Getting depression and sadness mixed up is one of the worst things you can do while talking about the former. Understanding the difference between the two is absolutely crucial.
We often hear the term “depression” thrown around lightly in conversation. We may come home from a stressful day at work and tell our family at dinner that we are depressed. We may have received some bad news about a loved one and tell ourselves that we are depressed. And sure, we may be depressed, but often we are confusing sadness with depression.
Sadness is a symptom of depression, and because we associate these together, we often struggle to differentiate between these two common psychological states.
This creates a significant problem.
The inability to differentiate between sadness and depression can lead us to neglect a severe psychological condition (depression) and overreact to a normal emotional state (sadness). If we overuse the term depression when we are describing our emotional state of sadness, we are simplifying a major mental health disorder.
Depression is a serious mental health disorder that has vast implications on our personal lives, professional lives, and society as a whole. As of 2017, 300 million people around the world have depression.
What is sadness?
Sadness is a normal emotion that is triggered by a specific adverse event or bad experience. In other words, we become sad about something specific. This emotional state dissipates after some time or after something good, replaces the hurtful event that triggered the initial sadness. Sadness is temporary. We may feel sad for a moment, an hour, or even a couple of days.
Every individual will experience sadness, probably more than once, in his/her lifetime. You may become sad because you ended a romantic relationship, or you did not do well on an exam, or you spent the night fighting with a friend. We can often find some relief from our sadness by crying, venting, or talking about our situation.
What is depression?
Depression is a mental health disorder, an abnormal mental and emotional state, which affects how we think and feel about everything. Depression leaks into every aspect of our life, and when we are depressed, we feel numb or sad about everything. Everything in our life is less enjoyable, less interesting, and less important. The things we once loved and were passionate about no longer bring us meaning or purpose.
Depression, unlike sadness, does not have to have a specific underlying trigger. Individuals are often depressed “for no specific reason.” On the surface, they may seem like they have their life together. A great job, a loving family, a beautiful home, but in reality, they are hiding their emotions behind a mask.
They may be barely able to get out of bed in the morning. They may be struggling with their relationships. They may be lonely. They may no longer find satisfaction or purpose in their job. Depression makes us less patient and quick to anger. Unfortunately, many individuals assume that one can snap out of their depression. They misinterpret that depression is not a choice or a state of mind. Depression is a mental illness.