sadness vs depression

Sadness vs Depression: How to recognize the difference

What is the difference between sadness and depression?

This has been a really hard year. I’ve seen friends struggle with grief, infertility, break-ups, hard seasons of parenting…

They’ve mourned the ends of marriages and other relationships, cut ties with toxic family members, and sought treatment for mental illness.

Sadly, it has also been a difficult time to be engaged in the political and religious climates. Hate is slung left and right, and many people are left feeling hopeless.

Simply put, if you feel sad right now, you are likely a normal human being.

I wanted to share my thoughts on sadness vs depression, and how you can know when the way you’re feeling is more than just normal situational sadness.

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Also, I am not a doctor or mental health professional. Just someone who has lived with anxiety for many years who is passionate about sharing her experiences and tips for success. If you are in crisis call your doctor, then click here for some good mental health resources.

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What is sadness?

Sadness is a totally normal human emotion. We all feel sad sometimes. I was painfully sad when I lost my grandmother to Alzheimer’s.  I felt sad when my parents moved us to a new school district right before I started high school.  Truth time, I get sad when I watch pretty much any movie about dogs.

Sadness is normal.  It means your brain is processing certain stimuli or life events the way it should be.

“It is often associated with a difficult life event such as a loss of a loved one, a breakup or other hurtful event that results in an untoward outcome. When a person feels sad, sadness is often the dominant emotion. But there can be periods of levity and less severe mood. Sadness can also sometimes be relieved by venting, crying, exercising or other methods of releasing emotion.”- Dr Johnny Williams of Lemont, IL

the difference between sadness and depression

What is depression?

Depression is different from sadness.  It is much more persistent and commonly not caused by mitigating factors.

It is a legitimate biological condition that affects a person’s brain chemistry in such a way that it causes issues with sleep, relationships, digestion, and a host of other problems.

Wondering if your emotions are more than just run of the mill sadness?

Chronic depression can have the following symptoms:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fatigue that is not made better with sleep
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feeling sad for absolutely no reason
  • No longer enjoying things you once enjoyed.
  • Changes in libido
  • Interpersonal conflict that is not easily explained

Depression can also manifest itself in other physical ways.  Make sure to keep an eye out for unexplained changes in health.

Do one or more of these sound like you or a loved one? Your primary care physician can likely recommend a psychiatrist who would be able to give  you a thorough screening for depression.

Coping with sadness

There are a lot of ways you can deal with sadness when it pops up. Have you lost a job recently? Gone through the loss of a pet or a human loved one? Experienced a messy break-up?

I find adequate self care to be sufficient for working your way through most seasons of sadness or grief.

Self care is one of the hottest phrases on the internet and there is a lot of information available. If it is a new subject matter to you, I recommend the following: Keep it simple.

Don’t book expensive spa days.

Don’t pay for lavish vacations.

Those things may feel temporarily restorative but I do not think they really qualify as self care.  True self care is a way of life, small things you can do on a daily basis that make you feel more emotionally well.

Also, self care is personal. What works for someone else might not necessarily work for you. I will share some great self care ideas in the next section.

how to be happy, sadness vs depression

Coping with depression

Depression is pervasive. It doesn’t discriminate.  While women talk about it more often, men are very commonly affected as well.

How can you deal with an illness that makes you feel sick, leaves you unable to manage, and can often be unpredictable?

I have lived with depression in some capacity since I was 9 years old, and have learned a lot about how to manage it over the years.

In my view, there are 3 core components to managing depression and they are all equally important.

undoing depression, sadness vs depression

Related Post: How to challenge negative thought patterns

Seek treatment

I might ruffle some feathers by saying this. After all we live in an age of “You go, girl! You got this!” Don’t get me wrong: I am totally on board with that. But when it comes to mental health issues, it is my firm belief that you cannot do this alone.

The best way to start is to learn to self identify. Once you make yourself aware of the things going on with you,   you can place a call to your primary care physician.

Before that appointment, do the following:

  • Make a list of any possible symptoms you might be experiencing (no matter how small)
  • Ask for feedback from loved ones. Sometimes it is hard to identify our own behavior and need an outsider’s perspective.
  • Make a list of questions you might have. There is no such thing as a silly question!

