The Difference Between Sadness and Depression

Many people can find it hard to tell if they, or a loved one, are dealing with sadness or depression. How can you tell the difference? This is particularly pertinent when people are nervous about being prescribed medication. Psychologist Guy Winch, Ph.D, is noted for his TED talk “Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid” which has had over 2.5 million view. In this talk he speaks about his own struggles,showing along with his professional understanding, a great empathy and personal understanding regarding one’s confusion around our emotions sometimes.  He has written a nice piece in Psychology Today about the difference between sadness and depression, the bones of which I’ve re-posted below. If you feel you are struggling at the moment, please speak to your GP. There is also a list of organisations and their helplines on the top of the homepage of the blog.

The Difference Between Sadness and Depression
Sadness is a normal human emotion and is usually triggered by a difficult, hurtful, challenging, or disappointing event, experience, or situation. In other words, we tend to feel sad about something. This also means that when that something changes, when our emotional hurt fades, when we’ve adjusted or gotten over the loss or disappointment, our sadness remits.
Depression is an abnormal emotional state, a mental illness that affects our thinking, emotions, perceptions, and behaviours in pervasive and chronic ways. When we’re depressed we feel sad about everything. Depression does not necessarily require a difficult event or situation, a loss, or a change of circumstance as a trigger. In fact, it often occurs in the absence of any such triggers. People’s lives on paper might be totally fine—they would even admit this is true—and yet they still feel horrible.
Depression colours all aspects of our lives, making everything less enjoyable, less interesting, less important, less lovable, and less worthwhile. Depression saps our energy, motivation, and ability to experience joy, pleasure, excitement, anticipation, satisfaction, connection, and meaning. All your thresholds tend to be lower. You’re more impatient, quicker to anger and get frustrated, quicker to break down, and it takes you longer to bounce back from everything.
In his TED talk, Dr. Winch discusses one of the more unfortunate consequences of this confusion: How people struggling with depression are often expected to “snap out of it,” and are told “it’s all in your head,” or “choose to be happy!” Such sentiments reflect a deep misunderstanding of depression. It only makes the person with depression feel worse.
The True Symptoms of Depression
To be diagnosed with depression, people need to have at least 5 of the following symptoms, for a continual duration of at least two weeks. Be advised: The severity of these symptoms must also be considered, so please use these only as a guideline and see a mental health professional for a conclusive diagnosis.
1. A depressed or irritable mood most of the time.
2. A loss or decrease of pleasure or interest in most activities, including ones that had been interesting or pleasurable previously.
3. Significant changes in weight or appetite.
4. Disturbances in falling asleep or sleeping too much.
5. Feeling slowed down in your movements or restless most days.
6. Feeling tired, sluggish, and having low energy most days.
7. Having feelings of worthless or excessive guilt most days.
8. Experiencing problems with thinking, focus, concentration, creativity and the ability to make decisions most days.
9. Having thoughts of dying or suicide.

If you think you or a loved one might be depressed, it is important to seek the counsel of a trained mental health professional for diagnosis and treatment. Depression is an extremely common mental illness and there are many treatments that benefit most people

If you wish to book a psychotherapy session with Bébhinn please click here:

If you would like to watch Dr. Winch’s TED talk here’s the link:

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