The Difference Between Being Sad and Depressed

It's important to understand the difference

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Depression is often misunderstood and confusion between feelings of sadness and depression can lead to a harmful emotional state. The saying “I’m depressed” is used lightly among many. But the truth is, depression is an illness that should be taken very seriously.

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) explains, “major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older, in a given year. (Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun; 62(6): 617-27).”

People who suffer from depression are always down; they experience constant fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, impaired concentration and thoughts of death or suicide. In many cases they will find themselves losing interest in activities they used to enjoy.

According to Psychology Today, sadness is a normal human emotion and is “usually triggered by a difficult, hurtful, challenging, or disappointing event, experience, or situation.” While, depression is an “abnormal” emotional state. It is a serious illness that has the potential to affect a person’s life in chronic ways.


How to know if you are sad or depressed?

It’s not always easy to distinguish between feelings of sadness and depression. Feelings of sadness are normal when encountering life struggles or going through a difficult experience. But in time, sadness fades and you bounce back to your normal self.  

If your sadness persists for more than a few weeks and you begin to find it is interfering with your ability to function at home, at work or in other important aspects of your life you may be encountering the first signs of depression.

At this time, it is advised to take action immediately. Consider talking with a doctor about treatments before the depression worsens.


If depression goes untreated

Untreated depression can take a serious toll on your mental and physical health.

Mentally depression can cause memory loss, anxiety, fatigue and feelings of hopelessness. Physically untreated depression may result in weight changes, reckless behavior and pain resulting from heachaches, muscle aches and back pains.

According to the DBSA, “people with depression are four times as likely to develop a heart attack than those without a history of the illness. After a heart attack, they are at a significantly increased risk of death or second heart attack (National Institute of Mental Health, 1998).” They also explain, “major depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide among persons five and older. (World Health Organization, "Global Burden of Disease," 1996).”


Read 6 Things That Make Depression Worse for ways to understand how to manage depression and take control back of your life.


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