These things will make you feel more comfortable in a sometimes uncomfortable process.

It can be scary, and there are a lot of reasons why a person might not seek treatment. But it is necessary for feeling like yourself again.

You can also try journaling to help your emotional health. Click here to download this free PDF.

Take care of your body

When you are experiencing issues with depression or another mental illness, it is critical that we are caring for our physical selves as well.

We are one complete person, each part functioning as part of a greater whole.

Have you noticed how when you are super sick, you tend to feel really down? Or vice versa?

Well, our bodies and minds are inextricably linked to each other. As we heal from depression, we need to be taking action steps to make sure our physical health is the way it should be.

the four agreements, the difference between sadness and depression

Here are some simple inexpensive things you can do to give your body a helping hand:

  • Go for a walk 3x a week. Crappy weather? Walk around your house for 20 minutes.
  • Take a multivitamin. You can ask your PCP what other supplements they might recommend.
  • Don’t drink as much alcohol. Yes, when you’re down, there is nothing like a glass of wine or cocktail at the end of the day. But really, it’s doing nothing for you except slapping on a bandaid.

Get adequate self care

Like I mentioned earlier, self care is paramount in times of distress and especially for those who have a chronic illness like depression.

Remember: it has to be personal to you, and it has to be replicable. Truth bomb, spending $10,000 on shoes is not going to fix your depression. (In case someone sitting in the back needed to hear that.)

So, what do I recommend?

  • Get better sleep
  • Exercise regularly
  • Nourish your body with healthy foods
  • Get rid of toxic relationships
  • Take some time to recharge at the end of the day
  • Practice proper hygiene
  • Spend time with friends and family
  • Watch your use of drugs and alcohol
  • Take your meds
  • Find a new hobby
sadness vs depression

Is it sadness or is it depression?

What you are feeling might be sadness, or it might be a sign that you have developed depression. Since I’m not a medical professional, I can’t tell you that. I’m just someone who has been through it myself.

First, take notes on the symptoms of depression listed above. Then, make an appointment with your doctor if you are concerned.

For some, living with depression is scary at first, but it is absolutely a manageable condition with the right care. 

Are you living with sadness you can’t explain? Do you live with depression? If so, you are not alone. Please share your story in the comments, and show solidarity for others that feel this way.

The conversation of depression vs sadness is one that needs to be had, so make sure to share this post!


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Related posts for sadness and depression:

Taking Control of Your Health: Only You Can Make You Better

6 Mental Health Facts and Why They Matter

Are you facing an identity- Who are you really?

7 Types of Rest- Which one do you need to feel more rested?

Ideas for self care: 11 easy ways to start feeling better fast

30 thoughts on “Sadness vs Depression: How to recognize the difference”

  1. This is very informative, and I love that you added recommendations/tips. Lately people have bee misdiagnosing their sadness/stress as depression which I think is wrong. More than feeling the symptoms, it’s really best to seek professional help. x

  2. This is such an informative post. You did a great job outlining the differences between sadness and depression. A lot of people don’t realize the differences between them. Thank you so much for sharing this!

    1. Thanks! I definitely try to advocate a balanced approach if I can! You never know what will help someone… i am a bit med resistant so I try to cater to all types

  3. I love this post. I love how you emphasize that self care doesn’t involve booking a vacation or going to a spa. When I first started engaging in self care I thought I had to spend a lot of money to do so. Now I know that something as simple as turning your phone off and spending time alone is a form of self care. I love the fact that you explain the different ways of how to put yourself out there and get the help you need. This is definitely something that can’t be done alone and I know this but I had no idea how to go about getting help without feeling uncomfortable . Thank you for this post.

  4. Thank you for this incredibly informative and important post! I think it’s hard sometimes to distinguish between the normal blues and actual factual depression, so it’s important for people to recognize the factors of both and seek the appropriate help when needed. I thought I was just a really sad person back in college, but when things got really bad, I sought help, and found out that I had depression and anxiety. Getting the professional help I needed changed my life forever! Anyways, anyone who spreads the word about self-care and seeking proper treatment when needed is doing some real good in the world, so props and kudos to you. Also, movies/commercials/anything with dogs in it makes me cry too (they’re just so good!!).

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