Depression and Sadness: What’s the Difference?

Part 1 of a Blog Series on Common Mental Health Disorders

 One topic that I notice in the world of mental health is how hard it is to see a difference between feeling sad and being depressed. Often times, I will hear the word or phrase “I am depressed about _____ today.” Sometimes depression gets compared to the feeling of the blues, being sad, or even sometimes grief. Yet there is one important factor that separates these temporary feelings of the blues to what clinical depression actually is.

 When I think of sadness or “the blues” it is often related to an event such as a loss or a bad day. The reason behind these emotions can be triggered by certain events which can cause these feelings to generate. Sometimes these feelings of sadness can last longer than just a few hours depending on a circumstance. Yet, there is a significant difference between sadness and depression. At the end of the time, sadness is a process that can be worked through. Even when all things feel hopeless a person who is sad is learning how to cope with the set of circumstances that have befallen them. This important to understand because sorting out feelings is good and healthy for you. Being sad or in grief is perfectly okay and beneficial to your wellbeing. But then what is depression?

Clinical depression can be looked at in as having no hope and a dark cloud that hangs over your head. With clinical depression it can seem hard to find the energy to get out of bed or even find joy in life. It almost seems like life has cheated you out of joy and you cannot seem to find the strength to recover and move on.

Sadness does not have this same effect it is a process that is made for you to feel and think through. If you might find yourself tearful but still have not given up then learn to embrace these losses and work through these emotions. Depression on the other hand can go a bit deeper where you can no longer cope with life’s demands. 

When you find yourself in this state of being life does not seem manageable anymore and most of your energy has been sapped out of you. Apathy begins to creep up on you and the ability to sort out feelings becomes overwhelming due to the loss of energy that one faces from the sapping thorn at the side known as depression. Yet there is hope.

Finding hope in hopelessness is a hard and task at times. But it is not the end. Consider that every time you can accomplish a task as a victory in a battle. And most importantly remember that your depression is not all of you. You are more than a state of being. You are a person who has accomplished many things and can accomplish more. By creating a list of what you are as a person can help. Lastly, seek help in this battle. Overcoming depression is no easy task to overcome and it is perfectly okay to recieve support from understanding family members and friends as well as professional help. 

Written by: Jasper Gates, M.A., LPC Intern