Am I Depressed Or Sad?

Am I Depressed Or Sad? 7 Major Differences to know

Writen By: Sadia Mirza
Reviewed By: Huma Khan
Publish Date: December 7, 2023

Feeling down or sad and experiencing a lack of energy and fatigue is something we all go through at times. But how do you know if what you’re feeling is just temporary sadness or something more serious, like depression? All these feelings of sadness and depression may make you confused and raise the question in your mind, “Am I depressed or sad?”

It’s important to understand the difference between sadness and depression to seek the appropriate help and support. Sadness is something temporary, like a fleeting feeling of unhappiness and sorrow that goes away in a short period of time. Sometimes, when it is severe, it may last for several months taking the form of depression, which is a mental disorder that probably lasts for an extended period as compared to sadness. It needs proper treatment and therapy.

If you are feeling baffled by overwhelming feelings and want to know, “Are you depressed or just sad?” then our blog post is for you. Read and find out the difference between sadness and depression, understand both terms, take the self-assessment task, know where to find support groups and take proper treatment, and read the FAQs that continuously come to your mind.

The Feeling of Sadness

Sadness is a human emotion that is defined by feelings of unhappiness, despair, sorrow, and disappointment. It is a normal and healthy response to failure, loss, or other negative experiences.

The duration of sadness can vary depending on the individual and the circumstances. Mild sadness typically lasts for a few days or weeks, while more severe sadness may last for several months or even longer. In some cases, sadness can become chronic, leading to a condition known as major depressive disorder.

In non-depressed individuals, sadness comes and goes as it doesn’t stay for a longer period. Sadness, unlike depression, is typically triggered by specific events or circumstances and goes with time due to some reasons.

  • Sadness tends to dissipate with time as an individual adapts to the source of their sadness, allowing for the release of emotional intensity.
  • The emotional intensity of sadness naturally diminishes with time, allowing for a more balanced emotional state.
  • Connecting with loved ones and seeking help and solace in their companionship alleviates the burden of sadness with time.

Understanding Depression

Depression is a mental health condition that goes beyond simply feeling down or sad. It is not just a passing mood and temporary state of mind; rather, it is a prolonged state of emotional and psychological distress that lasts for weeks, months, or years if left untreated. 

Its clinical nature can be understood by looking at its criteria in the DSM-5 which include having a depressed mood or lack of interest in almost all activities most of the day, nearly every day, with 5 or more symptoms lasting listed below for about 2 or more weeks continuously. 

Research says that the duration of major depressive disorder, also known as clinical depression, can last from 6 to 12 months. 

Signs And Symptoms Of Depression

Signs and symptoms of depression manifest in many ways.

  • Persistent low mood or sadness.
  • Lack of motivation in activities that were once enjoyable.
  • Having difficulty making decisions. 
  • Appetite or weight changes.
  • Changes in sleeping patterns.
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt.
  • Concentration problems.
  • Unexplained aches and problems.
  • Suicidal thoughts or self harming behavior 

Types Of Depression

Different types of depression occur according to specific circumstances. 

1. Major Depressive Disorder

It comes to attention when an individual has a continuous low mood, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, fatigue, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, and thoughts of death or suicide. It affects your daily life. 

2. Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)

It is also known as dysthymia. It lasts longer and it is indicated by chronic low-grade depression. 

DSM-5 indicates that it can last for 2 years. 

Its symptoms are similar to those of major depression, and it is diagnosed by looking at its long duration. 

3. Postpartum Depression (PPD)

It is also known as ‘perinatal depression’  and it affects women after childbirth. 

Research shows that one in seven women can develop PPD and it tends to last longer than baby blues. 

4. Seasonal Affective Disorder

It is also termed ‘Winter Depression’. Its symptoms are the same as those of depression and its intensity is stronger during the winter months. It comes and goes with the season, starting in late fall and continuing through the winter months.

5. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

PMDD symptoms appear two weeks before a woman’s period. Its symptoms are bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, anxiety, anger, mood swings, and other symptoms similar to those of major depression, and these symptoms go away within a few days after the periods. 

Am I Depressed Or Sad? knowing the difference

Feeling sad is a part of depression but both of them are not the same. So how do you know if you’re depressed or just sad?  Let’s study the difference between depression and sadness to know when to seek treatment. 

1. Duration

Being sad or depressed is different in terms of its duration, as sadness comes for a short period while depression lasts longer.

