August 2, 2022

You feel like there’s no joy left in anything, and like the whole world is grey. All of the color and joy you used to feel is gone. Life has its ups and downs, but lately it’s all been down. Adding to your persistent low mood might be the worry that what you’re feeling is going to stick around longer than typical sadness. Maybe it feels different than it used to, or it is staying longer than you remember.

Are you feeling down lately and can’t seem to snap out of it? You may be wondering if you’re just sad or if you might be depressed. It’s not always easy to tell the difference, but there are some key signs that can help you figure it out. In this blog post, we will discuss the difference between depression and sadness, how to know when you’re feeling down and when you might need professional help, and what to do if you think you might be depressed.

What is Depression? 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is the standard guide for psychologists and therapists everywhere. It outlines specific criteria to help specialists make a diagnosis of depression. An individual must be experiencing five or more symptoms during the same 2-week period and at least one of the symptoms should be either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure.

Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day

Very diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day

Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day

A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement, and observable by others, to differentiate it from the subjective feeling of restlessness or its opposite

Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day

Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt nearly every day

Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day

Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide

These symptoms must cause the person significant suffering or harm in important areas of life, such as social, occupational, or other crucial functions. The symptoms also can’t be caused by substance abuse or another medical condition.

What Causes Depression?

Depression does not have one specific cause. Rather, it is the result of a combination of factors. These can include biological factors such as changes in brain chemistry, genetic vulnerability, and hormonal problems. Environmental and psychological factors also play a role, such as stressful life events (such as the death of a loved one or losing a job), abuse or trauma, and negative thinking patterns. People with depression often have low self-esteem and feel hopeless about their situation.

The DSM-5 is a Guide, Not a Bible

It takes a trained, professional clinician to diagnose depression.  A self-diagnosis of depression is not recommended. It’s important to remember that depression looks different for everyone. Not everyone who is depressed will experience all of the symptoms on the list, and some people may experience symptoms that are not listed. It’s also important to note that depression can vary in severity. Some people may have mild depression, while others may have major depression, which is a much more serious condition.

What’s the Difference Between Mild and Major Depression?

Mild depression, also known as dysthymia, is a less severe form of depression. It can last for years and may not go away without treatment. Major depression is more severe and can cause significant impairment in a person’s ability to function. Major depression is often recurrent, meaning it comes back even after someone has received treatment and is feeling better.

Am I Just Feeling Sad?

It’s normal to feel sad from time to time. We all go through tough times in our lives, and it’s OK to feel down about them. But if you’re feeling sad most of the time for more than two weeks, and it’s interfering with your ability to function in your day-to-day life, then you may be depressed. Depression is more than just sadness. It’s a serious medical condition that can cause physical, emotional, and mental problems. If you think you might be depressed, it’s important to see a doctor or mental health professional for an evaluation.

What Causes Sadness?

It seems like an obvious question because we all know when we’re feeling sad, even when the cause might not be apparent.  However, research shows that sadness is actually more complex than just a feeling. It’s the result of a combination of mental and physical factors. These can include things like hormonal changes, brain chemistry, and life events. While depression and sadness share some common symptoms, such as low mood and decreased interest in activities, depression is more severe and lasts longer than sadness. 

Sadness is Temporary, Depression is Tenacious

One of the key differences between depression and sadness is that depression is more persistent. Sadness is a normal, human emotion that we all experience from time to time. It’s often caused by a specific event, such as the death of a loved one or losing a job. These feelings are usually temporary and will go away with time. Depression, on the other hand, is more long-lasting. It can last for weeks, months, or even years. And it’s not always clear what’s causing it. This can make depression very difficult to deal with.

What Can I Do if I Think I’m Depressed?

If you think you might be depressed, the first step is to see a doctor or mental health professional for an evaluation. He or she will ask you questions about your symptoms and how they’re affecting your life. If you are diagnosed with depression, there are many treatment options available. Depression is a treatable condition, and most people who receive treatment feel better. 

Other Questions About Depression and Sadness

What does sadness physically feel like?

Sadness is often accompanied by physical symptoms, such as a headache or stomachache. You may also feel tired and have trouble sleeping.

Can depression be cured?

Depression is a treatable condition, but it’s important to remember that it’s not always curable. Some people may need to take medication for the rest of their lives to manage their depression. Others may only need medication for a short time while they’re going through a difficult period in their life. With treatment, most people with depression will start to feel better. But some people may still have occasional episodes of depression even after treatment. 

What’s the difference between sadness and grief?

Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the process of mourning the death of a loved one. Sadness is just one emotion that you may feel during grief. Other emotions can include anger, fear, guilt, and depression. Grief is a normal and natural reaction to loss. It’s important to allow yourself to grieve so that you can start to heal.

Should I see a therapist if I’m feeling sad?

If you’re feeling sad most of the time for more than two weeks, and it’s interfering with your ability to function in your day-to-day life, then you may be depressed. Depression is more than just sadness. It’s a serious medical condition that can cause physical, emotional, and mental problems. 

Can you be so sad that your heart hurts?

When we feel sadness, it’s common to experience physical symptoms, such as a headache or stomachache. You may also feel tired and have trouble sleeping. Some people say that they feel like their heart is hurting when they’re sad. This is usually just a metaphor for the emotional pain that they’re feeling. But in some rare cases, depression can actually cause physical pain in the chest. If you’re experiencing chest pain along with other depression symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor so he or she can rule out other causes of chest pain, such as heart disease. 

If you or someone you love is struggling and need help, find out if Lightfully is a good fit for you. 


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