How depression is recognizably different from sadness

Abstract.....Both depression and sadness are psychological states, mental conditions in which the minds are affected. How often are we functionally aware that they are impacting the minds differently? Are they affecting motivation? How can we describe the psychological play behind them?


Depression is a word that is often interchangeably used with sadness. Returning home from a stressful day in the office may throw us into a confusion, that we are caught in a depression. An unexpected bad news about a friend or a family member might create an impression into our minds, that we are depressed. While to some extent it may be true, but realistically, depression is strikingly different from sadness. 

Sadness is inevitably a symptom of depression, but they are often interlinked and in our daily lives, we struggle to distinguish between these two psychological states. Many times, we fail to recognize the glaring difference between depression which comes as a diagnosis and sadness which is an emotion. Knowing these two and understanding the differences between them can shed light on the cruciality to seek help. From the perspective of well- being, defining depression and sadness and elucidating their distinction becomes an essentiality.

Sadness comes as a normal human emotion whereas depression is an extreme psychological condition and our failure to differentiate between the two can prolong the damage. If there is a prevailing depression, we may either neglect them, sniffing it with hope that someday, it will all go away. And if we confuse sadness with depression, that we may be over-reactive in cases, where it need not be taken so seriously.

Depression may or may not strike every single person, but sadness does appear in every human’s life, typically experienced in stress or some somber times. Sadness is triggered by the adversities in life. Abrupt events in life can hurl people in the feelings of sadness or dismay. We may be caught up in a shock, as to why they happened. Financial hardship, loss of job or income, an unbalanced work and family life situation, the loss of a loved one, separation, relationship issues can impact our mental state negatively. Failing to succeed in life can trigger the emotion of sadness.

Sadness can wane by crying or having an open conversation about it with a close person. Venting about it takes the emotion away. Normally sadness is dispelled after something satisfactory comes forth to replace the dissatisfactory one which triggered the sad emotion. Happiness dispels the sadness, without a shadow of doubt.

While sadness does constitute one element of depression, but depression is far bigger and broader than sadness. Depression can be defined as a mental health disorder which has a profound impact on the personal life and professional life. Its implications are vast and far-reaching.

The duration of sadness can be for a moment, an hour or even some days at a stretch. Still, it can be defined as a temporary state of mind. Every human being will experience sadness at some point of time in his/her life. It is an inescapable human feeling. And to acknowledge it would be to honor the human emotions. It is human to feel sad being struck by a heartbreaking event. An unexpected ending of a romantic relationship, the walking away of a loved one, or a duel with a friend may induce the most natural feeling of sadness. But depression is far from this in its reach. It is a mental health disorder, an unusual mental and emotional state which impacts our thinking and feeling. Depression slowly crawls into every aspect of our life and it takes away our ability to feel anything. The only thing we are left with is numbness or sadness about everything. A depressed person is so static that he/she becomes decapacitated, unable to be interested in anything or the world around. The entire life changes for the person. Nothing catches their eyes or hearts anymore. All there is a pervasive creepiness of depression which slowly plagues them inside. The things that once means something to them, no longer hold any meaning or purpose.

While sadness does have a specific underlying trigger factor, depression is unlike it in this aspect. It does not have a specific underlying trigger. Without any explicit reason, the person is caught in the grip of depression. Apparently, it may seem like he/she has the life in hold, but beneath all that, they are disguising their authentic emotions. Pulling themselves out of the bed in the morning becomes a serious challenge. Relationships becomes real struggle for them. They suffer from a perennial loneliness. They no longer find anything called job satisfaction. They become prone to a rapid anger and things make them enraged swiftly. Though many affected by depression live under the assumption, that they will spring alive out of it, but reality speaks differently. As depression is not a mere mental state, rather it is a pronounced mental health disorder, simply put, mental illness.

The symptoms of depression are a loss of interest or to remain in a depressed mood, or no inclination for pleasure in any activity. Sadness is something that passes away with time. But if that person becomes unable to resume normal activity, then it could be indicative of depression. If the dejected condition lasts longer than two weeks, then it can be defined as a sustained depression. In that case, it becomes imperative to consult with a doctor.

Depression as a mental disorder can be overpowering and can conquer the best of a person. There is a general sluggishness to get out of bed in the early morning, a feeling of perpetual discouragement, a feeling of hopelessness and living with an unmotivated spirit. It may interrupt their functioning at work or school. Hobbies no longer interest them. Nothing does as everything that once was vibrant began to be tasteless and odorless to them. The depressive disorder ranges for nearly most of the day and almost on a daily basis. There happens to be an unplanned weight loss or gain. Either there is a sleeplessness or an increased amount of sleep which impacts their daily schedule. It can not be mistaken as a prolonged sadness, but a depressive disorder. Concentrating on anything becomes a real challenge. The person becomes engaged in an aimless, purposeless movement that are recognizable to others.

When this mental disorder becomes severe, the affected person may even be prone to take away his/her own life.

While sadness is treated with pursuing some pleasurable activities, doing outdoor fun, spending time with loved ones, depression is treated by going to a physician for medications and with the intervention of psychotherapy and counseling.

Author.....Jayita Bhattacharjee....born in Calcutta, India and later on education from University of Houston in Economics, she had chosen her career as a trustee and teacher. Her Indian residence is in the vicinity of the famous Belurmath. Currently, she is settled in Tampa, Florida. Her books " The Ecstatic Dance of Life", " Sacred Sanctuary", " Light of Consciousness", " Dewdrops of Compassion" " are among the many that she has authored.


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