  • Sadness: Sadness is more temporary as compared to depression. You may feel down after failing an exam or experiencing a disagreement with a friend. These emotions might linger for a few days, but as time passes, an individual finds some relief from crying, talking out frustrations, or venting. You gradually start feeling better and regain your usual cheerfulness. 
  • Depression: Unlike sadness, depression lasts longer. You may feel persistently low for weeks or months without a discernible cause. You might find yourself withdrawing from activities you once enjoyed, feeling exhausted all the time, and experiencing a constant sense of emptiness.

2. Impact On Daily Functioning

If the question ‘How do I know if I am depressed or just sad?’ is popping in your mind, then you can look at the effects of sadness and depression on daily life.

  • Sadness: Sadness doesn’t affect your daily life and goes away on its own. Even during the sad phase of your life, you can go on with your daily routine. With sadness, there are going to be moments in your day when you feel okay. You can laugh and enjoy it, as it doesn’t overpower your life.
  • Depression: Depression, on the other hand, impacts your daily life. It affects the way you see yourself and the things around you. It will make it hard for you to concentrate and make decisions, as it will make your mind foggy. It also significantly impacts your performance at school or work. It also negatively affects your relationships. You become socially isolated. You will not be able to find pleasure in activities that you enjoyed before. It is going to disturb your daily routine.

3. Physical Symptoms

  • Sadness: Sadness can be seen physically, like grieving, having downtime temporarily, not wanting to be around people or socializing, and wanting to have a quiet place to recharge. However, these physical symptoms usually fade as your mood improves. Sadness does not have any significantly impaired physical symptoms.
  • Depression: When you are depressed, you feel down and sad every day. You can’t let go of depression on your own. Depression manifests physically in the form of sleeping problems, anhedonia, changes in appetite leading to significant weight gain or loss, and being persistently fatigued, regardless of how much rest you get. It also shows up as suicidal behavior in extreme cases. 

Just like sadness, you can’t shake off depression by just talking about your feelings. They are both different in their physical symptoms so the method to tackle them is also different.

4. Thoughts of Self-Harm or Suicide

  • Sadness: Thoughts of wanting to die might occur briefly when someone is upset about a particular event, such as a breakup or a professional setback, but they usually pass quickly.
  • Depression: When you are depressed, you feel unworthy and your life becomes a burden so thoughts of self-harm or suicide continuously come into your mind. 

Research says that depression greatly increases the risk of self-harm and suicide. 

5. Causes Of Sadness And Depression

  • Sadness: It is usually caused by the loss of something you had in the past or something you wanted to have in the future. You feel sad when something valuable or meaningful to you is lost. Like losing the closest one, losing the job you really wanted to do, failing an exam, and many other bad events. Sadness usually occurs in response to a specific event for a short duration. 
  • Depression: In depression, despite everything going well in your life, you experience a persistent sense of despair and hopelessness. The feelings of emptiness and low mood linger, regardless of external circumstances. Other than that, many factors contribute to the cause of depression such as stressful life events, medications side effects, imbalances in brain chemistry, genes, drug abuse, and certain medical conditions. 

6. Sadness Is an Emotion, While Depression is a Mental disorder

  • Sadness: It is a normal human emotion and reaction to anything that happened badly and was close to you. For example, when difficult experiences such as rejection, breakup, or disappointment happen, you become sad and cry for some time due to overwhelming feelings, but after healthily releasing your emotions, you become normal as they fade with time.
  • Depression: It is a mental disorder, which means that it manifests in many serious symptoms that persist for at least two weeks or more. When you are depressed, your symptoms don’t only show up when you think of an event or person; they are present in every situation and significantly impair your thinking, feelings, and behavior.

7. You Can Tell About Your Sadness On Your Own While Depression is Diagnosed by a professional

  • Sadness: Can you answer this question: Am I sad or not? on your own. Yes, you can tell on your own about your sadness while deeply tuning into your feelings. Looking at how you feel, like crying, grieving, and not wanting to do anything due to thinking about some bad thing that happened to you. In simpler words, you can tell on your own about your sadness; it doesn’t need to be diagnosed.
  • Depression: When it comes to depression, it has set criteria and needs to be officially diagnosed. The key to diagnosing depression is its duration plus the combination and severity of symptoms. 

Sadness vs Depression

SadnessDepression
Temporary feeling of unhappinessPersistent and pervasive mood disorder
Typically triggered by an eventOccurs without a specific external cause
Specific cause or triggerOften unexplained or unclear triggers
Part of normal emotional spectrumConsidered a mental health condition
Short-term emotional stateLong-lasting, lasting for weeks or more
May not disrupt daily lifeImpacts daily functioning and activities
Often resolves on its own or with support from loved ones.Requires proper assessment, diagnosis, and treatment intervention.

