Is sadness and depression the same thing

Depression vs. Sadness: What’s the Difference?


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.

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 »

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.

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.

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.

How to tell the difference

Millions of people around the world experience sadness or depression at some point in their lives. However, recognizing the difference between a diagnosis of depression and the emotion of sadness can help a person process both in a healthful way.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) note that depression is one of the most common mental health illnesses in the United States.

Feeling sad is an integral part of depression, but they are not the same. Knowing and understanding the differences can help a person recognize when to seek treatment.

In this article, we help the reader make this distinction and suggest treatment options for depression.

Defining sadness and depression is important for improving wellbeing.


Sadness is a normal human emotion that every single person will experience at stressful or somber times.

A number of life events can leave people feeling sad or unhappy. The loss or absence of a loved one, divorce, loss of job or income, financial trouble, or issues at home can all affect mood in a negative way.

Failing an exam, not getting a job, or experiencing other disappointing events can also trigger sadness.

However, a person experiencing sadness can usually find some relief from crying, venting, or talking out frustrations. 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.


Depression is a mental disorder that has an overpowering effect on many parts of a person’s life. It can occur in people of any gender or age and alters behaviors and attitudes.

In 2015, around 16.1 million people aged 18 years or above in the U.S. had experienced at least one major depressive episode in the last year, accounting for 6.7 percent of all adults in the country.

Symptoms include:

  • feelings of discouragement
  • sadness
  • hopelessness
  • a lack of motivation
  • a loss of interest in activities that the individual once found enjoyable

In severe cases, the person may think about or attempt suicide. They may no longer feel like spending time with family or friends and might stop pursuing their hobbies or feel unable to attend work or school.

If these feelings of doubt last longer than 2 weeks, a healthcare professional may diagnose the person with major depressive disorder (MDD).

Symptoms of MDD include:

  • a daily depressed mood that lasts for most of the day, nearly every day, with noticeable signs of hopelessness and sadness
  • a loss of interest in normal activities for an extended amount of time
  • significant and unintentional weight loss or gain
  • insomnia, sleeplessness, or increased amounts of sleep that affect normal schedules
  • tiredness and low energy
  • feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt on a daily basis
  • inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, or suicide attempts or plans

A doctor would consider a person who experiences any five of these symptoms for longer than 2 weeks to have a medical problem rather than a prolonged experience of sadness.

For a diagnosis of MDD, the doctor should link the symptoms only to depression and not to another medical diagnosis, such as substance abuse or an underlying condition.

Unlike sadness, depression can leave a person struggling to get through their day. Sadness is just one element of depression.

To help support your mental well-being and that of your loved ones, visit our dedicated mental health hub for more research-backed information and resources.

If a person has symptoms of depression for longer than 2 weeks, they should seek professional help.

A physician can help to determine the level of treatment necessary to manage symptoms.

Following diagnosis, possible treatments include medication, counseling, and psychotherapy.


Medications include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a type of antidepressant.

These function by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical messenger that helps to improve mood.

Examples of SSRIs include citalopram, escitalopram, fluoxetine, and sertraline.

According to the Mayo Clinic, these drugs can ease the symptoms of depression, although they do carry a risk of adverse side effects.

For example, when people first use antidepressants, these drugs present a risk of symptoms deteriorating before they improve. Family members of the person taking the medication should monitor them closely and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have expressed concern that some SSRIs can cause increased suicidal ideation in younger people and may pose some risk to the fetus if taken during pregnancy.

As a result of this, the drugs carry a black box warning, which is an important notice on the information leaflet outlining the possible dangers of the drugs.

When prescribing SSRIs, prescribers must carefully balance the pros and cons of use.

Psychotherapy and counseling

Psychotherapy involves talking to a trained professional.

A person can pursue psychotherapy on its own or with the support of antidepressant medications. A therapist can help identify problem areas, teach coping mechanisms, and educate an individual about the realities of the condition.

A medical team might admit a person with severe depression to a hospital if they are in immediate danger to themselves, either because of the risk of suicide or lack of ability to care for themselves.

Outpatient facilities and psychotherapy clinics can help with long-term care.

Depression and sadness are linked but are not the same.

Sadness is an emotion that everyone experiences, often after stressful or upsetting life events. Depression is an overpowering and ongoing mental health disorder that can drastically impact on daily living.

Specific triggers will often cause sadness, whereas depression may have no identifiable cause. Sadness is a part of depression but more temporary in nature.

Seek a medical opinion if sadness seems to continue for a disproportionate amount of time. This could indicate the development of depression.

Read this article in Spanish.

Sadness or depression? How to find out what's the difference?

3 min.

As a rule, the problem is that we can make mistakes in terms, but we are able to see the difference between these two states. Sadness is just one of the many symptoms of depression.

