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Sadness vs Depression

Many people every day do not seek help for depression as they feel that what they are experiencing is just mere sadness. On the other hand, many people fear that they have depression when in reality they are just experiencing severe sadness. This could be due to depression being associated with its primary symptom of sadness, yet this is not the only symptom of depression. In order to be clinically diagnosed with depression, you need to show at least 5 of the symptoms listed below, for approximately 2 weeks or more (however if the symptoms are very severe, a diagnosis may be made sooner).

  • Depressed or irritable mood for the majority of the time
  • Loss or decrease in the pleasure/interest that you once felt in most activities 
  • Significant changes in appetite and/or weight
  • Disturbance in sleeping patterns, such as not being able to sleep, or sleeping too much
  • Feeling slowed down in your movements or feeling restless for the majority of days
  • Feeling tired and having low energy most days
  • Feeling worthless or excessive amounts of guilt
  • Experiencing problems with thinking and finding it difficult to focus on anything, lacking the ability to make decisions
  • Thoughts of death and/or suicide

Sadness is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences from time to time. It is often triggered by a difficult or hurtful situation such as a break-up or the death of a loved one. When the situation had passed, and things start to change, we find that the feelings of sadness fade away. On the other hand, depression is an 'abnormal' emotional state, an illness that affects our way of thinking as well as our emotions, behaviours and perceptions. If someone is depressed they may feel sad about everything and it does not have to be triggered by a certain event or situation. One of the main differences between sadness and depression is the broadness of the effect on an individuals body and mind. 

Although depression can be triggered by a traumatic event or experience, it can occur for no apparent reason. It can affect anyone of any age at any time as it is an illness, so it is not limited to specific people or ages. 

According to, there are 6 questions that you can ask yourself if you think you are experiencing depression, these are as follows:

  1. Can you still enjoy the things that you like?
    If you are experiencing sadness, then you are likely to still experience pleasure in activities that you enjoyed prior to feeling this way. You may still enjoy watching your favourite TV shows and eating your favourite foods and hanging out with friends, it may take a little bit of persuading but you will start to get into it in the end! 
    If you are experiencing depression you are likely to experience a lack of interest in the things that you once found enjoyable. For example, you might have enjoyed playing football, but now you have little to no interest in it at all and you may start to think that it is pointless.
  2. Are your emotions about a specific event or situation?
    This is a little bit difficult, as sometimes you can feel sad for reasons that you cannot put your finger on, although sadness often does occur due to a specific cause such as arguments, homesickness etc. 
    A depressive episode can also be triggered by stressful events or traumatic experiences, however, the individual with depression is uniquely primed to react negatively to bad events and experiences. They are much more likely to experience a deeper, more general feeling of depression and misery which lasts much longer than 'normal' boundaries. Depression can also occur for no apparent reason. 
  3. Are you maintaining a normal eating and sleeping pattern?
    With sadness, people usually tend to maintain their desire to eat, work out, and sleep roughly as planned. Whereas with depression, one of the recognised symptoms is lack of or excessive sleep as well as loss of appetite and/or weight. Sometimes depression can also lead to insomnia. 
  4. Do you experience variations in your low mood?
    When someone is experiencing sadness, they are likely to have a period where they do not feel sad at all (usually when they become distracted in some way or another). On the other hand, if someone is experiencing moderate depression, they are likely to experience low mood fairly constantly throughout the day, although they may experience bright spots from time to time. Those who experience severe depression, the depressive state is constant and can seem unrelenting. 
  5. Do you experience self-punishing or extremely self-critical thoughts?
    If someone is experiencing sadness, they may feel bad about something that they have done and criticise their behaviours reasonably, but often they will not experience a permanent sense of guilt. Whereas those who are experiencing depression, are much more likely to experience extremely self-punishing thoughts and it can become hard to see past the negative thoughts and can begin to blame themselves for everything. This is one of the more serious symptoms of depression and you should seek help if you have been feeling this way.
  6. Have you had any self-harming or suicidal thoughts?
    Suicidal ideation is not a typically associated with normal levels of sadness. However, people who suffer from severe depression may experience self-harming or suicidal thoughts. This is when the self-punishing thoughts (mentioned above) are taken to a much higher, much more serious level. Some people who experience such thoughts may also have a suicide plan. If you are feeling this way, you should seek help from a mental health professional, a GP or a support group immediately and get the help that you need. 


We asked our Twitter followers what they thought about sadness and depression, here is what they said:

Abby (from @Authentic_Blog) said: 'I think it’s only when you’ve been depressed and then come out of it that you can truly appreciate and understand the difference between being down and being depressed'

Kate (from @Dieselkeds) said: 'depression is the absence of hope, the fear that you could feel this way forever. It’s all-encompassing. Sadness although hard doesn’t feel permanent. It can be changed with activities, time with friends etc'



Psychology Today - The Important Difference Between Sadness and Depression

Bustle - 6 Ways To Tell The Difference Between Sadness and Depression

Here To Help - The Difference Between Sadness and Depression