News & Articles

The Difference Between Depression and Sadness

By Erin Goldberg, L.M.S.W.

The winter months can be an especially difficult time for all of us, specifically those who suffer from seasonal depression. Millions of people around the world experience symptoms of depression or sadness at some point in their lives; therefore, recognizing the difference between a diagnosis of depression and the emotion of sadness is an important step in helping a person process their emotions in a healthy way. 

So, what is the difference between sadness and depression?

Sadness is an inevitable emotion that every person will experience at some point in their lives. A number of life events can cause someone to feel sad or unhappy. For example, the loss or absence of a loved one, divorce, loss of a job, financial instability or issues at home can all affect mood in a negative way. For anyone who is experiencing sadness, it is usually helpful to cry, vent or talk out frustrations. More often than not, sadness has links to a specific trigger, and passes with time. If feelings of sadness do not pass, however, or it becomes difficult to function in daily activities or routines, this could be a sign of depression.

Depression, sometimes diagnosed by professionals as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), is a mental illness that has a profound impact on many parts of a person’s life. MDD can occur in people of any gender or age, and alters our behaviors and attitudes. In 2015, it was found an estimated 16.1 million people in the U.S., ages 18 years and older, had experienced at least one major depressive episode in the last year. This accounts for 6.7 percent of all adults in the country. 

MDD can be diagnosed by a mental health professional or doctor, and typically includes five (or more) of the following symptoms: depressed mood nearly every day, significant weight loss or weight gain (change in appetite), significant changes in sleep (too much sleep or not enough), restlessness, increased fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, difficulty concentrating and recurrent thoughts of suicide or death.

If you or a loved one find yourselves experiencing any of the above symptoms for a period of longer than two weeks, it is important to seek professional help. Based on the severity of symptoms, a physician or mental health professional can help you determine the level and type of treatment that would be best for you. Evidence-based research shows a combination of psychotherapy and medication are highly effective in treating someone who is experiencing depression. 

So, while sadness and depression are linked, they are certainly not the same. Sadness is an emotion that everyone experiences at some point or another, and depression is an overpowering and ongoing mental health disorder that requires treatment by a professional. Depression is a real illness. But with the proper support and treatment, you can feel better.

If you still feel like you aren’t sure how to best support your child, teen or young adult. Child and Family Solutions Center is here to help. Please call us at 248-851-5437 to get started with therapy services.