Differences between sadness and clinical depression (2023)

Sadness is an emotional state characterized by feelings of unhappiness and depression.

It is considered one of thebasic human emotions.It's a normal reaction to situations that are upsetting, painful, or disappointing. Sometimes these feelings can feel more intense, while other times they can be quite mild.

not howDepressionthat is persistent and prolonged, sadness is temporary and ephemeral. However, sadness can turn into depression.Being able to tell the difference between normal sadness and depression might encourage you to take action and seek resources to improve your mood.

Differences between sadness and clinical depression (1)

understand sadness

Sadness is a normal human emotion that often occurs in response to upsetting, painful, or disappointing situations. This emotion can vary in intensity. Like other emotions, it is temporary and will wear off over time.

Feelings of sadness can be intense depending on where they come from, but this emotion is often accompanied by lighter moments as well. Even when you are sad, you can sometimes feel good and be comforted by those around you. You may feel better after crying or talking to a friend about your feelings.

dealing with sadness

Here are some optionsexperience normal sadness in a healthy wayand allow this emotion to enrich your life:

  • Allow yourself to be sad.Denying such feelings can force them to hide underground, where they can do more damage over time. Cry when you feel like it. Notice if you feel relief after the tears have stopped.
  • If you're feeling down, schedule a day to revel.Plan a day or night to be alone, listen to melancholic music, and observe your thoughts and feelings. Scheduling time to be unhappy can actually feel good and can ultimately help you transition from sadness to a happier state of mind.
  • Think and/or write about the context of feelings of sadness.Are you sad about a loss or an unfortunate event? Figuring out what's causing your sadness isn't usually easy, but understanding why you're sad and exploring those feelings can help you feel better.
  • To go for a walk. Sometimes a little fresh air and rest can change your perspective.
  • Call a close friend or family member.Sometimes venting your feelings can help you process them.
  • be nice to yourselfThis can be a hot bubble bath, a nap, or a good chocolate.
  • let you laughStart a favorite sitcom, watch it, or find a funny YouTube video.
  • Consider starting aJournal of Gratitude.Focusing on the positive, even if you can only think of one thing to be thankful for each day, will help you detach from negative and sad feelings.
  • Remember that sadness can be the result of a change you didn't expect or it can indicate the need for a change in your life.Change is often stressful but necessary for growth. If you are sad because you need to change something, think about the steps you can take to make your life more joyful.

Sadness vs Depression

It's important to be able to distinguish between feelings of normal sadness and symptoms of more serious depression.

It's the transient nature of sadness that sets it apart from depression. While sadness is temporary, depression lasts longer and severely limits a person's ability to function in their daily life. Sadness is an emotion while depression is a mental disorder.

Be alert for the signs of sadness turning into depression, and seek help if you notice these symptoms significantly interfering with your life for two weeks or more.


  • normal human emotions

  • It often occurs after disappointments and painful experiences.

  • It usually happens over time

    (Video) What are the Differences Between Depression and Sadness?

  • You can usually still function and do things you enjoy.


  • Mental disorder

  • Caused by many factors including genetics, experiences, social factors and brain chemistry.

  • It can last for a long time without treatment.

  • You feel tired, unmotivated, and disinterested in things you used to enjoy

symptoms of depression

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism.
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyed hobbies and activities, including sex
  • Decreased Energy, Fatigue, and/or “Slowing Down”
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and/or making decisions
  • Insomnia, waking up early and/or falling asleep
  • Loss of appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and/or weight gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide and/or attempted suicide
  • restlessness and/or irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, indigestion, and chronic pain

When you experience these, you may have a tendency to just "hang in there" and wait for it to be over. However, the sooner you recognize these signs, the sooner you can seek help and change your situation.

Symptoms of clinical depression

When to call your doctor

If you experience some (or more) of the above symptoms, know that you are not alone.

If you've had symptoms of sadness or depression for more than a few weeks, it's important to see your doctor to determine the cause and what to do about it.

Sometimes depression is not the result of a mental illness. It could be a medical condition, such as hypothyroidism, that can cause symptoms of depression.

Once your doctor rules out anypossible medical causes, they can give you other options for your depression or refer you to onepsychiatrist or therapistwho can help you

Depression Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide to help you ask the right questions at your next doctor appointment.

Differences between sadness and clinical depression (2)

(Video) 6 Differences Between Sadness and Depression

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Your doctor will use a number of techniques to determine if what you are feeling is normal sadness or depression. This often involves asking questions or completing a questionnaire about what type of symptoms you have, how long you've had them, and how severe they are.

Your doctor will also want to know more about your life and how these symptoms are affecting your ability to function at home, work, and school.

Your doctor may also conduct and conduct a physical examlaboratory teststo rule out any medical conditions or conditions that may be contributing to your symptoms. Remember to tell your doctor about any medications or supplements you're taking, as certain medications, such as beta-blockers and corticosteroids, can also cause depression.


There are a number of factors that can play a role in the development of depression. Some of the risk factors for depression are:

  • Family history of mental illness.
  • substance use
  • A history of other mental illnesses.
  • A weak social support system
  • living a trauma
  • Chronic Health Conditions
  • low self-esteem
  • Stressful life events
  • brain chemistry
  • childhood trauma

It's also important to realize that feelings of sadness in response to a situation in your life can lead to depression. That's why it's important to seek help if you suspect you're experiencing more than normal sadness.

treatment of depression

Depression is usually treated withMedicines called antidepressantsor through talk therapy. Usually, the best treatment plans include both.


Some popular depression medication options include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Paxil (paroxetine), Prozac (fluoxetine), and Zoloft (sertraline)
  • Selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) such as Cymbalta (duloxetine), Effexor (venlafaxine), and Pristiq (desvenlafaxine).

Your doctor will discuss with you which option this isThe best for you.


Cognitive therapy is a popular form of psychotherapy for depression. It teaches people to take their negative thought patterns and replace them with more positive ones. This is helpful because our thoughts and what we say to ourselves affect our mood and motivation.

When we frequently say negative things, we create a mental environment that is related to depression. Positive thinking, on the other hand, triggers positive emotions. And while it is not possible to control every aspect of depression, it is one aspect over which we have some power.

The best online therapy programsWe test, rate and write unbiased reviews of the best online therapy programs including Talkspace, Betterhelp and Regain.


Your doctor may also recommend lifestyle changes that may help you manage your symptoms. Things like regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and connecting with loved ones can help you cope with your condition.

Get tips from the Verywell Mind podcast

This episode of is hosted by Editor-in-Chief and Therapist Amy Morin, LCSWThe Verywell Mind Podcastshares with comedian Paul Gilmartin how to deal with uncomfortable emotions.

Differences between sadness and clinical depression (3)

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A word from Verywell

Finding ways to deal with sadness or depression can help you feel like yourself again. While normal sadness is usually temporary and can often be relieved with lifestyle changes, you should talk to your doctor if your symptoms last more than two weeks. If you're feeling depressed, there are effective treatments available, including medication and psychotherapy, that can help.

If you or a loved one are struggling with sadness or depression, contact theSubstance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline.a1-800-662-4357Information on support and treatment centers in your area.

For more mental health resources, visit ourNational Helpline Database.

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Verywell Mind uses only quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to back up the facts in our articles. read ourspublishing processto learn more about how we review our content and keep it accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Lokko HN, Popa TA.Sadness: diagnosis, assessment, and treatment.Prim Care Companion CNS Disorder. 2014;16(6).doi:10.4088/PCC.14f01709

  2. Hecht D.The neural basis of optimism and pessimism.Exp. Neurobiol. 2013;22(3):173-99.doi:10.5607/en.2013.22.3.173

  3. Targum SD, Fava M.Fatigue as a residual symptom of depression.Innov Clin Neurosci. 2011;8(10):40-3.

  4. Simmons WK, Burrows K, Avery JA, et al.Depression-related increases and decreases in appetite: dissociable patterns of aberrant activity in reward and interoceptive neurocircuitry.Bin J Psychiatry. 2016;173(4):418-28.doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2015.15020162

  5. Hage MP, Azar ST.The link between thyroid function and depression.J Schilddrüsenres. 2012;2012:590648.doi:10.1155/2012/590648

    (Video) Relaxing Music to Relieve Stress, Anxiety and Depression • Mind, Body 🐬 Soothing music for nerves

  6. Driessen E, Hollon SD.Cognitive behavioral therapy for mood disorders: efficacy, moderators, and mediators.Psychiatric Clinic North Am. 2010;33(3):537-55.doi:10.1016/j.psc.2010.04.005

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(Video) Depression vs Situational Sadness


What characteristics distinguish clinical depression from normal sadness? ›

To start, depression is a syndrome that involves far more than sadness. Aside from a sad or flat mood, depression typically causes insomnia, loss of libido and appetite, social withdrawal, low energy, feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts, feelings and actions.

