When, exactly, does sadness become depression?
Because these two words are often used interchangeably, some people get confused about their distinction.
Saying you’re depressed is different from saying you have depression because the latter is referring to a mental illness, not an emotion.
When you’re feeling down or have been feeling down for a long time, you might get worried about which one you’re experiencing.
For a general idea, depression is usually more severe in terms of its duration and extent of how it affects your life.
On the other hand, sadness is normal, and it may take a shorter amount of time to recover from than clinical depression.
There are some differences between normal sadness and clinical depression, and in this article, we’re going to be talking about seven of them.
FRIENDLY DISCLAIMER: This article is not a substitute for any medical diagnosis or recovery method. It is for informative purposes only. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to a qualified healthcare provider or mental health professional for proper help.
1. You’re still able to enjoy the simple things.
Do you still find yourself smiling while watching your favorite show?
Can you feel the familiar burst of excitement as you read your comfort novel?
If you still have the energy to do and enjoy your passions and hobbies, you’re most likely going through a normal phase of sadness, not clinical depression.
People diagnosed with depression often find themselves faced with an overwhelming feeling of lethargy.
They may find life monotonous and have no interest in doing things that once brought them happiness.
This numbness can extend for long periods, which is different from normal sadness that you can bounce back from.
So whenever you feel down, please don’t forget to take some time off to heal.
Do activities that you feel promotes self-growth! Perhaps exercising or journaling may help.
Make your mental health a priority and remember to take little breaks every day.
2. You have enough energy to complete your daily tasks.
Are you still eating all of your meals?
Do you have any difficulty sleeping?
Depression often comes with an inability to complete regular activities.
Most of the time, they lack the energy to do so and don’t see the purpose in performing activities while they’re unhappy.
At times, even menial tasks such as going to the bathroom to pee seem tiring to them.
Depressed people often stay in their rooms and their beds, losing track of time, and having a feeling of numbness.
A sad person may be more silent and inactive than usual, but once the need arises, they most likely eat, go to the bathroom, and take care of themselves, especially when it’s urgent.
3. You still talk to your friends and loved ones.
Do you open up to your friends?
Do you have the energy to rant or cry about what’s been going on?
People with depression may be unable to perform these acts because at times, depression can stem from nothing at all.
A person may live a completely normal life and suddenly find themselves experiencing sudden feelings of numbness and hopelessness.
Because of that, some of them may choose not to open up at all.
The strong sense of hopelessness brought by the mental illness may prevent them from reaching out to help just because they may feel it’s not worth it – that they’re not worth the effort.
This is different from normal sadness because, in that situation, you still welcome your relationships to help with your mental health.
When you’re sad, you may feel like you want to take a break and isolate yourself for a little while, but after some time, you usually go back and talk to the people you’re used to communicating with.
4. Your self-esteem is not permanently affected.
It is normal for sad people to gain negative feelings about themselves and the things that are troubling them.
Emotions such as remorse, regret, and hopelessness are common when you’ve experienced an unfortunate event.
However, these thoughts tend to fade over time, especially when you’ve figured out the root of the problem and are taking the steps to fix it or move on from it.
This differs from depressed people who are caught in a continuous loop of negativity.
They tend to look at themselves as people undeserving of any help, and in some situations, this even extends to thoughts and acts of self-harm or suicide.
Being able to bounce back or recover from a bad experience is a good indicator of your mental health, so if you know someone who harbors continuous self-diminishing thoughts, you can always help them by letting them know they have a friend in you and that you are always available to help or reach out for help.
They may not want to talk just yet, but your presence is just as important.
5. You’re experiencing burnout.
Sometimes, you don’t realize that you badly need a timeout.
Do you find that being with your friends no longer makes you happy as it used to, even though nothing’s changed?
Do you find it difficult to maintain the routine you’ve created for yourself through weeks, months, or years of consistency?
Everybody needs a timeout or else they’re open to the risk of burnout, which they may mistake for depression.
Burnout is characterized by feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion mainly caused by prolonged stress.
With burnout, you may find yourself unable to complete your tasks due to increased mental distance from them.
You may have no energy to do anything because you’re unable to cope with the stress and emotional problems you’ve been enduring for a long time.
If you do find that you can relate to these symptoms, it might be a good idea to practice having a good work-life balance.
