Depression Versus Sadness

By Michele C. Hollow  @YourCareE
October 31, 2023
Depression Versus Sadness

When you're depressed, you feel sad about everything, and one incident doesn’t have to be your trigger. Here are ten differences between depression and sadness. 

Depression consumes Lisa Hess, controlling her thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. “And I can’t just snap out of it,” she said. “I hate it when people tell me to do that.”

Sometimes Hess’ depression is so strong that all she wants to do is stay in bed. “It really takes hold of me at times,” she’s said. “I’ve had suicidal thoughts.”

Fortunately, Hess is working with a therapist and has an emotional support dog. “My dog, Shadow, wakes me up in the morning and makes me get out of bed,” she said. “She needs to go for a walk. If I don’t, she’ll look at me until I get up.”

Having someone to take care of has been a big help for Hess. In return, she gets a lot of love from Shadow. “Since Shadow’s been around, I get to work on time and am managing better,” she said. “Walking Shadow helps a lot. My therapist gave me an exercise plan, which helps. But, honestly, I wasn’t sticking to it. I have to walk Shadow. Getting outside and walking helps.”

She also takes fluoxetine (Prozac) for her depression. “The Prozac, seeing a psychologist once a week, and walking and caring for Shadow has helped me immensely,” she said. 


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Every has experienced sadness. It’s often triggered by a hurtful or disappointing experience. “In other words, we tend to feel sad about something,” said Guy Winch, a psychologist and author, in his TED Talk. “This also means that when we’ve adjusted or gotten over the loss or disappointment, our sadness remits.”



Winch describes depression as an abnormal emotional state. “When we’re depressed, we feel sad about everything,” he said. 

One incident doesn’t have to trigger depression. “People’s lives on paper might be totally fine,” he said. “They would even admit this is true and yet they feel horrible.”

Here are 10 differences between sadness and depression:

  1. Sadness is fleeting. Depression is constant. 
  2. Unlike depression, periods of laughter can interrupt sadness.
  3. When you’re sad, you have negative thoughts. It doesn’t, however, make you feel suicidal, like depression can.
  4. When you’re sad, you can still find and enjoy life’s little pleasures. It’s hard experiencing any joy when you’re depressed.
  5. Sadness doesn’t last for weeks or months. Depression can be life-long. The good news is you can manage it. 
  6. Sadness may make you want to eat a pint of your favorite ice cream. Depression can affect your weight significantly. You can be so depressed that you overeat or lose your appetite.
  7. Depression affects your sleep cycle. When you’re sad, you may miss a night’s sleep. Depression can cause prolonged periods of sleeplessness or have the opposite affect and make you want to spend your days in bed.
  8. Depression can cause psychotic episodes, sadness does not.
  9. When you’re depressed, you feel tired most of the time. Sadness may cause low energy, but that doesn’t last long.
  10. Even when you’re sad, you can focus if you need to. When you’re depressed, you have a trouble making decisions.

According to the World Health Organization, 280 million people in the world suffer from depression. It’s a leading cause of disability. If you think you’re depressed, talk to your doctor about seeing a therapist who can help you manage your depression. 

“It’s important to talk to a professional therapist,” Hess said. “I have friends I can talk to, but they don’t fully understand my depression the way a professional does. Also, a friend may want to help without knowing how. I rely on my therapist to help me.”


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October 31, 2023

Reviewed By:  

Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA