“Am I depressed or just sad?” — a question many people as themselves at a difficult point in their lives. Depression and sadness are two terms that are often used interchangeably — but they’re very different when it comes to mental health. About 1% of men and 2% of women are clinically depressed at any point in time. Women are two times more likely than men to experience depression at some point in their lifetime, putting them at an increased risk. That’s why it’s important to monitor for depression and to know the difference between a clinical diagnosis and sadness.
You may have experienced both at some point in your life, but you may be asking, “What is the difference between sadness and depression?”. We’ve outlined major differences between the two so you can determine if you or someone you know should seek help.
Depression VS. Sadness defined
If you’ve been asking yourself “Am I depressed or just sad?”, there are a few important differences to look out for. Depression is a serious psychological condition that can take many forms. Major depressive disorder (MDD), also called clinical depression, is defined as intense or overwhelming symptoms that last longer than two weeks. It’s a mood disorder characterized by chronic and consistent feelings of melancholy and loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy. Sadness, on the other hand, is typically a situational emotion. It comes and goes in waves with upsetting events in your life.
Depression isn’t just feeling sad — it’s much more complex than that. This condition goes beyond just experiencing negative emotions because it affects your overall sense of well-being.
Symptoms of depression
Look out for these symptoms when determining the difference between being sad vs. depression:
- Changes in appetite — either eating more or less.
- Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed. This can include hobbies, social activities, or sex.
- Energy levels may drop or fluctuate wildly. You might feel fatigued throughout the day, regardless of how many hours of sleep you’ve gotten.
- Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, and worthlessness. These negative thoughts may cause you to think that your situation can’t be improved or that there’s no point in trying.
- An inability to concentrate no matter how hard you try.
- Feeling irritated, agitated, or moody.
- New or increased alcohol and/or drug use.
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
It’s also common for people with depression to experience physical symptoms, especially when left untreated. This is the body’s way of alerting you that something is wrong. Physical symptoms can manifest as headaches, digestive issues, or sleep problems including insomnia, sleeping too much, or too little.
Other mood disorders can also develop alongside depression, most commonly, anxiety. Those who suffer from anxiety often deal with feelings of impending doom. When paired with depression, these feelings make it even more difficult to complete simple tasks like getting out of bed. It’s also common for anxiety to increase over time until it feels like it’s constantly running in the background. That’s why it’s so important to get help as soon as possible. The body is amazing at adjusting to changes in your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours — even the bad ones. We want to intercept these unpleasant symptoms before they’re normalized.
Treatment for depression
Have you been wondering “Am I depressed or just sad?” It may be time to seek professional treatment. The good news is that depression is treatable with about 80% to 90% of people responding well to treatment. If you think you may be experiencing depression, seek help from a mental health professional as soon as possible. Your doctor will screen for depression by asking a series of questions to learn more about your symptoms. They’ll then follow up with a diagnosis if you are showing signs of depression. From there, your doctor will suggest a treatment based on the severity of the symptoms, the most common being medication, counselling, or a combination of both.
Medications can help ease symptoms of depression like sadness or lack of energy by balancing chemicals in the brain that affect mood. There are several types of medications available to treat depression, including:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
These medications don’t work equally well for everyone. You may need to try more than one to find the treatment that works best for your body.
Counselling is an effective option for those who don’t want to take medication, or who don’t respond well to medication alone. People who choose counselling as a treatment option often have specific goals they want to achieve during therapy sessions — like learning how better cope with stressors. If your only goal is to feel better but you don’t know where to start, a counsellor can do an excellent job at determining your blind spots. They’ll teach you the right tools and strategies to support these blind spots and get you back on your feet.
There are multiple types of counselling for depression. You may have to go through a few counsellors to discover your best fit. However, there are ways to speed up this matching process by allowing professionals to match you to a counsellor. For example, Wellin5’s online counselling platform will match you to a counsellor who meets your specific needs. So you can feel better sooner.
Support your mental health with the help of a professional
It can be tough to determine what the difference is between depression and sadness. While they can sometimes feel similar, depression and sadness are not the same thing. We recommend speaking to a counsellor or to your doctor to get a diagnosis and a treatment plan. If you’re asking yourself “Am I depressed or just sad?”, you shouldn’t have to struggle in silence. Wellin5’s team of online clinical counsellors are highly specialized in counselling for depression. Our counsellors are equipped to help you deal with any symptoms of depression, giving you the support you need to feel better. Start feeling better.