Remember when you were scolded by your parents? Remember when you probably got less marks (than expected) in a particular subject? Remember when you wanted to go out but could not as something inevitable came up? All these situations probably stirred up an emotion in you like feeling low and unhappy. You might have started crying or curled up in your bed. This is sadness. It is one of the basic human emotions. 

Sadness is a normal response to situations that are upsetting, painful, or disappointing. In some situations, these feelings can be intense and in others, it can be mild. This sadness can even be good for you, because it allows us to process a negative event in a healthy way. You can also distract yourself by doing things you enjoy or by talking to a friend or a counsellor.

If sadness persists for a long time, or it gets in the way of your daily life, sadness might turn into depression. 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 in a way where 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.

Depression shows up in different ways for different people. If you experience the following symptoms for two weeks or more, it may be depression.

  • Depressed mood, sadness, or an “empty” feeling, or appearing sad or tearful to others

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you once enjoyed

  • Significant weight loss when not dieting, or significant weight gain (for example, more than 5% of body weight in a month)

  • Inability to sleep or excessive sleeping

  • Restlessness or irritation (irritable mood may be a symptom in children or adolescents too), or feelings of “dragging”

  • Fatigue or loss of energy

  • Feelings of worthlessness, or excessive or inappropriate guilt

  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating, or indecisiveness

  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or specific plan for committing suicide.

5 Fundamental Differences Between Sadness and Depression

  • Sadness is an Emotion. Depression is a Mental Illness

    • Sadness is a basic emotion and a part of what makes us human. Experiencing sadness might even be helpful in working through difficult experiences in life, such as rejection, a breakup or disappointment.
    • Depression, on the other hand, is a mental illness. It is likely that some of your thoughts, behaviors, and even physical experiences have changed alongside your emotions, causing general distress and a fundamental change in your perception and attitude towards life.
  • Sadness is Brief. Depression Persists for a Long Time

    • Emotions are momentary conscious experiences. They fade with time. If an emotion continues during a phase in life, it does so in lapses. Sadness fades with time – that’s its job. 
    • Depression lasts longer. “Snapping out of it” is not an option. Depression defines your entire day. It seems unthinkable that you will ever feel better again.
  • Sadness is a Specific Reaction. Depression is an Abnormal General State

    • Your sadness is caused by a particular experience and it is a normal and healthy, nonetheless often unpleasant, emotion.  
    • During depression, your symptoms are present within nearly every situation. You may have a negative view on the future, you possibly feel unreasonably guilty or suffer from a helpless feeling of being out of control. People with depression can experience feelings of guilt or a decline in self-esteem, while sad or grieving individuals usually do not.
  • Sadness Temporarily Changes Your Mood. Depression Changes Your Life

    • During a sad day or week your mood changes. Your mind might be preoccupied and you can find yourself falling back to sad thoughts. However, you can still go about your day normally.
    • When you are clinically depressed, your daily life may become difficult to endure. You might be having a harder time falling or staying asleep. Maybe your appetite or your sex drive has gone down. You might be experiencing lower self-esteem. You have lost interest and joy in your favorite activities, constantly feeling weary and without energy.
  • Sadness is Subjective. Depression is Diagnosed

    • Sadness is something you experience subjectively and independently.
    • Depression, on the other hand, has set criteria and requires an official diagnosis which can be done by a depression counsellor.

When to Seek Help?

  • Know that you are not alone if you are experiencing some (or multiple) of the symptoms above.

  • Clinical psychologists from our Center for Mental Health Team can help you, through multiple techniques, to help you determine the cause and what you can do about it.
  • You can opt for a primary health care doctor or a counsellor who will use multiple techniques to determine if what you are feeling is normal sadness or depression. This often involves asking questions or having you complete a questionnaire about what type of symptoms you are experiencing, how long you have been feeling them, and how severe they are.

We are always here to help and feel free to reach out to us.