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What’s the Difference Between Sadness and Depression?

What’s the Difference Between Sadness and Depression?

A horse and a pony are similar but different.

A banana and a plantain are similar but different.

A Samsung and an iPhone are similar but different.

Sadness and depression are similar but different. 

For most of us, it’s hard to distinguish between the two. The textbook definitions of each diagnosis vary widely. Even the treatment for each is unique. Take a minute to understand the similarities and differences. Then try to pinpoint which one you’re experiencing. (I promise it will be more obvious than you think). And before you finish reading this article, you’ll know what’s the next right step for you.  

What is Sadness?

In The Voice of the Heart, psychologist Chip Dodd defines sadness as “the feeling that speaks to how much you value, what is missed, what is gone, and what is lost. It also speaks of how deeply you value what you love, what you have, and what you live.”

Sadness reveals that something you value is no longer present. It resonates like a peasant losing his only coin or a mother mourning the loss of her child. The sadder that you feel, the more valuable the thing that was lost.

On the journey of grief, sadness is the first step toward healing. You must recognize that you lost something—it’s gone and not coming back. Only then can you progress through the stages of grief.

While sadness is very real, it is not a clinical disorder and therefore cannot be formally diagnosed by a doctor or psychologist. However, it is often caused by a distinct and definable loss.

What is depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that is associated with intense sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in things that once brought you joy.

In contrast to sadness, depression is an official diagnosis. If someone has experienced these things over the previous 2 weeks, the individual can be diagnosed with depression:

  1. Experienced a depressed mood (nearly everyday) or a loss of interest in daily activities, or both.
  2. Experienced five or more of the following:
    • Weight loss or gain, increased or decreased appetite, not attributed to other causes such as dieting
    • Lethargy or less physical activity (noticeable to self and others)
    • Fatigue or lack of energy
    • Feeling worthless or guilty
    • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
    • Suicidal thoughts, plans, or attempts

How to cope with your sadness

The seasons of life wash over us like the waves of the ocean; some are satisfying and joyful, others are tumultuous and harsh. If you’re being crushed by a wave of sadness, these tips might help:

  • Name your losses. Some will be specific, others will be vague. Think about the obvious answers (loss of job, loved one, valuable item, etc.) and consider the ones that are more difficult to name (loss of control, free time, confidence, lifestyle, etc.).
  • Acknowledge that you are not in control. Everyone has been drenched by the monsoon of coronavirus. The evidence is everywhere, from masks to full hospital beds, from sick friends to sparse store shelves. If there is one thing to learn from this season, it’s that you are not in control.
  • Grieve your losses. It’s okay to be sad that you can’t hug your friends, see their smile, or hear their voice uninhibited from masks. It’s acceptable to be disappointed over cancelled events, closed shops, and safety modifications everywhere you go. Imagine telling your child that she can’t have a birthday party. Of course she will be sad, and that is an acceptable response! Grieve those losses and allow yourself to feel sad too.

So, what’s the cure for sadness? Is there a magical happy pill or a workbook to complete?

The answer is threefold: 

  1. Feel sad. Suffering is a part of life. Sadness hurts. It can feel crippling. But the only way through sadness is to feel it first.
  2. Relationships. Next, dig into your relationships. Human connection nourishes a grieving heart better than any other remedy. Be sad beside others, and—when you’re ready—move forward in community.
  3. Control. Find small ways to gain a sense of control throughout your day. Pick the radio station in the car. Decide what time to eat dinner. Dictate where you go on your family walk this evening. 

Need help with depression?

The “cure” for depression isn’t as simple as 1-2-3. If you find yourself drowning in the waves of depression, you don’t have to flounder alone. We’re tossing you a life preserver and inviting you to safety. The journey might be cold and tough, but the hope of dry land can captivate your heart. 

Consider this a lifeline. Call us today. Let’s diagnose your depression or sadness and learn how to cope together.Teen Social Anxiety

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