Sadness vs. Depression

Being a human necessarily means that we will experience a wide range of emotions: anger, jealousy, bliss and even sadness. Some say we need to experience sadness and melancholy in order to truly appreciate happiness when it comes.  I’m not sure I totally believe this, but I get the idea.  Regardless, feeling sad from time to time is part of the human experience.

Depression, on the other hand, is not necessarily part of the human experience.  Common? Yes. In fact, almost 10% of the US population will experience some type of depressive disorder this year (source).  But, many of us will go our entire lives without experiencing depression.

So, what’s the difference?

  • Sadness can come and go; depression may last for weeks, months, or even longer
  • Sadness may cause tears or a low mood; depression makes it difficult to do what we need to do in life (perform our job, take care of our kids, take care of our bodies/home/finances)
  • Sadness is often brought on by a life event (job loss); depression may be brought on by a life event, but not always.  Sometimes it just shows up out of the blue
  • Sadness is annoying when it lasts for a while; depression affects how we sleep, eat and interact with the world
  • Sadness makes us feel down; depression can make us feel guilty, hopeless, helpless and like things will absolutely never, ever get any better
  • Sadness makes us cry; depression can make us irritable, withdrawn and even suicidal
  • Sadness will likely resolve on its own; depression is a mental illness that requires treatment.  Individual psychotherapy, group counseling and medications are all options for treatment.



Sadness Vs. Depression

Did you know that sadness and depression are not the same thing?

Sadness is an emotion that occurs in the course of a relatively happy, meaningful and contented life.  We feel sad when sad things happen (we lose our jobs, a friend dies, a relationship ends).

Depression is a mental health disorder made up of lots of different symptoms including trouble sleeping, self doubt, trouble concentrating and irritability.  Sadness, or low mood, can also be a symptom of depression BUT it doesn’t have to be present for someone to be depressed.  Strange, I know.

The whole thing is confusing because many of us use the words interchangeably.  Here are a couple examples:

The Broncos lost the Super Bowl and now my husband is sooooo depressed

He was actually sad – not depressed – in this situation

She’s just so sad all the time, she just stays in bed all day

When someone is sad and has low motivation and energy, it might be signs of depression – something much more than sadness

I recently spoke to Psych Central about the difference between sadness and depression.  Check out the full article here:

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