4 Ways to Know if it’s Sadness or Depression

Published on: 15 May 2018
Woman sitting on ground with head in lap

It’s normal to feel a little down, stressed, or anxious every once in a while, as career and social pressures can fuel momentary bursts of sadness and make you feel a bit “off.” And while you can’t expect to feel your best every single day, if you are gripped by an unrelenting sense of hopelessness that prevents you from enjoying the experiences you love the most, it may be time to take a closer look at your feelings.

It is estimated that 7 percent of adults experience clinical depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, equating to 15.7 million people across the U.S. Even though the most common sign of this illness is a deep feeling of despair, depression impacts people in different ways. Not everyone who is depressed experiences the same type of symptoms, and the intensity level can vary depending on the individual and that person’s circumstances.

Is sadness a mood?

Sadness is an emotion brought on by a variety of feelings, including: disappointment, grief, regret, and fatigue. Sadness can be considered a mood if the feelings are temporary. It is completely normal to feel sad as it is one of the six main human emotions the others being happiness, anger, surprise, fear, and disgust. Sadness is a very useful emotion as it often signifies to us what we find important and how we like to be treated. 

Experiencing sadness is a normal, human reaction to challenging times and can eventually go away. This feeling is also a small part of depression, and some people with depression may not feel sad at all. If you are finding it hard to discern whether it is depression or a case of “the blues,” there are a few points to consider. If you have been experiencing any of the following symptoms for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Lack of Concentration

If you find that deadlines, commitments, or routine errands seem to slip through your fingers and appear fuzzy, this may be a sign of depression. Difficulty concentrating, remembering and making decisions is a result of your brain being preoccupied with thoughts of sadness, leading to unfocused thinking and possibly some strange and out-of-character decisions.

Appetite and/or Weight Changes

Because depression leaves you withdrawn and checked out, it can rear its head as a loss of appetite. You may forget to eat meals or lose interest in cooking or preparing them for yourself. The inverse can also happen, where you experience increased hunger and are driven to overeat, as your body may be using food binges as a source of comfort.

Overwhelming Sense of Fear

The feeling of being panicked or anxious can be another clue to possible depression. More than just a normal apprehension about new situations, anxiety is a constant feeling of obsessive, panicked thoughts that can result in physical symptoms, such as excessive heartbeat, perspiration and sleep problems.

Loss of Interest or Pleasure in Hobbies and Activities

Perhaps you’ve always looked forward to that Monday-night yoga class or scrapbooking your favorite memories, but one day you can’t quite find the motivation or desire to do it. If this results in skipping more than a few outings or experiences, it may be something more serious. Depression makes you apathetic toward the interests that once provided joy, thus stopping the very activities that could boost your mood.

This is just a small snapshot of the possible signs of depression — any time your daily life and normal functioning is interrupted by these primary symptoms, it is worth evaluating further. Depression does not signify weakness or a character flaw, and it isn’t something you can easily shake. If you believe you are experiencing depression, it’s important to seek professional treatment.

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

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