Depression vs. Sadness: What’s the Difference? (2022)

Overview

Sadness is a human emotion that all people feel at certain times during their lives. Feeling sad is a natural reaction to situations that cause emotional upset or pain. There are varying degrees of sadness. But like other emotions, sadness is temporary and fades with time. In this way, sadness differs from depression.

Depression is a longer-term mental illness. It impairs social, occupational, and other important areas of functioning. Left untreated, symptoms of depression may last for a long time.

Keep reading to learn more about the differences between depression and sadness.

When you’re sad, it may feel all-encompassing at times. But you should also have moments when you are able to laugh or be comforted. Depression differs from sadness. The feelings you have will affect all aspects of your life. It may be hard or even impossible to find enjoyment in anything, including activities and people you used to enjoy. Depression is a mental illness, not an emotion.

Symptoms of depression may include:

  • constant feelings of sadness
  • irritability
  • fatigue
  • changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • difficulty concentrating
  • loss of interest and enthusiasm for things which used to provide pleasure
  • feelings of deep, unwarranted guilt
  • physical symptoms, such as headaches or body aches that do not have a specific cause
  • feelings of worthlessness
  • constant thoughts about death
  • suicidal thoughts or actions

You may have some of these symptoms if you are sad, but they shouldn’t last more than two weeks. Suicidal thoughts are a sign of depression, not sadness.

(Video) What's the difference between sadness and depression?

Guide to the DSM-5 criteria

Mental health professionals use the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5 criteria) to help determine if someone is sad or depressed. You may receive a diagnosis of depression or persistent depressive disorder if you meet the criteria.

The DSM-5 criteria include nine potential symptoms of depression. The severity of each symptom is also weighed as part of the diagnostic process. The nine symptoms are:

  1. feeling depressed throughout each day on most or all days
  2. lack of interest and enjoyment in activities you used to find pleasurable
  3. trouble sleeping, or sleeping too much
  4. trouble eating, or eating too much, coupled with weight gain or weight loss
  5. irritability, restlessness, or agitation
  6. extreme fatigue
  7. unwarranted or exaggerated feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  8. inability to concentrate or make decisions
  9. suicidal thoughts or actions, or thinking a lot about death and dying

Read more: Signs of depression »

Depression can occur in both men and woman of any age. Depression affects people across all ethnic groups and socioeconomic backgrounds.

There are several risk factors for depression. But having one or more risk factors doesn’t mean you’ll become depressed. Risk factors include:

  • early childhood or teenage trauma
  • inability to cope with a devastating life event, such as the death of a child or spouse, or any situation that causes extreme levels of pain
  • low self-esteem
  • family history of mental illness, including bipolar disorder or depression
  • history of substance abuse, including drugs and alcohol
  • lack of family or community acceptance for identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT).
  • trouble adjusting to a medical condition, such as cancer, stroke, chronic pain, or heart disease
  • trouble adjusting to body changes due to catastrophic injury, such as loss of limbs, or paralysis
  • history of prior mental health disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or anxiety disorder
  • lack of a support system, such as friends, family, or coworkers

Depression is also a possible side effect of some medications. If you’re concerned that a drug you’re taking is affecting your mood, discuss it with your doctor. Some medications that might cause depression include:

  • beta-blockers
  • corticosteroids
  • hormonal medications
  • statins, which are drugs used to treat high cholesterol

Talk to your doctor if you experience sadness for longer than two weeks. And call emergency services to receive immediate medical help if you’re having suicidal thoughts.

Note if your feelings interfere with your ability to function, take part in life, or experience enjoyment. Speaking to a professional, like a therapist, clergy member, or other trusted person, can be a powerful first step toward recovery.

Learn more: The best depression apps of 2016 »

(Video) 6 Differences Between Sadness and Depression

Your doctor will use several diagnostic tools to help distinguish between sadness and depression. You doctor will ask you a series of questions or have you fill out a questionnaire based on the DSM-5 criteria. This will help them determine if you’re experiencing sadness or depression.

They’ll also want to talk to you about your symptoms. They’ll ask how you’re feeling and what your daily life is like.

(Video) Depression vs Situational Sadness

Your doctor may also do a physical exam. This will determine any underlying health problem affecting your condition. That could include a blood test to determine if you have an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).

If you’re experiencing sadness, some minor lifestyle changes may help.

