October 19, 2020

Depression Vs Sadness: Are You Just Sad Or Depressed? [2020]

Written by Sara Lane


Depression vs Sadness white depressed man sitting in subway

Are you thinking to yourself “2020 has me feeling so depressed”?

In recent months, you and many people you know have probably uttered something like, “2020 has me feeling so depressed,” which probably means you’re upset, scared, frustrated, or sad.

It’s normal and natural to be sad at certain times in our life. 

Depression is defined as a persistent mental health condition best diagnosed by a licensed professional. There is a significant distinction regarding sadness vs. depression, as everyone experiences sadness from time to time.

It’s a regular, predictable emotion, occurring especially during a global pandemic.

But it doesn’t require intervention. Mostly, it just takes some time, patience, and support as we find our way back to our natural, if modified, routines of ordinary life.

Depression is quite another matter.

Depression is a paralyzing mental disorder.


It causes you to feel so alone that you don’t even know who you are anymore. It is not a mere despondence brought on by an unfortunate event.

When people generally think of depression, the most widespread emotion to describe the condition is sadness.

This causes many people to think it’s that simple. But depression is far more than only sadness. If you are depressed, misery is normal. It’s a debilitating, unhappy reality that can be hard to escape without help.

There are many signs of depression. Some are physical, while others are emotional. What’s more, is that only sadness may sometimes apply. Some symptoms that can manifest might surprise you.

Are you feeling hopeless, shameful, uninterested, or disconnected from life? These are just a few of the many signs.

But let’s first assess depression vs. sadness:

Blog Image Sadness Depression sad mental disorder

Remember, Sadness is Not Intrinsically Bad

From a very young age, we’re told to stop crying and cheer up in moments of sorrow. This is well-intended advice, but it can be counterproductive.

Sadness, as opposed to depression, is live emotion. It arises in direct response to a cause.

Thus, it alerts us to what’s going on and how we feel about it.

Sadness is uncomfortable in the moment, but we should feel free to express it as we see fit.

The same goes for other primary human emotions, like anger, fear, and happiness. Healthy emotional expression is an essential part of moving forward.

The Value of Sadness

It is understandably tempting to suppress sadness or other perceivably negative emotions.

However, to do so is to ignore a basic psychological reality: you can’t numb sorrow without numbing joy (and numbing every other feeling). Acceptance of sadness, rather than avoidance, is crucial.

Accepting the melancholy enables us to counterbalance emotions like love, satisfaction, warmth, and relief. When you choose not to suppress what feels overwhelming or upsetting, you become more receptive and self-aware.

This enriches your life. It deepens a sense of empowerment, purpose, meaning, and gratitude.

How to Control Sad Emotions, Be Present with Sadness


Pinterest Blog Image How to Control Sad Emotions

Validate what you (or someone else) is feeling. 

If someone you know is down, don’t lead with pep talks. Don’t try to “help” yourself by minimizing your emotions or saying, “it’s not so bad.”

In fact, research shows that when we “name” or identify our emotions, it can regulate them and can allow them to dissipate.

Accept that everyone processes in their own way, at their own rate. It’s okay to take the time you need.

It’s Not Always About Problem-Solving

When a loved one is suffering, they don’t necessarily want you to “solve” anything for them. They need your validation, comfort, and attention. Conversely, if you feel sad, you may just need to sit with your feelings without “conquering” them.

Communicate Your Needs

In times of sadness, be as transparent as possible with others about what you need. It’s not realistic to expect them to know what to do or say intuitively. Help them help you.

Check-In With Yourself

Of course, as mentioned above, depression is real and is not to be taken lightly. Thus, when you feel yourself sinking into despair, stay alert. Is there a cause?

Are you slipping into a place of shame, self-blame, and guilt? Stay aware that you can always ask for help if the sadness becomes too much for you to bear (see below).

Blog Image Research Name our Emotions Depression

Depression or Sadness? It Pays to Be Sure

No one should be expected to comprehend the nuances that differentiate sadness from depression. If you’re feeling sad, it’s hardly the best time to make such a critical assessment on your own.

Therefore, if you believe you cannot control sad emotions or your mood is disproportionately low, pay attention.  Make sure you know what’s happening.

You can join countless others who have taken the practical step of seeking out a therapist. A depressive disorder can become quite debilitating.

Sadness vs. depression?

Don’t take chances. Ask for help, ask for guidance, and safeguard your mental well-being.

Remember, too, that depression can often be prevented. Try out these tips based on sadness emotion psychology.

You should take preventive action, especially if you know that you have predisposing factors such as a history of trauma or a family history of depression.

Blog Image How to Prevent Depression

How to Prevent Depression

Blog Image Identify Risk Factors Manage Stress DepressionIdentify your risk factors and be aware of where you are vulnerable.

