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The Difference Between Sadness and Depression



I want to start this off by saying that sadness is a normal emotion that all humans feel. Like Mr. Rogers says, “it’s okay to be sad sometimes.” Sadness comes after a difficult or disappointing event happens, like the loss of a loved one, a job, or a breakup. When we are sad, we often feel better after crying, venting, spending a fun night with friends, or simply moving on over time.


On the other hand, depression does not go away so easily, and is not a reaction to an event. Perhaps the most important thing to know about depression is that it is more than just sadness about something. While sadness is a part of depression, it is just one piece of the pie and is more temporary in nature. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, which alters your eating habits, sleep habits, mood, and much more. If you or someone you know seems like you’re feeling down most of the time, but not really being sad about anything in particular, you or they may be experiencing depression. For me, it was so frustrating to be so depressed even though nothing was wrong in my life. I had everything I needed, but still felt empty and down. Talking about how I felt didn’t offer any relief. If you relate to these statements, or have been experiencing some of the following signs and symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression:


- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood

- Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism

- Irritability

- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, or helplessness

- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities

- Decreased energy or fatigue

- Moving or talking more slowly

- Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still

- Difficulty concentrating, remembering things, or making decisions

- Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping

- Appetite and/or weight changes

- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts


Not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom. Some people experience only a few symptoms while others may experience many. However, you shouldn’t overlook “just a few” symptoms - you’re never “not depressed enough” to ask for help. If you feel like you’re struggling, you should seek help. Period. Whether you’re diagnosed with an illness or not, you deserve to feel like your best self. Sad or depressed, you shouldn’t have to go through it alone! If you feel like your mood is impeding on your daily functioning in any way, you should talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling.


Another way you can find out if you may have depression is by taking a depression screening. This is a short questionnaire that tells you if you have symptoms of depression. Here is a depression screening test from Mental Health America. This is not meant to diagnose depression, but rather to help you understand whether you exhibit symptoms of depression. It’s recommended that you share the results of a screen you take with your doctor when you see them for a proper diagnosis. You can also read more about symptoms of depression and suicide in my article with facts about mental illnesses!


Thanks for reading! Xoxo, Lauren

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