  • Connect with other people. Make a phone call, take a yoga class, or join a jogging club, knitting circle, or another group that interests you.
  • Build in time each day for an activity you enjoy.
  • Watch funny television shows or movies, or read a lighthearted or funny book.
  • Engage in physical activities or sports.
  • If you love animals, spend time each day with a furry friend.
  • Do not self-medicate through the use of drugs or alcohol.
  • Treat yourself kindly by eating healthy and trying to get enough sleep.
  • If you have trouble sleeping, try meditating or taking a warm bath before bed.
  • Simplify your life as best you can.

Lifestyle changes can also help you feel better if you’re experiencing depression. But these changes may not be enough. If you’re depressed, psychological counseling with a professional you trust can make a difference. This type of counseling is also known as talk therapy.

If you’re depressed or suicidal, you can receive inpatient care by staying in a hospital or other therapeutic setting.

Your physician or therapist may prescribe medications for you. There are many different types of antidepressants. You and your doctor will decide which ones you should try. These depend on your needs, family history, allergies, and lifestyle. You may need to try several before you find a treatment plan that works best for you. Sometimes, antidepressants may increase suicidal thoughts. It’s important that you let your doctor know immediately if you experience worsening depression.

Learn more: Depression medications list »

If you’re experiencing a period of sadness, lifestyle changes and being proactive may help. You may also seek out professional help if you feel it will help to talk. Or if you feel medication may help.

Depression is treatable. But simple lifestyle changes may not be enough to help your recover. You’ll likely need to take part in therapy. You might also take medication to help treat your symptoms.

Allow yourself to get the help you need. If you feel that you can’t take the next step, try to connect with someone who will take that step with you. For example, talk to a trusted family doctor. Or you could ask a friend or family member to go with you to your first appointment with a therapist. No matter how you’re feeling today, you deserve, and can achieve, hope and healing.

(Video) What are the Differences Between Depression and Sadness?

Conquering both sadness and depression takes effort. Make sure to keep your appointments if you’re seeing a therapist. And talk out everything that is on your mind. Here are some more tips to help you manage both sadness and depression:

  • Set your alarm clock and wake up at the same time each day. Maintaining a routine that includes self-care can help make life more manageable.
  • Include physical activity in your routine. It can boost mood and improve your health.
  • Don’t isolate yourself. Spend some time each day with someone you like, either in person, or on the phone.
  • Resume activities that have given you joy in the past, or try new activities that interest you. Having something to look forward to can help boost your mood.

FAQs

Is sadness and depression the same explain? ›

Depression differs from sadness. The feelings you have will affect all aspects of your life. It may be hard or even impossible to find enjoyment in anything, including activities and people you used to enjoy. Depression is a mental illness, not an emotion.

Is sad a type of depression? ›

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you're like most people with SAD , your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.

What kind of feeling is sadness? ›

Sadness describes the range, or family, of emotional states we can experience containing everything from mild disappointment to extreme despair and anguish. Sadness can also be experienced along with other emotions, such as: Anger (e.g., having a loved one abandon you)

What is depression confused with? ›

Many people have both depression and anxiety. They're different conditions, but they have some overlapping symptoms, like nervousness, irritability, problems sleeping, and a hard time concentrating. Your doctor can tell you if you have anxiety, depression, or both.

How much sadness is too much? ›

More often than not, sadness has links to a specific trigger. Sadness usually passes with time. If it does not pass, or if the person becomes unable to resume normal function, this could be a sign of depression. If low mood gets worse or lasts longer than 2 weeks, the person should talk to their doctor.

Where do you feel sadness in your body? ›

Along with the emotional baggage it carries, extreme sadness can cause distinctive physical sensations in the chest: tight muscles, a pounding heart, rapid breathing, and even a churning stomach. As you can see on the body map, survey respondents pinpointed the chest as a major spot for the manifestation of sadness.

How do SAD people act? ›

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed. Changes in appetite; usually eating more, craving carbohydrates. Change in sleep; usually sleeping too much. Loss of energy or increased fatigue despite increased sleep hours.

How do you diagnose SAD? ›

A diagnosis of SAD can usually be confirmed if: your depression occurs at a similar time each year for at least 2 years. the periods of depression are followed by periods without depression.

What is the SAD hormone called? ›

In people with SAD, a lack of sunlight and a problem with certain brain chemicals stops the hypothalamus working properly. The lack of light is thought to affect: the production of the hormone melatonin.

What are the 11 symptoms of depression? ›

11 Depression Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore
  • A feeling of emptiness or sadness. ...
  • Reduced interest in activities you used to enjoy. ...
  • Lack of energy and constant fatigue. ...
  • Irritability. ...
  • Pain and other physical changes. ...
  • Sleep disorder. ...
  • Loss of appetite. ...
  • Lack of concentration.

How do you recover from sadness? ›

How to Stop Being Sad
  1. First, don't feel bad about feeling sad. ...
  2. Can't pinpoint why you're sad? ...
  3. Embrace your emotions. ...
  4. To release sad emotions, don't overlook the value in a good cry. ...
  5. Now, here's how to move on. ...
  6. Set the bar ridiculously low. ...
  7. Find what does make you happy.
5 Apr 2021

What makes you sad in your brain? ›

Stress, Health, and Hormones

Things like stress, using alcohol or drugs, and hormone changes also affect the brain's delicate chemistry and mood. Some health conditions may cause depression-like symptoms. For example, hypothyroidism is known to cause a depressed mood in some people. Mono can drain a person's energy.

What does a mental breakdown look like? ›

feel overwhelmed — unable to concentrate or make decisions. be moody — feeling low or depression; feeling burnt out; emotional outbursts of uncontrollable anger, fear, helplessness or crying. feel depersonalised — not feeling like themselves or feeling detached from situations.

What happens to brain during depression? ›

There's growing evidence that several parts of the brain shrink in people with depression. Specifically, these areas lose gray matter volume (GMV). That's tissue with a lot of brain cells. GMV loss seems to be higher in people who have regular or ongoing depression with serious symptoms.

What does a nervous breakdown feel like? ›

Some event or change in your life is causing you an intense amount of stress, which is causing symptoms such as fear, anxiety, worry, nervousness and depression. You may feel “stuck,” overwhelmed or incapacitated, which makes you unable to cope and function with life.

What are the top 3 causes of depression? ›

Causes - Clinical depression
  • Stressful events. Most people take time to come to terms with stressful events, such as bereavement or a relationship breakdown. ...
  • Personality. ...
  • Family history. ...
  • Giving birth. ...
  • Loneliness. ...
  • Alcohol and drugs. ...
  • Illness.

What's a word for deep sadness? ›

Melancholy is beyond sad: as a noun or an adjective, it's a word for the gloomiest of spirits. Being melancholy means that you're overcome in sorrow, wrapped up in sorrowful thoughts.

How do I know if I am bipolar? ›

Symptoms - Bipolar disorder
  1. feeling sad, hopeless or irritable most of the time.
  2. lacking energy.
  3. difficulty concentrating and remembering things.
  4. loss of interest in everyday activities.
  5. feelings of emptiness or worthlessness.
  6. feelings of guilt and despair.
  7. feeling pessimistic about everything.
  8. self-doubt.

Can your heart hurt from sadness? ›

Acute emotional stress, positive or negative, can cause the left ventricle of the heart to be 'stunned' or paralysed, causing heart attack-like symptoms including strong chest, arm or shoulder pains, shortness of breath, dizziness, loss of consciousness, nausea and vomiting.

Why does my heart hurt when sad? ›

Stress from grief can flood the body with hormones, specifically cortisol, which causes that heavy-achy-feeling you get in your chest area.

Where is anger stored in the body? ›

The emotion of anger is associated with the choleric humor and can cause resentment and irritability. It is believed that this emotion is stored in the liver and gall bladder, which contain bile. Anger can cause headaches and hypertension which can in turn affect the stomach and the spleen.

What month is depression highest? ›

Why is January the most depressing month of the year? Experts say it's because of personal finances and the weather. While December is when people are in a joyful and giving spirit because of the holidays, January is reportedly the time they have to pay for it.

When does SAD usually start? ›

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at the same time each year. Although it can occur in spring or summer, it typically begins in late fall and lasts through the end of winter. It can sap your energy, amp up your carb cravings, and leave you sad and moody for months on end.

Does vitamin D help with SAD? ›

Low levels of vitamin D, caused by low dietary intake of the vitamin or not enough exposure to sunshine, have been found in people with SAD. However, it's unclear whether vitamin D supplementation can help to relieve SAD symptoms. Very little research has been done on dietary supplements other than vitamin D for SAD.

Who is at risk for developing SAD? ›

SAD is more common in people who live either far north or far south of the equator. Young people are more likely to develop SAD. The risk decreases with age. A family history of SAD or other forms of depression increases risk.

Does melatonin help with SAD? ›

Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University(OHSU) have found that melatonin, a naturally occurring brain substance, can relieve the doldrums of winter depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.

What hormone is lacking in depression? ›

Neurotransmitters in the brain — specifically serotonin, dopamine, or norepinephrine — affect feelings of happiness and pleasure and may be out of balance in people with depression. Antidepressants work to balance these neurotransmitters, mainly serotonin.

Is SAD an illness? ›

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. SAD is sometimes known as "winter depression" because the symptoms are usually more apparent and more severe during the winter. Some people with SAD may have symptoms during the summer and feel better during the winter.

How does SAD affect you? ›

Otherwise known as seasonal depression, SAD can affect your mood, sleep, appetite, and energy levels, taking a toll on all aspects of your life from your relationships and social life to work, school, and your sense of self-worth.

What are the 3 main symptoms of depressive disorders? ›

During these episodes, symptoms occur most of the day, nearly every day and may include: Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness.

What are the 5 signs of mental illness? ›

Symptoms
  • Feeling sad or down.
  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate.
  • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt.
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows.
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities.
  • Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping.
8 Jun 2019

Can depression make you hurt? ›

Depression can cause pain — and pain can cause depression. Sometimes pain and depression create a vicious cycle in which pain worsens symptoms of depression, and then the resulting depression worsens feelings of pain. In many people, depression causes unexplained physical symptoms such as back pain or headaches.

What can I do to be happy again? ›

14 Tips for Finding Happiness Again
  1. Consider therapy. ...
  2. Start or return to a hobby. ...
  3. Ditch (or time limit) your social media intake. ...
  4. Journal. ...
  5. Meditate. ...
  6. Spend time with happy people. ...
  7. Say goodbye to unhealthy people in your life. ...
  8. Do what you love.
26 Apr 2022

How do you deal with sadness and loneliness? ›

If you want to know what to do when you feel lonely, consider these 5 tips:
  1. Acknowledge Your Feelings of Loneliness. ...
  2. Know When to Engage or Disengage From the Online World. ...
  3. Find a Volunteer Opportunity as a Way to Feel Less Lonely. ...
  4. Join a Group or Club to Overcome Loneliness With In-Person Connections. ...
  5. Practice Self-Care.

How can I stop feeling so lonely? ›

You can overcome feelings of loneliness
  1. Reassesing thinking and regain hope.
  2. Practice self-compassion.
  3. Journal your thoughts and feelings.
  4. Reaching out to old friends.
  5. Invite a friend on a walk.
  6. Talk to people.
  7. Consider joining a club, organization, or online community.
  8. Get a pet.
25 Apr 2021

Can the brain repair itself after depression? ›

A depressed person's brain does not function normally, but it can recover, according to a study published in the August 11 issue of Neurology, the American Academy of Neurology's scientific journal. Researchers measured the brain's responsiveness using magnetic stimulation over the brain and targeted muscle movement.

Can antidepressants damage your brain? ›

We know that antipsychotics shrink the brain in a dose-dependent manner (4) and benzodiazepines, antidepressants and ADHD drugs also seem to cause permanent brain damage (5).

What does sadness look like from inside out? ›

According to Pete Docter, her appearance is based on that of a teardrop. This can be seen in Abstract Thought, as during the fourth stage (non-figurativity), Joy and Sadness were reduced to a shape and color - Sadness was a blue teardrop and Joy was a yellow star.

What is the synonym of sadness? ›

  • anguish,
  • dolor,
  • grief,
  • mourning,
  • somberness,
  • sorrow,
  • woefulness.

What defines depression? ›

Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, it is estimated that 5% of adults suffer from the disorder. It is characterized by persistent sadness and a lack of interest or pleasure in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities. It can also disturb sleep and appetite. Tiredness and poor concentration are common.

