself experiencing some of the symptoms above and they are becoming more severe or lasting longer- consider seeking help from a mental health professional. If your depression is worsening – things will only get worse if you don’t do something to change course.
If you have feelings of hopelessness or helplessness, it could be time to seek help. Depression is like a cycle that keeps turning over and over – the more you get stuck in this cycle- the harder it will be to break free and start feeling better again.
If you are having thoughts of suicide or have already made a suicide attempt, you need to seek help immediately. This is the most important sign that your depression is very serious and needs professional attention as soon as possible.
How a Therapist Can Help Sadness and Depression
If you have been experiencing sadness or depression for a while and are struggling to find the energy to get out of bed in the morning- speak with a therapist. Here is how therapy can help. Therapy can give you tools to work through your emotions surrounding loss, trauma, or other depressive feelings that keep you locked inside your own head. It can help you feel empowered to deal with your emotions in a healthy way.
Therapy can help you understand why you are experiencing feelings of sadness and unlock the behavior patterns and thought processes that perpetuate depression.
A therapist can provide support, compassion, empathy, and a safe space to explore what is going on inside of you when things get tough. They can help you talk through situations and come up with effective coping skills to deal with your depression.
Therapy can help you find the right medication and dosage to treat your depression. A therapist can provide a different perspective that allows you to see outside of yourself and get some clarity on how you got so trapped inside this cycle of negativity. With so many benefits, it’s no wonder that so many individuals turn to therapists and counselors to help overcome the impacts of depression, grief, and sadness.
Contact Novus Mindful Life to Learn More
If you would like to learn more about how to navigate through sadness or depression, contact the team at Novus Mindful Life. At Novus Mindful Life, we are the region’s most trusted mental health professionals who are equipped to help you overcome sadness and depression. Our team of licensed counselors and therapists are equipped with the skills and knowledge to help you decide what next steps might be best for you. Reach out today to get started on your depression recovery plan.
If you are fearing that a loved one, friend, or coworker is suffering from depression or having thoughts of suicide, it is important that you don’t ignore their pain. Reach out to them and offer your support. Let them know that you are there for them and that they can reach out to you if they need help.