Sadness and Depression: There’s a Difference

Are you depressed? Or are you just feeling sad? Sadness and depression are not the same, though we often use the words interchangeably. It helps to understand the difference.

Sadness is an ordinary emotion.  Most people go through moments of sadness virtually every day. It’s the emotional system’s response to any kind of loss, failure or disappointment. A business deal or potential relationship fails to materialize, you miss the bus, your team loses a big game. You feel sad, at least temporarily. Nobody gets everything they want all the time. When that happens, the natural response is to feel sad, even if you recover quickly. In small matters, the sadness response is so brief you might not even notice it.

Depression, on the other hand, is a form of mental illness. Depression typically lasts more than a few weeks and exhibits itself as enduring low mood, lack of energy and enthusiasm often accompanied by loss of appetite, sleep disorders and other symptoms. Depression can occur for many reasons or for no reason at all. Depressed people are wise to seek treatment by a trained professional.

The reason for confusion between the two is that an instant of sadness and an instant of depression feel about the same. They are distinguished by their greater course, not by how they feel this second.

Also, depression is easier and more familiar to talk about; almost nobody talks about sadness. It’s more socially acceptable to tell your friends “I’m depressed” than “I feel sad” when they ask why you seem so blue.

Here’s why it’s important to distinguish sadness from depression in your own mind. If you admit to feeling sad, you know the feeling will pass. If you tell yourself you’re depressed, the feeling is more likely to linger and you are more likely to think yourself into becoming depressed.

Sadness is not a bad thing. It’s a perfectly normal and natural emotional reaction. The better you are at noticing when you feel sad, the more quickly the feeling will evaporate. Don’t make yourself feel worse than you need to by turning a common emotion into a mental health concern.


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  1. Posted February 5, 2013 at 12:50 am | Permalink

    So it’s our duty to make our self free from anxieties so that we can live a happy life. This is why you are seeing more and more natural remedies for anxiety attacks being talked about.

    • Stuart
      Posted February 5, 2013 at 8:02 am | Permalink

      This blog post is about the label we put on our feelings and is about sadness rather than anxiety. Anxiety is more closely related to fear than sadness.

  2. Posted April 24, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Admiring the hard work you put into your blog and in
    depth information you present. It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed material.
    Fantastic read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your RSS
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