Written by: Carl Puleo, LPCA
While there are some similarities, there are quite a bit of differences between depression and sadness. Let’s examine them.
Sadness is an emotion. It is common among most humans (and allegedly other animals as well). Unless you have a brain dysfunction you most likely have experienced sadness at one point in your life. Welcome to being human! Some other words that might describe sadness are grief, heartache, down, the blues, and tearful to name a few.
Just about anything can cause someone to feel sad. Losing a relative to death, not getting a job you really wanted, breaking up with a boy or girlfriend, or maybe missing a friend who has moved away are examples of situations that may cause you to experience sadness.
Whereas sadness is an emotion, depression, on the other hand, is a condition. It is a mental illness.
According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly 26 million people in America reported being depressed from 2009 to 2012 (CDC.gov). “Nearly 90% of persons with severe depressive symptoms reported difficulty with work, home, or social activities related to their symptoms” (CDC.gov). According to a survey by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, almost 50% of people who were asked stated they knew someone who had a problem with depression.
Depression is not just a mood disorder. It is an EVERYTHING disorder. Depression affects your emotions, thoughts, physical health and behavior.
Although sadness may be experienced when one is in a depressive state, most often people report feelings of emptiness, worthlessness, hollowness, and hopelessness.
Depression affects the way you perceive the world. Usually, depressed people have a negative outlook on themselves, others, and life in general, and find it difficult to shake those thoughts. They have consistent negative self-talk and irrational beliefs.
Depressed people tend to either sleep too much or not be able to sleep well at all. Depression tends to lead to a decrease in a person’s immune system so they become more vulnerable to colds and illnesses.
With all of the negative emotions, thoughts, and health issues, most depressed people find it difficult to get self-motivated and will isolate themselves from others. They will not take care of their hygiene and will jeopardize their jobs, family, and social life.
Sadness will eventually pass but depression tends to hang on for longer periods of time. Also, be aware that sadness can develop into a depression. If you have experienced sadness for longer than you think is normal, or if you can relate to the symptoms described above, seek help. Untreated depression can lead to suicidal thoughts. Don’t hesitate to seek a professional for help if you or others believe you may be depressed.