Each person has unique risk factors, such as things we were taught, values we adopted, and the presence or absence of a family history of depression.

Anything that has been learned can be unlearned and replaced with something healthier.

Learn to manage stress.

You can learn proven techniques for creating calm and relaxation.

Consider taking a stress management class or buying a set of relaxation CDs to practice calming yourself every day.

Learn problem-solving skills.

Many people who develop depression never learned problem-solving skills. They need to develop the ability to see problems from many viewpoints and look for various solutions.

Build your life around things you can control.

Learn to recognize what you can control and what you can’t. Avoid spending much effort on situations that won’t pay off for you or that you really have no control over.


Blog Image Self-Acceptance Depression

Practice self-acceptance.

Instead of rejecting the parts of yourself you don’t like, learn to manage them more productively.

Become aware of selective perception.

Observe how you generate ideas and opinions about people and events.

Remember that these are just your views, not necessarily objective facts.

Focus on the future, not the past.

Depressed people tend to be focused on the past.

Try to set goals and focus on the future. You may feel better about life.

Develop a sense of purpose.

Many depressed people lack a sense of purpose or meaning. This means they have no goals and nothing in the future, drawing them forward.

To prevent depression, develop your sense of purpose and meaning.

Blog Image Strengthen Emotional Boundaries Depression Sadness

Strengthen your emotional boundaries and set limits.

Boundaries define your role in a social situation.

They determine how you will or won’t behave in a given situation.

Having clear, healthy boundaries is empowering, while boundary violations make you feel victimized and helpless.

Setting limits means having and enforcing rules for the behaviors you expect in a relationship.

Build positive and healthy relationships.

Think about what you need from others in relationships. Learn to read people and trust your instincts about which people are right for you.

Avoid isolation. 

Talk to others about what’s going on with you. If you keep your thoughts to yourself, you may be unaware that your thoughts are negative or distorted.

If you share them with another person, you can become more objective. Additionally, talking about your feelings helps you to release them and let them go.

Write in a journal.

Journal writing is a great way to get in touch with the thoughts and feelings surrounding your depression.

Journaling can also help you with problem-solving and creativity, which may help you find your way out of depression.

If you are concerned that these steps aren’t enough to cope with your sad emotions, consider making an appointment online.

Read more about Coping with Depression

Common Signs of Depression

What are some signs of depression? 9 Common Signs

If you identify with many of these symptoms and interfere with your everyday life, you might have depression.

  1. Anger, irritability, tension, or restlessness
  2. Change in eating patterns (too much or too little)
  3. Sad, empty feelings, depressed moods; loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, even avoidance of feeling
  4. Difficulty focusing or concentrating
  5. Drastic changes in sleep cycle/quality (sleeping more or less), Insomnia
  6. Lethargy and lack of motivation or energy
  7. Recurring thoughts of death, suicide, “disappearing,” “escaping it all,” or just “not waking up again” (combine with risk-taking)
  8. The persistent sense of worthlessness or hopelessness, low self-esteem, inappropriate guilt,
  9. Physical symptoms such as headaches, back pain, digestive issues, and body aches

If signs of depression or symptoms last for two weeks, you’re likely depressed and could enormously benefit from professional care.

“Do I Have Depression?” A Closer Look

When people with depression suffer, it can affect every part of his or her life, including physical body, behavior, thought processes, mood, ability to relate to others, and general lifestyle.

1. Anger or Irritability

Anger is a symptom of depression, especially in men—the reasons why are complicated. Depression causes an individual to feel powerless in their situation.

This compounds many issues. When you feel helpless, you frequently exist on a short fuse, ready to lash out at any moment.

It can also serve as a form of personal protection. If you lash out at someone, they don’t have the chance to hurt you emotionally.

You might experience this as tension, irritability, or restlessness. Intense mood changes have also been acknowledged.

2. Change in Diet and Eating Patterns

Depression can affect every aspect of a person’s life. Diet is no exception.

Depressed people are less inclined to take active care of themselves. A poor diet of foods high in sugar, fat, and carbohydrates will affect your body and your mindset, just as the feel of your body and your mindset will impact your diet.

Are you experiencing drastic changes in appetite, weight gain, or loss without dieting? Weight loss or increase of 5% of your body weight in a month is common for those suffering from depression.


3. Sad, Empty Feelings

The most common feeling attributed to depression is sadness, emptiness, and seemingly endless depressed moods. Depression can be all these things and so much more.

You can experience feelings of isolation, withdrawal,  and/or extended periods of sadness (even constant). You may feel numb or rather avoid feeling anything.

This can be coupled with the need to work more or participate in any activity that helps you get around feeling. You could have noticed a loss of interest in things you used to enjoy.

You may have overwhelming feelings of apathy or dulled senses (no longer tasting food, enjoying music, etc.)


4. Lack of Focus or Concentration, Indecision

For some, depression can cause them to focus only on what they are feeling. This lack of focus can also make it difficult for you to make decisions. You might feel so overwhelmed by making even simple choices.


5. Disrupted Sleep Patterns

You might be getting too much or too little sleep, but looking at your sleep patterns can identify depression. Depression can cause both insomnia and oversleep.

With oversleep, you might spend ten hours in bed but feel groggy the next morning.

With too little sleep, you find it very hard to fall asleep. You wind up staying up until the early hours in the morning, getting only a few hours of sleep before it’s time to wake up.

Both of these situations create issues since your body needs deep, restful sleep to function.

Sleeping A Lot Depression

6. Lethargy, Fatigue, Lack of Motivation 

Often, people feeling depressed report they have zero energy, feel continuously exhausted. They can’t muster the energy to get out of the house, let alone function effectively.

It’s an interesting physiological link between the body and the mind.

If you used to have energy but are now struggling, it might signify depression especially if you are no longer interested in things you used to enjoy.


7. Unnecessary Risk, Recurring Thoughts of Death or Suicide 

Taking unnecessary risks can be a warning sign of depression. It could be that you “just don’t care anymore.” Or, you feel so emotionally numb you’ll do anything to feel something.

Unfortunately, this might mean taking risks when it comes to sexual activity or substance abuse. Both can lead to more significant problems that entrench you further in depression.

Suppose you find yourself often wanting to disappear or escape it all. If so, you may be experiencing depression.

Do you often consider suicide? Do you feel as if you’d be better off “just not waking up again”? If you are depressed, you may have considered suicide an acceptable answer to your current circumstance.


8. Feelings of Hopelessness, Worthlessness, and Guilt

People who suffer from depression mention a sense of dread and hope, looking forward beyond their bleak outlook. They are unable to consider anything with hope in mind.

They habitually think distorted thoughts or have an unrealistic view of life.

An individual might feel unworthy of what they have or of their loved ones. This can be paired with a sense of guilt over their current circumstance.


9. Physical Symptoms

Headaches, back pain, digestive issues, and body aches may not necessarily indicate you have depression. Yet, it can be a warning sign to get an evaluation by a therapist.

Some of these symptoms may be confused with medical illness. Some diseases actually lead to depression if left untreated.

If you are experiencing depression symptoms, it’s important to visit your doctor to rule out any concurrent medical problems (such as thyroid disease, hormone imbalance, or vitamin deficiency).

Depression signals that certain mental and emotional aspects of a person’s life are out of balance. Unexpressed feelings and concerns can worsen depression.

The causes of depression are not always clear. Hence, it’s vital to seek depression counseling from licensed and trained mental health counselors/therapists.

Whether you’re filled with despair, can’t access old emotions, or feel agitated continuously, depression hangs over you and affects most areas of your life. Living with depression often makes you feel like you’re not yourself anymore, compounding feelings of hopelessness.

Do I Have Depression Headaches

Take Our Depression Test to Screen Yourself for Depression

While a self-test does not substitute for a professional diagnosis, understanding your feelings better may help you start practicing healthy coping behaviors and lifestyle modifications at home.

Bringing the results of a screening to an appointment with a mental health care professional can also help you talk about your symptoms. Sometimes, it is hard to find the words to convey or describe our feelings to others accurately.

Can You Be Both Sad and Depressed?

Absolutely. When you’re depressed, you may feel numb. Emotions may seem distant. But the sadness will seep through.

However, because sadness can temporarily mimic depression symptoms, it’s highly recommended sufferers consult with a mental health professional.


Sadness and Depression Self-Help and Assessment


If you find yourself mired in an intense blue period, it helps to take stock of your daily behaviors and activities. To follow are some appraisals to consider:

General Hygiene/Daily Functions

  • How often are you showering or bathing? When was the last time you did so?
  • Particularly in light of the pandemic, are you changing clothes each day? What are grooming basics like shaving, nail clipping, or brushing your teeth?
  • When was the last time you ate a full, healthy meal?
  • Are you drinking enough water?
  • How active are you? Exercise? Walking? Stretching?
  • Are you getting outside daily?
  • What are your sleep patterns like? Do you ever feel rested and/or energetic?
  • If you’ve been prescribed any medications, are you taking them as suggested?

Hygiene Showering Depression

Mood/Social Life/Self-Image

  • How do you feel about yourself? Are you judging yourself as unattractive or unlikeable, or unproductive?
  • Are you indecisive?
  • Do you have someone you trust to talk with? If so, have you confided in them about your sadness?
  • Are you doing anything to make yourself feel good? Have you played music you liked or called a friend, or laughed at a funny movie?
  • When was the last time you hugged or even touched another person?


