How To Tell The Difference Between Passing Sadness And Depression

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  • Though sadness is a symptom of depression, the two are not one in the same.
  • The biggest difference between sadness and depression is typically the length of time.
  • Depression also typically comes with physical symptoms.

Everyone has experienced sadness writes . No matter your age range, there’s been some sort of event that has occurred that has caused you to feel outside of your normal emotional balance.

Just like sadness, depression is common, too. Although there are many people who have not been officially diagnosed with depression, according to WebMD, the mood disorder affects nearly one in 10 US adults.

But despite the fact that it’s common, many people are quick to shrug off their depression as passing sadness.

Since society pegs the two as being one in the same, how do you know how to spot the difference? According to Jessica Feldman, MSW, LMHC, CPRP — client services director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness-NYC Metro— it may not be that easy to differentiate between the two.

“Because the primary symptom of depression is unyielding sadness, it’s really hard to know where that line is drawn,” she said. “This dichotomy makes it very challenging for people to know when to get help. Many people live with untreated depression because they believe that soon, they will just snap out of it.”

That doesn’t mean, however, that discovering the difference is impossible.

Feldman told INSIDER that diagnosable depression is called Major Depressive Disorder and it’s led by the word ‘major’ for a reason

It seems insurmountable. And although many believe that you can just snap out of the daunting feeling that comes along with depression, it doesn’t quite work like that and “giving it time” isn’t really an answer for people with depression.

Feldman said the time limit in which you are feeling a certain way is one of the main determining factors.

“A major depressive disorder lasts for at least two weeks and affects a person’s ability to work, to carry out usual daily activities, and hinders a person’s capacity to maintain satisfying personal relationships,” she said. “According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-5), depression is diagnosed when the person is experiencing five or more symptoms that last more than two weeks.”

thoughtful sad woman
Depression doesn’t usually get better on its own.
kittirat roekburi / Shutterstock

Depression and passing sadness can look similar, but depression often comes with additional symptoms

Though the symptom list can be quite long and mirror some that are similar to those of sadness, if you’re feeling things such as depressed mood most of every day, diminished interest or pleasure in activities, significant weight loss or weight gain, daily fatigue or loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt nearly every day, diminished ability to think or concentrate, indecisiveness, recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal ideations, and/or attempted suicide for 14 days or more, it could be an indication that you are depressed.

For those who believe they have these symptoms, the next step is to consult with a doctor to identify whether you are dealing with depression. This is especially important if you’re in a time of crisis or loss.

Sadness — though a symptom of depression — is a normal reaction that everyone has when there is a tragic or sad event that happens in their life. According to Dr. Colleen Mullen, Psy. D., LMFT the feeling can usually be traced to events such as a breakup, job loss, or death of a loved one. Depression, on the other hand, is biological.

“You cannot ‘think’ yourself out of depression, whereas when you are sad due to life circumstances, you can usually tell yourself something to help you change your mood and get on with your day,” Mullen said. “Even though sadness from a life circumstance can last more than a couple of days, one is not usually sad nearly all day, every day as the diagnostic criteria for a diagnosis of depression calls for.”

Ultimately, it’s best to talk to a professional to determine the difference

Everyone experiences sadness and grief differently and depression can also manifest itself in different ways. If you’re struggling to figure out if your passing sadness is more than that — or just want to talk things through — making an appointment with a professional can be a great first step.

I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment. All feedback is much appreciated. Thank you. Erin

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