Self-Assessment Checklists

You can take the self-assessment test to identify sadness and depression and these tests will be able to answer this question in your mind: Am I depressed or sad?

1. Test by WHO

STEPS Depression Self-assessment is a self-evaluation tool generated by WHO that will be able to help you identify depression.

2. NHS Self Assessment

Take this depression self-assessment test by the NHS to identify whether you are depressed or not.

3. Kaiser Permanente Depression Self-Assessment 

If you are here to know, am I depressed or sad? then go for this test and know your answer. 

Seeking Help And Support

There is a thin line between sadness and depression and by looking at the differences between them, you will be easily able to differentiate between them.

When the feelings of sadness, low mood, and lack of energy are present for more than two weeks and impact your daily life, then you should seek professional help because it’s not just sadness; it’s depression, and it needs proper treatment. 

There are many types of therapy and treatment options available for depression.

Therapy

Depression can be treated with psychotherapy, which is an umbrella term for various therapeutic approaches that help individuals understand and manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.

Types of therapy that can be helpful for treating depression are:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
  • Interpersonal therapy (IPT).
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).
  • Psychodynamic Therapy.
  • Reality therapy 
  • Group Therapy.

Support Groups

Support groups can provide a safe and supportive environment to connect with others who understand what you’re going through. You can share your experiences, learn from others, and receive encouragement and understanding.

Medications

Antidepressant medication is a common and effective treatment for depression. These medications work by increasing the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, which are thought to play a role in mood regulation. Your doctor will prescribe you the medication that is most effective for you.

Conclusion

Determining the answer to this question, Am I depressed or sad? needs proper and in-depth reading about the differences between the two. It is normal to experience sadness from time to time, but when it begins to interfere with your daily life and persists for an extended period, it may be a sign of depression. 

Recognizing the difference between sadness and depression is crucial in order to seek appropriate support and treatment. We hope that this blog post, Am I depressed or sad?, has cleared up your many doubts regarding depression and sadness.

Remember, it is always okay to seek help from a healthcare professional or therapist if you are unsure about your feelings or believe you may be experiencing depression. Take care of your mental health, and remember that you are never alone in this journey.

FAQs 

Why do I always feel so sad for no reason?

Feeling sad continuously without any apparent reason can be a sign of underlying emotional issues or even a mental health condition like depression, and you may be experiencing unprocessed emotions, unrealistic expectations, stress, anxiety, and other medical conditions that could possibly make you sad.

Why am I happy then sad for no reason?

Experiencing sudden mood swings from happiness to sadness without any obvious reason can be confusing and frustrating. While it’s normal to have occasional changes in mood throughout the day, persistent and unexplained mood swings could indicate deeper emotional issues such as Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Hormonal Fluctuations, Unprocessed Trauma and Environmental Factors.

Is it normal to be depressed sometimes?

Yes, it is normal to experience periods of sadness or depression at certain points in your life. It is common for individuals to go through ups and downs, facing challenges, losses, or other difficult situations that can lead to feelings of depression. However, if these feelings persist for an extended period of time or significantly interfere with daily functioning, it may be important to seek professional help.

Do you have to be sad to be depressed?

It is not necessary to be sad to be diagnosed with depression. While sadness is a common symptom of depression, various other symptoms of depression can be present, such as loss of interest or pleasure in activities, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of death or suicide. Depression is a complex mental health condition that can manifest differently in individuals, and not everyone experiences the same symptoms or emotions.

What triggers sadness?

Sadness can be triggered by various factors, such as loss or grief, rejection or failure, loneliness or isolation, stressful situations, hormonal changes, chronic illness, traumatic events, seasonal changes, and negative thinking patterns.

What is the fundamental difference between depression and unhappiness?

The main difference between depression and unhappiness lies in their nature, duration, and intensity. 

Unhappiness is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences at some point in life. It is usually a temporary state of feeling sad, disappointed, or dissatisfied due to specific circumstances or events. It usually gets resolved on its own over time as the situation improves or the person adapts to it. It does not typically interfere with daily life. 

Depression is a mental health disorder. It is not necessarily linked to any specific event or situation and can occur without an obvious cause. Depression is more than just feeling down; it is a long-lasting condition that affects various aspects of a person’s life, including their thoughts, emotions, behavior, and physical health.