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What is the difference between sadness and depression?

190 Answers
Last Updated: 01/24/2022 at 5:40pm
1 Tip to Feel Better
United States
Moderated by

Jessica McDaniel, LPC, LCPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

I have been practicing cognitive behavioral psychotherapy since 2007 with a diverse group of adult clients with various diagnoses, all races, and socioeconomic classes.

Top Rated Answers
September 14th, 2014 9:09pm
Similarly, sadness is not an illness and is not depression either. When I describe depression—which, of course, contains profound sadness—people have a hard time individuating it in their minds from sadness, but they are quite different. Sadness is a Normal, Human Emotion Sadness is something we all experience; it’s a normal, human emotion. We experience it when we experience something unpleasant in life—a loss, a disappointment, and so on. Sadness is what happens when you get a divorce. Sadness is what happens when you’re stood up for a date. Sadness is what happens when normal events occur in ways that are hurtful. Sadness can occur at very regular intervals in our everyday lives. However, sadness is not constant. Sadness is not an every-moment-of-every-day thing like depression is. Sadness relents, depression doesn’t. Sadness is interrupted by periods of laughter; depression often can’t be budged by even the most talented comedian. Sadness may usher in negative thoughts but it does not propel a person into a place of suicidal ideation. Sadness may reduce our ability to enjoy life but it doesn’t destroy it all together. Sadness may last for what feels like a long period of time, but it does not remain constant for weeks or months. Sadness doesn’t produce significant weight changes or prolonged periods of sleep changes. Sadness doesn’t include psychosis. In short, depression is so far beyond sadness that comparing the two is almost laughable. Sadness is painful and it sucks, but it is normal and it does pass. Depression is beyond painful. It’s life-altering, it is not normal, and often does not resolve itself without medical intervention. Medicalization of Normal, Human Emotion It’s important to understand the difference between sadness and depression because it clarifies which is an illness and which is not. It’s important to realize that depression is not a medicalization of normal, human emotion. Depression is a real illness. It is very different from sadness. And skilled clinicians can tell the difference between the two. People with Depression are Not Just “Sad” Just as cell growth is normal in a person, we call out of control cell growth an illness—we call it cancer. Depression is exactly the same. Depression is when a normal, human emotion gets out of control to the point where it is no longer normal. Considering someone with an illness merely to be “sad” is an insult to that person and minimizes an illness that takes thousands of lives every year. And we can’t afford to do that, lest the illness take one more.
October 13th, 2014 9:25pm
Sadness is something that is only experienced for a short amount of time. Unfortunately, depression is something much more consuming and that is with you every day.
November 4th, 2014 4:30pm
While sadness might last a long time it does not invade your whole being on the same level as depression. Depression soaks through every crevice, poisoning whatever positive thoughts or emotions existed in your body. It changes your behaviour for the worse and in the beginning you will be completely helpless against it.
November 7th, 2014 3:26pm
From my experience with talking to people who are sad and depression, is that "sadness" is more of a definite solid emotion, while depression is something more complicated; a turmoil of not only sadness, and despair, but also a feeling of "numbness"; you feel numb to many emotions, you not only aren't sure how to feel happy, but also sad. You see no purpose in your actions and life because you're numb from it. It's something that really engulfs someone from the inside and out.
November 14th, 2014 10:59am
From a psychopathological approach, sadness is a natural, transient emotion, and there is nothing wrong with it. As long as it maintains a reasonable balance with other emotions, it is fine. Depression is a psychological mood disorder defined by a deep, persistent sadness that continues for an extended amount of time. Depressive sadness rarely goes away and causes you to isolate yourself from others and abandon the activities you once enjoyed. You often cannot identify a cause of the sadness, and nothing you do makes it go away. When sadness consumes and defines your life for months or years, it has become depression, but you must see a licensed professional to be officially diagnosed.
September 18th, 2014 3:57pm
Sadness is something you can easily over come or may even fade with time. Depression, is chemicals going wrong and it sucks away life from the person it effects. It's a horrible epidemic that affects millions of people. It's hard to over come and needs help to be beaten, which is why we should look after one another.
November 3rd, 2014 9:50pm
Depression is for life, sadness is a day, a week or an hour, sadness is temporally, you have to learn to live with depression without comitte suicide
November 9th, 2014 10:15pm
While sadness usually only lasts for a little while (perhaps a day or so, depending on the situation), depression will linger. Depression is more long-term, and can have a great impact on your ability to function.
October 1st, 2014 9:57pm
Sadness is a normal human emotion. All people experience sadness when they meet something unpleasant in their life. It is not constant. Depression is long term and does not resolve itself without help of doctor.
October 13th, 2014 6:57am
Sadness is a short length of low feelings with a potential happiness. Depression is longer & painful
November 3rd, 2014 12:33pm
Everybody experiences sadness. There is an obvious reason when you are feeling sad..Depression comes out of nowhere, sometimes at the most inappropriate time and can often be extremely difficult to describe, explain and get over.
November 4th, 2014 10:54pm
Sadness is temporary. Depression is feelings of intense sadness for a long period of time. If you're experiencing depression, I encourage you to reach out! :)
November 18th, 2014 2:39pm
Sadness is a temporary feeling, leaving you maybe exhausted, devastated, unworthy, disappointed or whatever it is that we're experiencing when we are sad. Being sad usually only lasts for a little while. A depression however is a clinical condition that lasts for at least two weeks, for example leaving you un-interested in former hobbies, sleeping more than usual or feeling unable to get up and get things done. There is a variety of symptons described for depression, but I think the main difference is that most times sadness goes away after quite a short time.
September 20th, 2014 1:39pm
Sadness is a negative functional emotion; we all experience it when something goes wrong in our lives: we breakup, we fail an exam, we have a fight with our parents...It can helps us take a break and readjust/ reevaluate our thoughts, our actions...It's a functional emotion as it can give us an insight on our next plan of action. Depression, on the other hand, is a negative emotion much more intense, more time lasting, with damaging effects. We call it dysfunctional, as, compared to sadness, it does not help us take a first new step and make a new plan for ourselves. Depression focuses our minds on the past, on feelings of self-blame, despair and regret while sadness lets us heal and think of better reactions to our situation.
October 23rd, 2014 5:36am
Sadness is a more calm way of accepting that you are not feeling your best ... depression can be an extreme form of sadness and you may be feeling that way for a long time.
October 23rd, 2014 12:07pm
Sadness is much easier to confront. You can be sad for a few days, but after a whil you are fine again. On the other hand, depression is a state which is long term and really difficult to get out
October 23rd, 2014 2:35pm
sadness is temporary and lasts a short time but depression can last a long time sometimes requires intervention
October 26th, 2014 12:49am
sadness is felt for a short period of time, depressions drags on with you for a while. so you can be sad over something very specific. depression isnt over anything specific its just felt.
October 29th, 2014 1:45pm
Sadness is a temporary feeling. Everyone can feel sad, it is a mood you can get because of the litte problems everyone have. Depression is a serious disease, someone who suffers depression should be supported by specialists. It can be caught following an emotional shock, like the loss of a loved one.
October 30th, 2014 8:48pm
Sadness is an intransient emotional state, just like happiness. Nobody is happy one hundred percent of the time, and in a healthy person, emotions range depending on situations. A certain level of sadness is perfectly acceptable and normal. Depression is the loss of motivation and ability to connect with life. It's identified by increased feelings of hopelessness, despair, bleakness, or emptiness. It also has physical effects including lack of energy, loss of appetite, and inability to be productive. This is because depression is caused by the lack of certain chemicals or vitamins in the body, be they serotonin or dopamine or Vitamin C or D or something else entirely, making it a medical condition rather than an emotional state.
November 3rd, 2014 4:41am
Sadness is temporary. It happens when something sad/upsetting happens. It could be anything from your favorite charecter in a book/tv show/movie dying, to some one you know passing away. However some one you know passing away could also lead to depression. Depression is more a permanant sadness or it can be a feeling of hopelessness/worthlessness that lasts for a very long time and never truly goesa away. It could also just be a feeling of "nothingness"
November 3rd, 2014 7:31am
I would say sadness is a very brief feeling compared to depression. Depression could last from a day or two to months and years. Depression would also be a much stronger version of sadness.
November 4th, 2014 3:43am
In my opinion, the difference between sadness and depression is that depression is constant or recurring sadness. If you are feeling down during most of your day, having low self-esteem, or always on edge, you may be depressed. If you just feel sad because of an event or thing that happened in your life, that is not necessarily depression. Sadness is a human emotion that is OK to feel, sometimes. When your sadness goes from rarely/ sometimes to all the time or frequently, that is a sign of depression.
November 11th, 2014 4:29am
Sadness is a normal human emotion, and can be triggered for a variety of reasons, such as getting a bad grade on a test, losing a game, or having bad weather. Depression is a more pervasive emotional experience with biological, psychological, and even genetic components. Depression can be triggered by biological causes, such as not getting enough sunlight and/or Vitamin D, low serotonin or dopamine (neurotransmitters) in the brain, and medication side effects. Depression can also be triggered by life events, such as the death of a loved one, losing a job, or breaking up with a significant other. Depression also can run in families, causing blood-related family members to have an increased probability to manifest depression in their lifetime. Depression can also be co-morbid with other disorders, such as alcohol and substance abuse and anxiety. While sadness can come and go like any other emotion, depression can last as long as a few weeks to a few years, and can even persist an entire lifetime if treatment is not sought after or effective. While sadness will come and go on its own, depression usually requires medication and/or therapy before a person feels improvement in their mood. Depression is a highly treatable mood disorder, and there are many resources available for people to rely on.
November 11th, 2014 10:39pm
While abnormal/perpetual sadness can be a symptom of depression, sadness is a mood or feeling. Depression is a mental illness in which a person may feel lethargic, restless, sad, frustrated (and often guilty for having such feelings). People with depression often no longer get enjoyment from things they used to love and many have trouble simply finding the motivation to get out of bed in the morning or perform everyday tasks for self-care (eating, bathing, exercise, etc.) People with depression may also feel suicidal and may self-harm to cope with how they feel. Symptoms and behaviors vary from person to person and should be diagnosed by a professional, but if you think you have depression (or if someone tells you they think they have depression) go see a professional. Depression is a lot more than just "being sad" and the opposite of depression is not "happiness".
November 13th, 2014 5:55pm
Sadness is a current situation that made you sad, but goes away within 2 weeks. Depression last longer up to 8 weeks and beyond.
November 14th, 2014 10:52pm
Yes, I believe there is a difference between sadness and depression. When someone is depressed it is being sad for no reason. It is a meaningless, hopeless sadness, where sadness is being sad because of a reason.
November 15th, 2014 9:41am
Depression is a persistent low level mood we encounter that last for more then a few weeks with little to no relief when untreated. Sadness is a normal feeling we go through that is more brief and less hindering on our daily life compared to depression. In short, depression impedes on our quality of life while sadness is a natural feeling to certain undesired events that we can bounce back from rather quickly.
November 17th, 2014 3:42pm
To me, sadness is a feeling. Something like, I feel sad because I failed my Biology paper. Whereas depression is something I would define as cumulative sadness or cumulative stress. It is when someone over thinks about everything that takes place around him, there is a chance of that person falling into depression.
November 18th, 2014 11:55am
Sadness comes and goes with reasoning. Depression comes around for no specific reason and you have no idea what to do to make yourself better.