What is are the difference S between sadness and depression? ›

Sadness is an emotion that everyone experiences, often after stressful or upsetting life events. Depression is an overpowering and ongoing mental health disorder that can drastically impact on daily living. Specific triggers will often cause sadness, whereas depression may have no identifiable cause.

Is depression worse than sadness? ›

Depression is like an extreme form of sadness that doesn't go away after a few weeks. People with depression may find it difficult to feel happy about anything in life, not only specific events. Sadness is a temporary feeling, but depression is a serious mental health condition that can impact aspects of everyday life.

What are the two main types of clinical depression? ›

Major depressive disorder and persistent depressive disorder are two of the most common types of depression that people experience, however, there are many types of depression. What most mood disorders have in common are major depressive episodes.

What are 5 of the main symptoms of clinical depression? ›

Symptoms - Clinical depression
  • continuous low mood or sadness.
  • feeling hopeless and helpless.
  • having low self-esteem.
  • feeling tearful.
  • feeling guilt-ridden.
  • feeling irritable and intolerant of others.
  • having no motivation or interest in things.
  • finding it difficult to make decisions.

What are 4 clinical characteristics of clinical depression? ›

Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements. Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame. Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things. Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide.

What does it mean to be clinically depressed? ›

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.

What are the levels of sadness? ›

When you're sad, you might describe yourself as feeling:
  • lonely.
  • heartbroken.
  • gloomy.
  • disappointed.
  • hopeless.
  • grieved.
  • unhappy.
  • lost.

Is depression a kind of sadness? ›

Depression differs from sadness. The feelings you have will affect all aspects of your life. It may be hard or even impossible to find enjoyment in anything, including activities and people you used to enjoy. Depression is a mental illness, not an emotion.

What does sadness feel like in the body? ›

The physical sensations that accompany sadness can feel as undesirable as they are intense – a constriction of the chest, watery eyes and a raw throat, to name a few.

What causes sadness in the brain? ›

People with clinical depression often have increased levels of monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A), an enzyme that breaks down key neurotransmitters, resulting in very low levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.

Is sadness the strongest emotion? ›

Sadness is one of our strongest emotions because it signals and pulls others towards us when it is expressed. In other words, sadness is the emotion that can most often elicit empathy and care from others.

What is clinical depression called now? ›

Depression (also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.

What are the 5 levels of depression? ›

Types of major depression include melancholia, psychotic and antenatal or postnatal. You may be diagnosed with mild, moderate or severe depression. Your mental health professional may diagnose you with depression if these symptoms: happen most days.

What is the opposite of clinical depression? ›

Mania. Feeling manic is the opposite of feeling depressed.

How is someone diagnosed with clinical depression? ›

To be diagnosed with depression, an individual must have five depression symptoms every day, nearly all day, for at least 2 weeks. One of the symptoms must be a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities. Children and adolescents may be irritable rather than sad.

What are the 7 forms of depression? ›

7 Common Types of Depression
  • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) ...
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD) ...
  • Bipolar Disorder. ...
  • Postpartum Depression (PPD) ...
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) ...
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) ...
  • Atypical Depression.

Are there stages in clinical depression? ›

Psychologists have never proposed any official stages of depression. In fact, because depression and other mental illnesses tend to be varied and specific to the individual, stage theories aren't often used to describe mental health experiences.

Is clinical depression considered a mental illness? ›

Depression is among the most treatable of mental disorders. Between 80% and 90% percent of people with depression eventually respond well to treatment. Almost all patients gain some relief from their symptoms.

Who is most likely affected by clinical depression? ›

People who have gone through adverse life events (unemployment, bereavement, traumatic events) are more likely to develop depression.

How long does it take to be clinically depressed? ›

Clinical depression (major depressive disorder) causes a persistently low or depressed mood and a loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy. The symptoms must last for at least two weeks to receive a diagnosis. The condition is treatable, usually with medication and psychotherapy.

Can depression turn into clinical depression? ›

Situational depression is known medically as “adjustment disorder with depressed mood.” It often resolves in time and talking about the problem can ease the recovery process. Clinical depression, known medically as “major depressive disorder,” can develop if the individual does not recover over a period of time.

Do people with clinical depression get better? ›

Tips for Living Well with Major Depressive Disorder

But those struggling with this illness are not alone. It's one of the most common and most treatable mental health disorders. With early, continuous treatment, people can gain control of their symptoms, feel better, and get back to enjoying their lives.

What is deep sadness called? ›

melancholies; melancholily. Melancholy is beyond sad: as a noun or an adjective, it's a word for the gloomiest of spirits. Being melancholy means that you're overcome in sorrow, wrapped up in sorrowful thoughts. The word started off as a noun for deep sadness, from a rather disgusting source.

How long does sadness typically last? ›

So how long do depressive episodes last? Usually, the depressive episode length ranges from six months to eight months, depending on the person. While some people may have depression that fades, others may struggle with depression on and off their whole life.

When does sadness end? ›

But there is no timetable or timeline for grief. It is completely normal to feel profoundly sad for more than a year, and sometimes many years, after a person you love has died. Don't put pressure on yourself to feel better or move on because other people think you should.

Is sadness just a phase? ›

Myth #2: “It's just a phase.” “Everyone can be sad. It's normal to be sad.” Fact : Yes, sadness is normal, and the goal is not to “pathologize” normal behavior and feelings. However, untreated depression can last seven to nine months.

What mental illness is characterized by sadness? ›

Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, it is estimated that 5% of adults suffer from the disorder. It is characterized by persistent sadness and a lack of interest or pleasure in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities.

What type of mental disorder is sad? ›

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you're like most people with SAD , your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.

Which organ is affected by sadness? ›

Sadness affects the Lungs,61 the Liver,62 and the Heart and may influence the functional relationship between these organs. Sadness and grief induces Heart and/or Liver Blood Deficiency and may also impact the functions of the Uterus.

Where is sadness stored in the body? ›

Emotional information is stored through “packages” in our organs, tissues, skin, and muscles. These “packages” allow the emotional information to stay in our body parts until we can “release” it. Negative emotions in particular have a long-lasting effect on the body.

Where do you hold sadness in your body? ›

The three key areas in the body that have the potential to be most affected by emotional forces are the pelvic floor, the diaphragm, and the jaw. Many of you have experienced tension in your neck and jaw and tightness in your low back.

How do you get sadness out of your head? ›

Write in a journal, listen to music, spend time with friends or family, and/or draw to express the emotion sadness. Think about the context of the sad feelings. Are they related to a loss or an unhappy event? Think about the feelings in a non-judging way and ride the wave of the experience.

Does sadness cause brain damage? ›

Ongoing depression likely causes long-term changes to the brain, especially in the hippocampus. That might be why depression is so hard to treat in some people. But researchers also found less gray matter volume in people who were diagnosed with lifelong major depressive disorder but hadn't had depression in years.

Which hormone is responsible for depression? ›

What hormones cause depression? A drop in estrogen and progesterone may trigger depressive episodes. Increased levels of progesterone, such as through taking a progesterone-only contraceptive, may also increase the risk of depression in some people. Low testosterone levels may also cause depression.

What are the 3 strongest emotions? ›

The Four Most Powerful Emotions
  • #1 Fear. The greatest (and most primitive, since it originates from our early reptilian brain) is fear. ...
  • #2 Anger. Coming in at a close second is anger. ...
  • #3 Sorrow. The third emotion is probably sorrow. ...
  • #4 Joy. The light at the end of the emotional tunnel is of course joy.
Apr 19, 2010

What emotion lasts the shortest? ›

Out of 27 emotions in total, the researchers found that sadness was the longest-lasting emotion; shame, surprise, fear, disgust, boredom, being touched, irritation and relief, however, were the shortest-lasting emotions.

What is the shortest lived emotion? ›

"Gratitude is the shortest-lived human emotion" how long do we stay angry or prideful or frustrated vs. grateful? Something to think about!

Is clinical depression the same as bipolar? ›

Bipolar disorder is easily confused with depression because it can include depressive episodes. The main difference between the two is that depression is unipolar, meaning that there is no “up” period, but bipolar disorder includes symptoms of mania.

