By Zainub Jada
PRODUCTIVE LIFE COACHING: SADNESS VS DEPRESSION
Millions of people worldwide experience sadness or depression at some point in their lives. However, recognising the difference between a diagnosis of depression and the emotion of sadness can help a person process both in a healthy way.
Sadness is a human emotion that all people feel at certain times during their lives. Feeling sad is a natural reaction to situations that cause emotional upset or pain. There are varying degrees of sadness. But like other emotions, sadness is temporary and fades with time. In this way, sadness differs from depression.
Several life events can leave people feeling sad or unhappy. Issues at home can also affect mood negatively.
Failing an exam, not getting a job, or experiencing other disappointing events can trigger sadness.
However, a person experiencing sadness can usually find relief from crying, venting, or talking out frustrations. More often than not, sadness has links to a specific trigger.
Depression is a longer-term mental illness, and it impairs social, occupational, and other vital areas of functioning. Left untreated, symptoms of depression may last for a long time.
It can have emotional and physical symptoms that influence how you feel, think, and behave. It can also damage your relationships. You’re sad and lose interest in your life or activities that once gave you pleasure.
It has an overpowering effect on many parts of a person’s life. It can occur in people of any gender or age and alters behaviours and attitudes.
Sadness often passes with time. If it does not pass, or if the person becomes unable to resume normal function, this could be a sign of depression.
SADNESS VS DEPRESSION
You are sad about something for a few hours at a time. After a negative experience, your mood changes, at most for a few weeks. Over time, it gets a little better by itself. Sadness is an emotion.
Most areas of your life are affected, and you show a combination of depressive symptoms for most of your day during at least two weeks, causing general distress. Depression is a mental illness.
Sadness is a basic emotion and a part of what makes us human – everyone knows what it feels like. Experiencing sadness might even help work through difficult experiences in life, such as rejection, a breakup or disappointment.
Depression, on the other hand, is a mental illness, which means that it shows itself in many depressive symptoms for at least two weeks. The things that once brought you joy or cheer don’t help anymore, and you feel constantly exhausted and at a loss of motivation.
Persisting sadness is only one part of depression! Your thoughts, behaviours and even physical experiences have likely changed alongside your emotions, causing general distress and a fundamental change in your perception and attitude towards life.
Sadness is brief
Emotions are momentary conscious experiences, and they fade with time. If an emotion continues during a phase in life, it lapses. Thus, it can last for a few hours before decreasing, at least a little. Even during a sad period, there are moments in your day when you feel ok. You can laugh, enjoy your favourite song, or the presence of a friend. Sadness fades with time – that’s its job.
Depression persists much longer
Depression lasts longer, however, without proper attention: It persists for most of your day for at least two weeks, to be exact. “Snapping out of it” is not an option. All the symptoms you are having appear constant, although they might be worse during the morning. Nonetheless, depression defines your entire day. It seems unthinkable that you will ever feel better again.
Sadness is a specific reaction
Depression is an abnormal general state.
Sadness is usually a reaction to something, such as a painful event. This particular experience causes your sadness, and it is a normal and healthy, nonetheless often unpleasant, emotion. But depression frequently occurs without any apparent reason.
Maybe your life seems like it should be fine. During the depression, your symptoms don’t only occur when thinking of a particular event or person. They are present within nearly every situation. Your concentration might be lower. You have a negative view of the future; you possibly feel unreasonably guilty or suffer from a helpless feeling of being out of control.
If depression begins after a specific event, it was probably the trigger rather than its sole cause. In this case, your behaviour and reaction are out of proportion with the event, which is harmful to you. If disregarded, it can turn into a downward spiral.
The loss of a loved one causes a severe grieving response beyond what we call sadness. It is hard to distinguish from depression because symptoms such as loss of appetite and sleeping problems can be a part of grieving. Grief tends to be a long process that comes in waves. Like sadness, grief tends to fluctuate from day to day. Depression does not, so much.
Usually, grieving individuals tend to accept help and support, whereas people with depression pull back and isolate themselves. Additionally, depression can experience feelings of guilt or a decline in self-esteem, while sad or grieving individuals often do not.
Sadness temporarily changes your mood
Depression changes your life
During a sad day or week, your mood changes. Your mind might be preoccupied, and you can find yourself falling back to sad thoughts. However, you can still go about your day typically.
However, when you are clinically depressed, your daily life becomes difficult to endure.
Your life has changed. Maybe your friends are noticing it too. You might be having a more challenging time falling or staying asleep. Perhaps your appetite or your intimate drive has gone down. You might be experiencing lower self-esteem. You have lost interest and joy in your favourite activities, constantly feeling weary and without energy.
Sadness is subjective
Depression is diagnosed
It is up to you to say that you are sad. No one can deny that you are sad; it is something you experience subjectively and independently.
Depression, on the other hand, has set criteria and requires an official diagnosis. After all, the period is key to the diagnosis and a specific combination of core and additional symptoms. Consequently, a depression test is necessary.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION
- Depression is not just sadness. Everyone can feel blue, down in the dumps or sad at times. Emotional reactions to life’s ups and downs are natural, and it’s normal to feel sad when you grieve a loss of a loved one, lose your job, or experience disappointments. Occasional low moods are not depression because the painful feelings eventually go away.
It’s also normal to feel like you want to be alone sometimes. Downtime can be healthy. You may want to relax in a quiet place to recharge, and you don’t always need to be around people or socialise.
