Everyone experiences sadness, an emotion often triggered by difficult situations or events like losing a loved one or breaking up with one’s partner. It’s perfectly normal to feel sad, and there are numerous studies proving that sadness has benefits. On the other hand, depression — which is often mistaken for sadness — is an illness that interferes with one’s life and for which one requires treatment.
Here’s one way to put it: A person may be sad but not necessarily depressed, whereas pervasive sadness is inherent in depression. And although events like losing a loved one also trigger depression, its effects typically last much longer compared to when one is merely sad.
To tell the difference between sadness and depression, take note of the following factors.
Ability to take interest in any activity
People who are sad may be inclined to boost their mood by doing pleasurable activities such as eating their favorite food, watching movies, or taking a vacation . They’re still capable of enjoying things and take active steps to alleviate their mood. Those who are suffering from depression, however, often find themselves completely disinterested in doing pleasurable things. They may even skip doing them altogether and may grow apathetic towards engaging in any form of leisure activity.
Patients with depression often experience body aches and pain as a psychosomatic response to any stressful events. They may feel chronic joint pains, back pain, gastrointestinal problems, and more. These symptoms might be surprising to some, so it’s useful for them and their loved ones to know that physical pain and depression have a deeper biological connection than simple cause-and-effect.
Moreover, those who are depressed may lose interest in eating healthy, exercising, or doing activities that previously help boost their health. This results in loss of appetite and may lead to weight change. Depression can also occur alongside serious physical illnesses like cancer and heart diseases. And when that happens, the medical illness may worsen one’s depression and vice versa.
Depression may also affect some people’s medical health in other ways. For example, those who feel exhausted and irritable may resort to excessive drinking or other forms of substance abuse to alleviate their symptoms. This, in turn, may have long-term effects on their overall health.
Those who are feeling sad may still find themselves capable of sticking to a relatively healthy sleeping habit and get back to their usual selves after a temporary period of grief. But a person with a depressive disorder may experience a disrupted sleeping routine for a much longer period (at least two weeks).
Disrupted sleeping patterns are, in fact, one of the main symptoms of depression. People who are depressed may have difficulty keeping a regular sleeping habit; they may suffer from prolonged insomnia, have difficulty getting up from bed, have a tendency to oversleep, or alternate between these states.
Ability to concentrate
Sadness temporarily affects one’s ability to concentrate and make decisions. However, these may not hamper one’s ability to function normally — unlike depression. Depression can cripple one’s concentration, memory, and decision-making, and depressed people are typically preoccupied with thoughts of despair and similar emotions.
Sufferers of depression may also feel sluggish on some days and restless on others, often for no discernible reason. In severe cases, some may also feel excessively guilty, worthless, and entertain thoughts of dying, whereas those who are sad may not.
The most important thing to remember is that sadness is temporary and usually passes with time, whereas depression is an illness that affects a person in more profound ways.
Differentiating between sadness and depression is often more complex and requires further evaluation. These aren’t the only definitive signs that a person is simply sad or suffering from a depressive disorder. Seek professional help from mental health experts like Meridian Psychiatric Partners LLC. To get the best care, get in touch with us today.