Is there non clinical depression? ›

Medically, situational depression is an “adjustment disorder with a depressed mood.” It often resolves with time, and talking about the problem can ease recovery. Clinical depression, known medically as a “major depressive disorder,” can develop if the individual does not recover.

What are the names of the 4 types of depression? ›

There are numerous types of depression, but here are four common forms that our team sees on a regular basis.
  • Major (or clinical) depression. ...
  • Persistent depressive disorder (or dysthymia) ...
  • Bipolar disorder (or manic depression) ...
  • Postpartum depression (or peripartum depression)

What is the lowest level of depression? ›

Low-grade depression is characterized by a persistently depressed mood of mild severity. Outwardly, sufferers seem fine. Even the individual who has low-level depression often does not realize they have a medical problem. They become used to their chronic low mood, to the point where it becomes a “new normal” for them.

What happens if you don't cure depression? ›

Untreated clinical depression is a serious problem. Untreated depression increases the chance of risky behaviors such as drug or alcohol addiction. It also can ruin relationships, cause problems at work, and make it difficult to overcome serious illnesses.

What's a manic depressive? ›

Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). When you become depressed, you may feel sad or hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in most activities.

What are the two clinical forms of depression? ›

If you have depression that lasts for 2 years or longer, it's called persistent depressive disorder. This term is used to describe two conditions previously known as dysthymia (low-grade persistent depression) and chronic major depression.

How is clinical depression characterized? ›

It is characterized by persistent sadness and a lack of interest or pleasure in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities. It can also disturb sleep and appetite. Tiredness and poor concentration are common.

What is the most important characteristic used to distinguish persistent depressive disorder? ›

PDD and MDD are two forms of depression that have similar symptoms and treatment methods. The main difference concerns the duration of symptoms. PDD symptoms last for at least 2 years, in adults, while people with MDD experience depressive episodes that are separated by at least 2 months.

What is the most important characteristic used to distinguish dysthymia from major depression? ›

Differences between dysthymia (PDD) and depression (MDD)

As a result, the most significant difference between the two conditions is how long a person may experience symptoms. For a diagnosis of MDD, symptoms must last at least 2 weeks , and for a diagnosis of PDD, symptoms must have been present for at least 2 years .

How do mood disorders differ from feelings of sadness? ›

Anyone can feel sad or depressed at times. However, mood disorders are more intense and harder to manage than normal feelings of sadness. Children, teens, or adults who have a parent with a mood disorder have a greater chance of also having a mood disorder.

What triggers clinical depression? ›

Causes - Clinical depression
  • Stressful events. Most people take time to come to terms with stressful events, such as bereavement or a relationship breakdown. ...
  • Personality. ...
  • Family history. ...
  • Giving birth. ...
  • Loneliness. ...
  • Alcohol and drugs. ...
  • Illness.

What does it take to be clinically depressed? ›

Most people feel sad or low at some point in their lives. But clinical depression is marked by a depressed mood most of the day, sometimes particularly in the morning, and a loss of interest in normal activities and relationships -- symptoms that are present every day for at least 2 weeks.

Who is most likely to suffer from depressive disorder? ›

Women are nearly twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression. Depression can occur at any age.

Can you have permanent depression? ›

Persistent depressive disorder is a continuous, long-term form of depression. You may feel sad and empty, lose interest in daily activities and have trouble getting things done. You may also have low self-esteem, feel like a failure and feel hopeless.

Who is most likely to be diagnosed with major depressive disorder? ›

Age. Major depression is most likely to affect people between the ages of 45 and 65.

What is one of the two main criteria for depression? ›

The DSM-5 outlines the following criterion to make a diagnosis of depression. The individual must be experiencing five or more symptoms during the same 2-week period and at least one of the symptoms should be either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure.

What is dysthymia called now? ›

What is dysthymia? Dysthymia is a milder, but long-lasting form of depression. It's also called persistent depressive disorder.

Which two areas are most consistently identified as abnormal in depression? ›

The main subcortical limbic brain regions implicated in depression are the amygdala, hippocampus, and the dorsomedial thalamus. Both structural and functional abnormalities in these areas have been found in depression.

Is sadness a psychological disorder? ›

Everyone will experience sadness from time to time in the ups and downs of everyday life. However, a persisting period of sadness could point to a mental illness, including (but not limited to) depression and anxiety. If you have any concerns, please make an appointment to see your GP.


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