Last update: March 09, 2019

Sadness and depression have a lot in common, but at the same time are two completely different concepts.

They are often confused, which sometimes leads to misunderstandings.

For this reason, in our article today we will tell you about the 4 most important aspects of , which will help you understand whether it is sadness or depression . In this way, you will learn how to use these terms correctly and this will improve your understanding with other people.

1. Depression is a psychological disorder

The main difference between sadness and depression is that depression is a psychological disorder. Whereas sadness is simply an emotion caused by a situation that makes you sad. nine0003

Indeed, depression shares many symptoms with sadness, but there are others that are unique to it: apathy, melancholy, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness…

Read: 5 signs of depression you may not know about

Remember that sadness is a temporary condition caused by troubles. Sooner or later it will pass, but depression is a more “persistent” phenomenon. Unfortunately, it often passes into a chronic stage, creating an atmosphere of trouble around the person subject to it. nine0008

Expert psychologists say that in order to be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms of depression must last for at least 6 months.

2. Sadness is a temporary state of mind

As we have already mentioned, sadness is a temporary state, although sometimes it may last longer than expected.

Unlike depression, this is a normal and natural psychological reaction and does not indicate the presence of a mental disorder. Just in a difficult moment, or if you have been hurt, this emotion inevitably arises. nine0003

So when you feel sad and sad, don't worry too much about it . It's a completely normal feeling if you've lost a loved one, ended a long relationship, or had to leave your home.

Sadness simply indicates that you have lost something important to us. But in the end, all sadness will pass.

3. Apathy and depression

Apathy manifests itself as a lack of energy and will to do something . It often strikes people suffering from depression, depriving them of the strength and desire to continue living. nine0003

For example, a depressed person cannot go to work because they are simply unable to get out of bed in the morning.

This is no longer just sadness.

Discover: Low self-esteem: when you turn into your enemy


If sadness goes too far...

Of course, one thing can lead to another . If you experience sadness for a long period, it may turn into depression.

A sad person cries, has low self-esteem, he feels that everything is useless, and the world is gray and there is no hope ... If this condition continues for a long time, it can lead to severe depression. nine0003

This is why psychologists prefer to observe a patient for a while before saying that the person is suffering from depression. It's okay to be sad for a day or two or even a week. However, to spend two months in a state of sadness is detrimental to any person.

Sadness or depression?

As you can see, despite the fact that one condition is a symptom of another, there are serious differences between sadness and depression.

At the same time, sadness does not need treatment or therapy, but depression will not go away on its own and should be treated accordingly.

When you are sad, family support and a change of scenery may be enough. With depression, you need to act differently.

In conclusion, sadness is very different from depression. Perhaps the confusion arises because the word "depression" is widely used to refer to less serious conditions.

Sometimes feeling depressed, "being depressed" has nothing to do with real depression. nine0008

Have you ever confused sadness with depression?

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Depression and depressive states. Help with treatment.

Be satisfied with what you have in life. Be grateful also for what does not belong to you, for it relieves you of many unnecessary worries. But try to get what you really need and make the best use of every minute of your life.

Imayat Khan

One of the most common diseases on earth is depression. Thus, according to the WHO, more than 150 million people worldwide suffer from depression. According to Russian health care, about 15 million people suffer from depression in Russia. According to American psychologists, women suffer from depression twice as much as men. In adolescent boys and young men, depression is often accompanied by breakdowns, and in girls and young women it is accompanied by eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia). nine0003

Depression is an affective state characterized by a negative emotional background, with changes in the sphere of motivational, cognitive representations and general passivity of behavior.

Churchill, who suffered from bouts of depression, called this illness "black dog". Other famous people who suffered from manic-depressive states gave different names to this disease: "Edge of the abyss", "Endless darkness in reality", "All-devouring flame of the soul".

Here is what the author of the book Curtiss A. writes about depression. Due to chronic severe depression, my life was empty and my marriage slightly collapsed. … Living in depression is like being in a torture chamber. But you can learn to get out of there ... However, over the past 15 years, I have been so rarely inclined to consider a depressive state that now I am inclined to consider depression not as a pathology of the psyche, but as a strict spiritual mentor. nine0003

As Izard KE points out, most psychoanalysts agree that the most important components of depression are the loss of self-esteem, self-confidence and self-esteem.

The experience of depression includes the following fundamental emotions: sadness (key emotion), disgust, contempt, anger, fear, guilt, and embarrassment. According to Izard K.E. anger, disgust, contempt are manifested by a person both in relation to himself and in relation to other people. nine0003

When depressed, a person experiences negative emotions: depression, melancholy, despair. Volitional activity is sharply reduced. Decreased self-esteem. A person may feel guilty for the events of the past, those unpleasant events that occurred through the fault of a person.

During the period of depression, slowness, lack of initiative, and rapid fatigue are characteristic, which leads to a sharp decrease in productivity in one activity or another.