What Did You Learn from the Self-Examination?

After answering the questions honestly, it’s essential to see what you’ve learned about your situation. The scope of your answers can help you recognize whether or not depression is a possible explanation.

You may have also realized that you haven’t been diligent regarding your daily functions and hygiene. If so, did the questions motivate you to change that?

However, you may have wanted to get active but couldn’t make it happen. You may have stretched and sang out loud and called a friend, but you feel no better.

This can be a clear sign that you should be reaching out for professional help.

Self-help is indispensable. In times of sadness, it can be the catalyst for a change in mood.

For those with a depressive disorder, though, self-help is only complementary. You primarily need a treatment plan from a therapist.


Depressive Disorders

Depression comes in several forms, e.g., Persistent Depressive Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Bipolar Disorder, Major Depression (also called Clinical Depression), and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. Each of these (and other) variations will present with a consistent negative mood characterized by:

  • Sleep and appetite disruptions
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of concentration
  • Feelings of shame, guilt, and lack of worth
  • Losing interest in activities that once excited you
  • Inability to complete daily functions
  • Thoughts of death, dying, and suicide

Strictly speaking, the cause of depression is not known. However, research does indicate the likelihood of a blend of sources:

  • Social
  • Biological
  • Psychological
  • Changes in brain function
  • Abnormal functioning of particular neural circuits


Blog Image 4 Types Depression


Types of Depression

Everyone has different reasons for feeling sad. The same goes for depression. You may be experiencing a certain kind of depression brought on by specific circumstances; some are listed below.


High-functioning depression

It’s not as debilitating as typical depression. You can still carry on the everyday activities of your daily life. Most people with high-functioning depression can still experience job success, maintain close personal relationships, and may even have an active social life.

Blog Image High Functioning Depression


Co-Occurring Disorders

Also called “comorbidity”, this is where you cope with more than one chronic illness simultaneously, yet they are independent of each other. For example, a person who suffers from depression can also suffer from anxiety which means they have comorbid or co-existing anxiety and depressive disorders.

Blog Image Co Occurring Disorders Depression

Shame-Based Depression

There are different kinds of emotions. Where happiness and annoyance are considered core emotions, shame, anxiety, or guilt are viewed as inhibitory emotions. These feelings prevent you from enduring core emotions. At times, inhibitory emotions can be a good thing.

But shame-based depression is where shame has hijacked your capacity to feel almost anything else.

Blog Image Shame-Based Depression

Postpartum Depression

The period of time directly following the birth of a baby is considered postpartum. This form of depression happens specifically to new mothers anytime within the first year after giving birth.

There are various causes and risk factors associated with this depression.

Blog Image Postpartum Depression


If you or a loved one is experiencing anything similar to these common types of depression, consider scheduling an appointment online.

You Are NOT Alone

Depression is a leading cause of disability in the world. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), roughly 7% of people in the United States have been diagnosed with depression — most commonly in the 18 to 25 age range.

Also, women experience depression twice as much as the average male.

Depression is treatable. Studies find talk therapy, medication, or a combination of both modalities to be most effective. If you’re sure what you’re feeling is more than sadness, you must reach out.

Blog Image You Are Not Alone Depression

There’s No Shame in Depression or Sadness

Understand that some people don’t really. Would you know it, were it not for your first-hand experience with it?

Don’t let comments made by those who don’t fully grasp depression influence your thoughts and actions. Just let their words go. (Forgive them.)

Many who struggle with depression could be successfully treated go undiagnosed and untreated because their symptoms are ignored. Symptoms of depression may come on gradually and decline with time until the person feels trapped or stuck.

It’s essential to identify the signs sooner than later. It can become challenging to take action or even make a phone call when depression is more severe.

Remember, depression isn’t a sign of weakness or something to be ashamed of; it’s an illness in need of treatment, like anything else.

You don’t have to go it alone. You deserve to feel better.

Recovery Is Within Your Grasp

It’s important to examine both sadness and depression. Their differences and similarities impart vital information for a path toward relief and long-term mental health. When you are clear on what you’re dealing with, it is then time to focus on getting the help you need.

Both sadness and depression are tough and should be honored for what they are. A significant part of this process is seeking out appropriate support.

Consulting a mental health professional for treating depression can help you clarify what’s going on and perhaps discern a source or cause. You don’t have to suffer alone or in silence. There is no shame in naming your emotional pain.

Quality treatment is available. Healing can happen. 

Get a Free Consult Blog Image Depression vs Sadness


Read more about how depression treatment can help.

Next Steps

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