Try to give time to every aspect of your life, because focusing too much on one thing may tire you out real quick.
You can schedule weekly activities for yourself such as taking a one-night trip with your friends, going on a blind date, or even showing up to that dancing class you’ve always been eyeing!
Keep active and explore many things to avoid stagnation, and if that doesn’t work after some time, a visit to a therapist or doctor might help.
6. You feel better after letting it out.
Do you feel lighter after a good cry?
Does having your friends around you (while you’re sad) make you feel less alone?
Feeling better after letting out your emotions is a possible indicator that you’re sad, not depressed, because clinically depressed people often don’t see the point in opening up about what they’re experiencing.
They tend to see themselves as worthless and undeserving of attention.
Because of this, many aspects of their lives are put at risk, such as their relationships, friendships, and careers.
Talking about feelings is incredibly important for everyone, no matter who they are.
According to Talklet, it helps you process your emotions, develop emotional awareness, and clear your mind.
It’s better to let your emotions out than to keep them in, that’s why it’s really helpful to be surrounded by trustworthy, understanding friends.
7. Time heals you.
After a few weeks or even months, do you still find yourself experiencing the same situation, or are you slowly forgetting about it?
Being able to bounce back after a sad spell is an indicator that what you were experiencing is normal sadness, not depression.
Depression is much more severe in terms of the extent of the symptoms and the extent of how these symptoms impair the person’s life (Gernon, n.d.).
Doctors will usually look for symptoms that have lasted at least 2 weeks as possible signs of depression (Berry, 2018).
It can last for months and years and is more difficult to recover from that normal sadness.
So, whenever you’re sad, take your time to acknowledge your sadness.
Let it go through you, and try to find healthy coping mechanisms during the event.
Surround yourself with loving and supportive friends and family.
And, when the time comes, let it heal.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
Do you have someone in real life you can talk to? Who’s your rant buddy?
Please share your replies in the comment section below. We always appreciate hearing about your experiences.
Sadness may be temporary, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t mind it when it comes.
Dealing with it properly is important for you and your mental health, so take your time to be sad, and let yourself heal once it goes away.
Try not to dwell on grudges and have forgiveness in your heart, because, in life, it takes sad moments to recognize the happy ones.
Berry, J. (2018, July 11). How do I know I am feeling depressed? Medical News Today. Retrieved March 30, 2022, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/314071#feels
Gernon, D. (2020, March 10). On knowing the difference between sadness and depression. A Lust For Life – Irish Mental Health Charity in Ireland. Retrieved March 31, 2022, from https://www.alustforlife.com/tools/mental-health/on-knowing-the-difference-between-sadness-and-depression?gclid=Cj0KCQjw5-WRBhCKARIsAAId9FkGPDKSK7XUQo1aaVd0c9Yt1Jtx4AUSaQ38M8TM6vHZe35-0veavkwaAuVQEALw_wcB
Mental Health America. (2021, November 30). Am I depressed or just sad? Retrieved March 31, 2022, from https://screening.mhanational.org/content/am-i-depressed-or-just-sad/
Mental Health Foundation. (2017, February 2). 1. Talk about your feelings. Retrieved March 30, 2022, from https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/your-mental-health/looking-after-your-mental-health/talk-about-your-feelings#:%7E:text=Talking%20about%20your%20feelings%20can,you%20can%20to%20stay%20healthy.
Smith, M., M. A., Segal, J., Ph. D., & Robinson, L. (2022, March 24). Burnout Prevention and Treatment. HelpGuide.Org. Retrieved March 30, 2022, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/burnout-prevention-and-recovery.htm
Talklet. (2021, March 26). Why Talking about your Feelings is Important for your Mental Wellness. Retrieved March 30, 2022, from https://www.mytalklet.com/post/talking-about-your-feelings
Whelan, C. (2017, March 31). Is It Depression or Sadness? Learn the Signs. Healthline. Retrieved March 31, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/depression-vs-sadness
World Health Organization. (2019, May 28). Burn-out an “occupational phenomenon”: International Classification of Diseases. Retrieved March 30, 2022, from https://www.who.int/news/item/28-05-2019-burn-out-an-occupational-phenomenon-international-classification-of-diseases#:%7E:text=%E2%80%9CBurn%2Dout%20is%20a%20syndrome,related%20to%20one’s%20job%3B%20and