With prolonged depression, suicide attempts are possible. nine0003

In healthy people, depression can occur in the event of a difficult life situation, including due to the loss of loved ones, divorce, infidelity, infertility (inability to become a mother or father), due to unfulfilled hopes and other circumstances.

In addition, there is pathological depression - as one of the main psychiatric syndromes.

Depression classification:
- Biological factors (organic and endogenous, i.e. innate nature). With biological factors, medications are most often used in the treatment. nine0137 - Psychosocial factors (of a psychological nature). With the predominance of psychosocial factors, various methods of psychotherapy are used.

There are two types of depression:
- Psychogenic depression;
- Endogenous depression.

The consequences of depression are:
decrease in labor activity, alcohol and drug use, frequent divorces, death due to suicide.

Alexander Lowen in his book "Depression and the Body" writes that "the depressive reaction immobilizes a person. He finds himself unable to muster the strength to carry on with his usual activities. He feels defeated, hopeless, and as long as the state of depression persists, he sees no point in making any effort. … A depressive reaction can often have no obvious cause. In many cases, it occurs when a person is approaching the realization of his goal or has achieved it. nine0003

Depressive syndrome According to Zharikov N.M., Tyulpin Yu.G. The main symptom of depression is a decrease in mood, slowing down of thinking, and motor retardation. A person complains of longing, depression, sadness. A person does not show a reaction to either a joyful event or a sad one. Feelings can be of varying intensity - from slight pessimism and sadness to the feeling of a "stone in the heart. "

Slowing down of thinking is expressed by slow monosyllabic speech, long thinking of the answer. In a more complex case, the person is silent, spontaneous speech is absent. nine0003

Motor retardation is revealed in stiffness, slowness, slowness. In severe depression, depressive stupor is possible.

Depressed people have low self-esteem, they consider themselves insignificant people. They are pessimistic about not only their present, but also their past and future. In severe depression, delusions of self-blame and self-destruction are often formed.

Appetite sharply decreases, sometimes on the contrary there are bouts of overeating.

No interest in the opposite sex.

Women stop doing housework, cannot take care of young children, do not pay attention to their appearance.

Men can't cope with their favorite work, unable to get out of bed in the morning, get ready and go to work, they can lie all day without sleep. Patients do not enjoy anything.

Patients sleep poorly at night and cannot rest during the day. Waking up in the early morning hours is especially characteristic, after which the person can no longer fall asleep. nine0135 How to get out of depression?
Tips for reducing depression
To improve mood, it is recommended to move more, increase the duration of sleep, take a warm shower before bed, but do not wipe the skin dry. For the treatment of seasonal depression, phototherapy (staying in a solarium) is effective. Go skiing in winter.

It is desirable to use light wallpaper and furniture in the interior of the apartment. Nowadays, some people have a tendency to use dark colors in the apartment. nine0003

Depressed patients are encouraged to photograph clouds, especially in sunny weather. Be more often in nature.

Keeping diaries helps a lot, where it is recommended to reflect all the good things that happened during the day.

Swimming, jogging, walking in the park, cycling, roller skating helps a lot.

Dance classes are well suited for women, for example, in the fitness club, various dance programs are practiced. nine0003

Listening to music is good for regulating your emotional state. There is a whole list of these works, but it is better to listen to your inner voice and listen to what you want at a given time and exactly as much as you want in order to enjoy this process.

Yoga will help you find peace of mind.

Hobbies: knitting, embroidery, drawing, photography, making various crafts from natural materials, designing various models of aircraft, sailboats, tanks, etc. It helps well in expressing one's feelings, one's condition, writing stories or poems. nine0003

Medical treatment It is prescribed for patients with mild, moderate and severe manifestations of depression. A necessary condition for the effectiveness of treatment is cooperation with the doctor: strict adherence to the prescribed therapy regimen, regular visits to the doctor, a detailed, frank account of one's condition and life's difficulties.

Proper therapy allows in most cases to completely get rid of the symptoms of depression. Depression requires specialist treatment. The main class of drugs for the treatment of depression are antidepressants. Currently, there are various drugs in this group, of which tricyclic antidepressants (amitriptyline, melipramine) have been used since the late 50s. In recent years, the number of antidepressants has increased significantly. nine0003

The main advantages of new generation antidepressants are improved tolerability, reduced side effects, reduced toxicity and high safety in case of overdose. Antidepressants are a safe class of psychotropic medications when used properly and as directed by a physician. The dose of the drug is determined individually for each patient. You need to know that the therapeutic effect of antidepressants can appear slowly and gradually, so it is important to tune in positively and wait for it to appear. nine0003

Help from loved ones is also important in overcoming depression
The support of loved ones, even when the patient does not express interest in it, is very important in overcoming depression.

Learn more