Is sadness necessary in our lives? ›

It can help you keep sight of your relationships and dreams. In other words, being sad doesn't mean you are not coping with a situation. Rather, it helps you come to terms with that situation and move on. It is an important emotion that can help you adapt, accept, focus, persevere and grow.

Is it OK to feel sad? ›

Sadness probably isn't one of your favorite feelings, but it's still a valuable emotion, and it's OK to be sad. While it might be uncomfortable, letting sadness in can come with many benefits. It's common to label sadness as a “negative” emotion and avoid it as a result.

What is deep sadness called? ›

melancholy Add to list Share. Melancholy is beyond sad: as a noun or an adjective, it's a word for the gloomiest of spirits. Being melancholy means that you're overcome in sorrow, wrapped up in sorrowful thoughts. The word started off as a noun for deep sadness, from a rather disgusting source.

What is a person who is always sad called? ›

morose Add to list Share. A morose person is sullen, gloomy, sad, glum, and depressed — not a happy camper. When someone is morose, they seem to have a cloud of sadness hanging over them. This word is stronger than just sad — morose implies being extremely gloomy and depressed.

How do you describe deep sadness? ›

“News of his death has caused deep sadness among all who had the pleasure of knowing him.”
...
What is another word for deep sadness?
pathospoignancy
painsentimentality
unhappinessgrief
despairanguish
heartacheagony
55 more rows

What are the 11 symptoms of depression? ›

11 Depression Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore
  • A feeling of emptiness or sadness. ...
  • Reduced interest in activities you used to enjoy. ...
  • Lack of energy and constant fatigue. ...
  • Irritability. ...
  • Pain and other physical changes. ...
  • Sleep disorder. ...
  • Loss of appetite. ...
  • Lack of concentration.

What are the top 3 causes of depression? ›

Causes - Clinical depression
  • Stressful events. Most people take time to come to terms with stressful events, such as bereavement or a relationship breakdown. ...
  • Personality. ...
  • Family history. ...
  • Giving birth. ...
  • Loneliness. ...
  • Alcohol and drugs. ...
  • Illness.

How do you recover from sadness? ›

How to Stop Being Sad
  1. First, don't feel bad about feeling sad. ...
  2. Can't pinpoint why you're sad? ...
  3. Embrace your emotions. ...
  4. To release sad emotions, don't overlook the value in a good cry. ...
  5. Now, here's how to move on. ...
  6. Set the bar ridiculously low. ...
  7. Find what does make you happy.
5 Apr 2021

What is the best thing to do when you are sad? ›

What you can do
  • Acknowledge what's happening. It is okay to not feel okay. ...
  • Prioritize taking care of yourself. ...
  • Be mindful of how you're feeling. ...
  • Maintain connections with others. ...
  • Seek help from a professional if your sadness becomes overwhelming or feels unmanageable.

What does psychology say about sadness? ›

When we're in a depressed state, we often feel numb or deadened to our emotions. We may have feelings of shame, self-blame or self-hatred, all of which are likely to interfere with constructive behavior, instead creating a lack of energy and vitality. Sadness, on the other hand, can be awakening.

How are people diagnosed with depression? ›

To be diagnosed with depression, an individual must have five depression symptoms every day, nearly all day, for at least 2 weeks. One of the symptoms must be a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities. Children and adolescents may be irritable rather than sad.

How does sadness affect a person? ›

Depression affects your mood, thoughts, feelings, behaviors and physical health. Severe depression can result in losing the ability to feel pleasure in the things you once enjoyed. It can also cause you to withdraw from your social relationships even from people to whom you are closest.

What causes you to be sad? ›

Stress, Health, and Hormones

Things like stress, using alcohol or drugs, and hormone changes also affect the brain's delicate chemistry and mood. Some health conditions may cause depression-like symptoms. For example, hypothyroidism is known to cause a depressed mood in some people. Mono can drain a person's energy.

Videos

1. What's the Difference Between Depression and Sadness? | Dr. Rami Nader
(Dr. Rami Nader)
2. Sadness vs Depression | What's the Difference for Teens
(Mallory Grimste, LCSW)
3. What is depression? - Helen M. Farrell
(TED-Ed)
4. Sadness Vs. Depression
(The Mighty)
5. Depression and Sadness: What's the Difference? | Therapy in Austin, TX
(Deep Eddy Psychotherapy)
6. Depression VS Sadness | What’s The Difference?
(Authentic Mental Health)

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