The terms sadness and depression are often interchanged. However, there are significant differences between these two emotional states.
Sadness is defined as feeling unhappy, disconsolate, or sorrowful. It’s a natural human reaction to something painful or unwanted. It is a temporary condition that occurs in response to specific events or situations.
In contrast, medical experts recognize depression as a major mood disorder requiring treatment and intervention. It is a prolonged feeling of sadness that interferes with and affects just about every portion of a person’s life. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders outlines the symptoms of this mood disorder.
The major distinctions between sadness and depression relate to cause, duration, and pervasiveness. Determining if someone is suffering from depression or sadness can be complex. However, the three aforementioned factors present the most easily recognizable variances.
People normally experience sadness as a result of specific circumstances in their lives. Examples include but are not limited to job loss, loss of a loved one, or failure to reach a desired goal. The reason for sadness is usually easily identifiable. When a person is depressed, there is not always a clear sign as to what brought about the depression. The onset could be attributed to a variety of reasons, and one’s genetics may also be a contributing factor.
Another significant contrast between sadness and depression is duration. Sadness ebbs and flows, usually dissipating when a person processes events or situations associated with it. Depression varies from sadness in that it lasts longer. In fact, it is recommended that anyone experiencing sadness for more than two weeks consult their medical professional to determine if they may be experiencing depression.
Pervasiveness is another factor that distinguishes the two terms. A person may feel sad in one area of their life but can feel joy in others. Depression, on the other hand, affects every aspect of life. There may be feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. A depressed person will find it difficult to experience joy even when they do things that once brought them great happiness. Depression also manifests itself physically such as a constant feeling of exhaustion or poor eating habits.
It is important to understand these differences so that they can be mitigated properly. One should not be alarmed when feeling sad. Part of being human is experiencing a wide array of emotions, including sadness. Time and healthy coping mechanisms can be employed to process sadness. If the sadness persists, one should consult their physician to determine if they are depressed. Together with their health care professional, a plan of action can be developed to improve quality of life.