Sadness Versus Depression: What Is the Difference?

The differences between feeling sad and being depressed and when you should get help

Key takeaways:

  • Sadness is a normal emotional response to events like illnesses, breakups, job losses, or death.

  • If yours persists beyond two weeks, you may be dealing with depression.

  • Depression is a clinical diagnosis, not an emotion. It requires diagnosis and treatment by a professional.

  • If you’re feeling suicidal or preoccupied with death, these are signs of depression. Please seek help right away. You can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

  • There are many symptoms of depression, including sadness that persists longer than two weeks, changes in eating and sleeping habits, loss of pleasure and enjoyment, fatigue, irritability, and more.

  • The DSM-5 is what professionals use to diagnose depression. It sets forth clearly defined diagnostic criteria that can differentiate sadness from depression.

  • Seek professional help if your feelings of sadness last longer than two weeks, if you have suicidal thoughts or behaviors or a preoccupation with death/dying, or if your sorrow is affecting your ability to function.

  • There are lifestyle changes that can help manage depression. Medication and/or therapy can also help greatly.

Part of being human is experiencing a rich spectrum of emotions. Sadness is one of these. Virtually everyone experiences sadness at some point. Feeling sad is a natural response to activating events like a breakup, job loss, illness, or death. It will eventually subside on its own, making room for other emotions, like happiness, joy, and contentment.

Depression, on the other hand, is a clinical diagnosis and can be a long-term disorder. Depression interferes with your ability to function and can create difficulties at school, work, home, and in your relationships. It can even impact your physical health. Without treatment, it can last for a long time and will likely worsen. Keep reading to learn more about sadness versus depression and how to know if it’s time to seek help.

The symptoms of depression

Sadness can be overwhelming, but you’re still able to find joy or comfort in the midst of it. Clinical depression is different from sadness. Depression is not an emotion, but a clinical diagnosis. It is insidious and pervasive and affects all aspects of life. It will cause you to be unable to find escape or enjoyment in life.

Depression is known as clinical depression, major depressive disorder, or major depression. It can have many symptoms. Some common ones are: