Feeling sad is a perfectly normal part of being human, and it’s safe to say that most of us have experienced this emotion — far more than once. While sadness can be fleeting, it can also settle in for a spell, such as after a big loss. But, is prolonged sadness the same as depression? Not necessarily.
At Institute for Advanced Psychiatry, Dr. Diana Ghelber and the team of mental health experts recognize that depression is one of the biggest mental health concerns in the United States — affecting 8.4% of adults (or 21 million people).
When It comes to differentiating between sadness and depression, there are a few points to consider, which we review below.
The symptoms of depression
Depression is a mood disorder that presents itself in different forms, but the most common is major depressive disorder (MDD), which is characterized by:
- Overwhelming sadness
- Feeling hopeless
- Loss of interest
- Low self-esteem (or self-loathing in the extreme)
- Feelings of guilt
- Sleep issues
As you can see, sadness is a key symptom when it comes to depression, but it’s part of a larger package.
Prolonged grief or depression?
To qualify as MDD, people generally experience at least two weeks of depressive symptoms. Yet grief can easily last two weeks, and often more, especially if there’s great loss involved, such as the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship. Some people spend a lifetime grieving these losses, but is that depression? Not necessarily.
There are some differences between grief and depression that we’d like to point out. First, when you’re grieving, the sadness comes in waves and the pain tends to dull with time.
With depression, on the other hand, the depressive feeling is fairly constant and is also accompanied by some of the other symptoms we describe above, such as a feeling of worthlessness. In other words, if you’re grieving a loss in your life, you generally don’t feel worthless, self-loathing, or guilty at the same time, but you can with depression.
Another point that we’d like to make is that the sadness that comes with grief is usually peppered with fond memories and positive feelings. With MDD, you generally don’t have any pleasant memories or positive emotions at all.
Furthermore, when you’re grieving, someone can still make you laugh or smile, and you don’t lose total interest in activities you once enjoyed. Sure, you might not be so keen to go to the movies with a friend when you’re grieving, but you do and you find solace in the activity. With depression, your loss of interest casts a wide net and even if you cave and go along, you derive no pleasure from the activity.
Granted, there are some fine lines between sadness and depression, and the best way to figure out what has hijacked your mental health is to come see us for an evaluation.
To get on the road to a happier state, please contact us at the Institute for Advanced Psychiatry in Granbury or Fort Worth, Texas, to set up a consultation.