Depression Or Sadness? How To Distinguish Between Them?

How do we know if the feeling we are experiencing is a transitory sadness or depression?

Acknowledging that you have a problem and relying on a professional in the event of depression is, of course, extremely important. But it’s just as important not to convince yourself that you have the disorder when it doesn’t really exist. Therefore, it is essential to distinguish between temporary sadness and real depression. Wondering why? It’s simple: in everyday language, these two terms are often used as if they were equivalent, even if they are not equivalent at all.

What are the differences between sadness and depression?

Although in everyday language these words synonyms, in clinical practice they refer to different aspects.

Depression is a psychological disorder that is part of mood disorders and in some forms requires medication treatment besides psychotherapy. The negative feelings and emotions typical of depression are persistent over time, often disconnected from difficult events and situations, usually accompanied by other negative symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, lack of energy to cope with the day, apathy.

It, therefore, has a well-defined pathological picture that has been classified in the DSM: in order to make a diagnosis of depression, it is necessary that a series of symptoms have been present for at least 6 months.

Sadness is an emotion, a negative feeling considered normal that appears as a reaction to an event that the person experiences as difficult. Examples include reactions to grief, arguments, or disputes… It is therefore a fleeting emotion that will pass with time.

Of course, sadness is a typical feeling of depression, but it should not be confused with it: being sad is not an illness like being depressed. So beware of the temptation to feel and describe ourselves as depressed when we are going through a sad time!

What are the symptoms of sadness? How about depression?

Symptoms of sadness range from sometimes being in a sad mood to the occasional loss of interest in what we do, a weak desire to do things, while maintaining good work and social functioning, coupled with reduced self-confidence.

These symptoms have the characteristic of not being persistent over time and of being linked to a negative event that affects the subject’s life: it is also for this reason that the person does not lose confidence and soon will come out of this state and be in a better mood.

The symptoms of depression range from a negative mood for much of the day to a loss of interest in most of the activities that concern the person, from a constant feeling of tiredness to perpetual fatigue that heavily influences professional and social activity, from difficulty concentrating and thinking about a life filled with guilt that is often unjustified or excessive.

These symptoms have the characteristic, unlike sadness, of being long-lasting over time, of often being disconnected from external events so of being difficult to understand outside and leading the person to become increasingly isolated, losing confidence and the possibility of getting out of it.

Can one be sad without being depressed?

The answer to this question is yes, you can be sad without being depressed. I can be sad after a school exam that didn’t go well, or after a relationship, or even because I’m away from the family: that doesn’t mean I’m depressed. Time and events can erase this feeling and bring it back to a better mood.

This happens in love disappointments: we see a sad friend at the end of a relationship and sometimes we have to define him or her as depressed; then he or she meets a new person, falls in love and everything is fine.

For a depressed person, this is only possible with appropriate therapeutic and/or pharmacological support.

Why are these two terms often used as synonyms in everyday language?

I believe it is because clinical language, thanks to the ease of access to information nowadays, has entered the common language: the ease of access to the Internet has increased the tendency of people to diagnose themselves, perhaps based only on a few, sometimes incorrect pieces of information. More and more people are presenting themselves in consultation, defining themselves in either based on what they have read. And so a subject sadly presents himself or herself as depressed.

What can I do if I feel sad? What can I do so that sadness doesn’t turn into depression?

I think the time factor is crucial. If I feel sad, I need to understand what the sadness is related to and then figure out how to solve the problem and get back to a better state of mind. It is important not to get agitated right away, and likewise, it is important to resist the temptation to diagnose depression.

It’s important to have a little patience: if the subject realizes that the feeling of sadness lingers over time and detaches from the problem that caused the mood change, then it’s time to consult a specialist.

A psychotherapeutic course (and/or pharmacological help) can help the depressed subject to come out of the “darkness” typical of this pathology by identifying the reasons for the discomfort and the dynamics of thought and behavior that have caused this suffering.

Do you think you are suffering from depression or are you still in doubt? Consult our list of specialized professionals and find serenity.

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