- Depression is constant, not occasional. Depression is when your symptoms of sadness and loss of interest in life are there all the time. You feel sad and withdrawn just about every day, and those feelings don’t let up. You can’t just shake off depression, even though other people in your life may tell you to “snap out of it” or that you can control your emotions. Depression isn’t something you can talk yourself out of feeling.
- Loss of function. If you have depression, you may not function normally in your daily life. Depression can affect your work, your home life, and relationships.
- Feelings of discouragement
- A lack of motivation
- A loss of interest in activities that the individual once found enjoyable
In severe cases, the person may think about or attempt suicide. They may no longer feel like spending time with family or friends and might stop pursuing their hobbies or feel unable to attend work or school.
- Constant feelings of sadness
- Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of deep, unwarranted guilt
- Physical symptoms, such as headaches or body aches that do not have a specific cause
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
If you are sad, you may have some of these symptoms, but they shouldn’t last more than two weeks.
DEPRESSION SYMPTOMS MAY VARY AT DIFFERENT STAGES OF LIFE
- Children with depression may not want to go to school, and they may not do well in classes, or their grades may drop. Younger children may cling to their parents and worry about everything.
- Teens with depression may also want to avoid school. They may be vulnerable, have a poor self-image, or eat or sleep all the time. They may even experiment with illegal drugs or alcohol or engage in self-harm like cutting their skin, banging their head against a wall, burning themselves, or pulling out their hair.
- Older people may have undiagnosed depression because their symptoms are mistaken for typical signs of ageing. They may want to stay home all the time and avoid people. They may lose their appetite, have trouble sleeping or remembering things, or have fatigue or pain unrelated to a medical condition.
Depression can occur in both men and women of any age. Depression affects people across all ethnic groups and socioeconomic backgrounds.
There are several risk factors for depression. But having one or more risk factors doesn’t mean you’ll become depressed.
Risk factors include:
- Early childhood or teenage trauma
- Inability to cope with a devastating life event, such as the death of a child or spouse, or any situation that causes extreme levels of pain
- Low self-esteem
- Family history of mental illness, including bipolar disorder or depression
- History of substance abuse, including drugs and alcohol
- Trouble adjusting to a medical condition, such as cancer, stroke, chronic pain, or heart disease
- Trouble adjusting to body changes due to catastrophic injury, such as loss of limbs, or paralysis
- History of prior mental health disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or anxiety disorder
- Lack of a support system, such as friends, family, or coworkers
Depression is also a possible side effect of some medications. If you’re concerned that a drug you’re taking affects your mood, discuss it with your doctor. Some medications that might cause depression include:
- Hormonal medications
- Statins, which are drugs used to treat high cholesterol
DEALING/COPING WITH SADNESS
If you’re experiencing sadness, some minor lifestyle changes may help.
- Connect with other people. Make a phone call, take a yoga class, join a jogging club, knitting circle, or another group that interests you.
- Make time each day for an activity you enjoy.
- Engage in physical activities or sports.
- If you love animals, spend time with a furry friend each day.
- Do not self-medicate through the use of drugs or alcohol.
- Treat yourself kindly by eating healthy and trying to get enough sleep.
- If you have trouble sleeping, engage in zikr/meditation or take a warm bath before bed.
- Simplify your life as best you can.
Lifestyle changes can also help you feel better if you’re experiencing depression. But these changes may not be enough. If you’re depressed, psychological counselling with a professional you trust can make a difference. This type of counselling is also known as talk therapy.
Depression is treatable. Your doctor can prescribe medications and psychotherapy, and they can refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist for further therapy.
Don’t try to deal with depression on your own or worry that other people will look down on you because of your condition or because you need treatment. With treatment, you can manage your depression symptoms.
If you’re diagnosed with depression, don’t feel ashamed. Depression or mental health treatment is not a stigma, and other people may not understand that depression is a medical condition, not just sadness. Getting treatment is taking care of yourself.
Don’t tell yourself that you’re weak and should handle your emotions. You’re a person, not your diagnosis.
Learn more about depression and your symptoms so you understand them. Check out support groups where you can talk with other people living with depression.
IN A NUTSHELL
Sadness is an emotion that everyone experiences, often after stressful or upsetting life events. Depression is an overpowering and ongoing mental health disorder that can drastically impact daily living.
Specific triggers often cause sadness, whereas depression may have no identifiable cause.
If you’re experiencing a period of sadness, lifestyle changes and proactive may help.
Depression is treatable.
Allow yourself to get the help you need. If you can’t take the next step, try to connect with someone who will take that step with you. For example, talk to a trusted family doctor. Or you could ask a friend or family member to go with you to your first appointment with a therapist. You deserve and can achieve hope and healing no matter how you’re feeling today.
Conquering both sadness and depression takes effort. Make sure to keep your appointments if you’re seeing a therapist. And talk out everything that is on your mind.
Here are additional tips to help you manage both sadness and depression:
- Set your alarm clock and wake up at the same time each day. Maintaining a routine that includes self-care can help make life more manageable.
- Include physical activity in your routine. It can boost mood and improve your health.
- Don’t isolate yourself. Spend some time each day with someone you like, either in person or on the phone.
- Resume activities that have given you joy in the past or try new activities that interest you. Having something to look forward to can help boost your mood.