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Difference Between Depression and Sadness

depression or sadness
When did you feel sad? Maybe you felt sadness when your neighbor moved away, and you knew you would miss your nightly conversations. You might have been miserable if you were left out of an exciting activity. Sometimes people become sad when they empathize with characters who are struggling. Many things make us sad. Usually, we feel this emotion for a short period, but we move on relatively quickly. Depression is more than sadness. When a person is depressed, they do not move on quickly. Instead, they experience sadness that is persistent over a long period. At times it is difficult to differentiate between sadness and depression. Learning the difference will help you understand how to advocate for your mental health needs.

What is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder. A person suffering from depression will experience a deep sadness that persists over a long time. Often, people with depression lose interest in things they used to enjoy. A person experiencing depression might communicate that life is not worth living, nothing makes them happy, or day-to-day life seems pointless. While feelings of sadness often dissipate relatively quickly over time, depression can last indefinitely if untreated.

Symptoms of Depression

Depression has many symptoms that are good indicators to watch for. If you or a loved one are experiencing these symptoms of depression, you should consider therapy treatment for depression:

  • Frequent feelings of sadness
  • Recurring feelings of hopelessness
  • Outbursts of anger over small matters
  • Feeling disinterested in activities you once enjoyed
  • Disturbed sleep or excessive sleep
  • Lack of energy
  • Recurring feelings of worthlessness
  • Frequent thoughts of death
  • Physical problems with no medical explanation

Risk Factors For Depression

Researchers have not found a single cause that will determine if a person will develop depression. Instead, many risk factors may cause depression. The presence of one or more of these risk factors does not guarantee a person will develop depression. They are the only factors that contribute to the development of depression. Some of these risk factors are: 

  • A sudden increase in stress
  • Traumatic life events
  • Substance misuse
  • Serious illness
  • Family history of depression
  • Certain prescription medications


Untreated depression can lead to severe complications that will disrupt a person’s physical, mental, and emotional health and likely cause unwanted long-term life consequences. Examples of long-term complications of untreated depression are: 

  • Physical illness
  • Chronic pain
  • Substance misuse
  • Conflict with loved ones
  • Social isolation
  • Self-harm
  • Suicide

Treatment For Depression

The good news about depression is that treatment is available and effective. Your primary physician can diagnose depression. If you talk to your doctor about depression, they will ask some questions about your condition and rule out physical causes for your symptoms. Your doctor will likely refer you to a mental health provider, or you can choose your provider if it is warranted.

Talk therapy is a standard treatment for depression. During talk therapy, you will learn about your mental health, discuss strategies to cope with difficult situations successfully, and receive personal insight to help you manage your depression.

Often people use a medication called antidepressants to help treat their depression. These medications may be prescribed by your doctor or by a mental health provider.

Antidepressants relieve some of the symptoms of depression and are often helpful in giving a person enough relief from depression symptoms, allowing the person the opportunity to address the root causes of depression. Antidepressants should be used as directed under the supervision of a medical professional.

Overcoming Depression

In addition to professional mental health treatment, there are things you can do on your own to help overcome depression. These practices do not take the place of seeing a therapist, but they can help improve your mental health while receiving treatment.

Developing a Routine is one way to overcome depression. Some people with depression experience a loss of structure. Routine can help you bring the structure back into your life.

Setting realistic goals can help someone with depression have a sense of achievement. It can be as simple as taking a short daily walk, cleaning for 10 minutes a day, or reading a chapter of a book.

It can be hard to do so amid depression, but exercise can help a person find relief from depression by releasing brain chemicals called endorphins. Start with an achievable goal and work your way up to more physical activity as you are able.

It can be easy for someone with depression to ignore their diet but eating healthy food has many positive physical and mental health benefits. In addition, attention to diet can help a person feel their best and recover from depression more quickly.

Often doing something new can help people with depression start to feel better. It is easy to feel stuck when you are depressed, and intentionally doing something new can offer relief from that feeling.

Avoiding substance use is important for someone with depression. Substance use can make depression temporarily decrease, but over time it has been shown to contribute to depression symptoms.

Get Treatment For Depression at SUN

34% of Kentucky residents struggle with depression or anxiety. You do not have to struggle alone if you are one of them. The mental health professionals at SUN Kentucky can diagnose and treat your mental health condition. At SUN, we provide valuable treatments to help you achieve mental wellness. Call SUN today at 859-429-5188 for more information on our mental health services.


FAQs About Difference Between Depression and Sadness

How Do I Know If I’m Just Sad?

Sadness is a common emotional reaction to adverse events. Usually, if you are sad, it lasts a short amount of time. After this, you can move on and redirect your attention to something more positive. However, depression is persistent. Therefore, if you feel sad, hopeless, or empty over a long period, you should seek treatment for depression.

What Counts as a Depressed Mood?

A depressed mood is characterized by feelings of sadness and hopelessness that affect you for an extended period. This depressed mood will likely have roots in several factors, including stress, trauma, or dramatic life changes. Once you realize you have depression, treatment with a therapist can help you achieve mental wellness.

Are Sadness And Depression Synonymous?

Sadness and depression are not the same. Depression is a feeling of sadness or hopelessness that lasts for an extended time. For example, you could go to a sad movie and cry at the end, but then feel happy when you and the friend you went to the film with eat a meal together after. Depression and sadness may feel similar, but the persistence of depression makes it a different experience.

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