woman is sad or depressed

Are you Just Sad or Depressed?

Does feeling low makes you wonder, “Am I just sad or depressed?” Or do you swap the words according to your own convenience?

Depression is a mental health disorder that has taken the world by storm with more than 260mn people affected by it worldwide. According to The Lancet, depression is one of the most leading contributors to mental health problems and is also a part of the global burden of disease.

chart on percentage of people depressed with age and gender

Teenagers and young adults are most susceptible to depression with a 3% increase (within 10 years) in the number of patients. Given ‘Depression’ word’s popular usage in every household today, can a person not confuse a natural emotion like sadness with depression?

chart on major depressive episode
Pic courtesy: www.nimh.nih.gov

When we feel emotionally low, we become entitled to use the term “Depression”. But it is not a petty insignificant word to be used at our disposal.

Sadness is an emotional state of our being. Like happiness, sadness is a part of our emotions we feel. When we go through negative events in our life, we feel sad, we feel grief. But it cannot count as depression.

According to psychiatrists, anyone who is feeling unhappy and craves social isolation for 2 weeks or more can fall under the depression category. But there are more symptoms to depression which we should check carefully.

Depression Symptoms

1. Loss of enthusiasm and interest in living
2. Having suicidal thoughts
3. Unable to explain why they feel the way they feel
4. Social isolation
5. Feeling of worthlessness
6. Showing the negative state of emotions frequently

The Confusion

Well, studies have shown that every human being feels sad. This is how we feel when we lose a job or go through a messy breakup or in general- during any negative turn of events. It is, in fact, a normal feeling and within a few days, it should subside. A mentally healthy person starts experiencing positive emotions intermittently with bouts of sadness. Slowly, the grief subsides and our mental health becomes stable. We experience both happiness and sadness mixed together to form the cocktail of life.

The major setback comes when you get stuck in the sadness mode and cannot get yourself out of the loop. It is depression when you feel sadness stretches for too long. You forget what you are grieving for in the first place. You stop feeling any positivity for days or even months and feel stuck emotionally. It seems there is no way of escaping it. This is a major symptom of depressive disorders.

Without the proper guidance and knowledge, confusion adds up and so does issues like existential crisis and suicidal thoughts.

Yes, depression is scary. But confusing it with sadness is scarier.

are you sad or depressed?
Image by PDPics from Pixabay

Imagine you are told that based on your family history, you may suffer from cancer. Having known your high chance of incurring the disease, you start panicking and self diagnose every day for any symptoms. Even the slightest blood from your nose can freak you out. We heighten our fears expecting them to be real. So, you transform your peaceful and happy reality into a living hell.

The same situation can be seen now when we confuse sadness to depression. You can easily misread your symptoms to that of depression. And the consequence is more hazardous than the physical health scare.

What to do?

My suggestion is- if you are confused between the two or feel that you are suffering from depression, please visit a therapist now. They are an expert in distinguishing your condition and can help you with either case.

The confusion happens when you are either sad or depressed but unable to differentiate between the two. In fact, I know of many people who feel the shame to express that they are depressed (due to societal or peer pressure). Then there are those who deliberately want to feel miserable in life and call their sadness as depression.

Firstly, I want to assure you that it is okay. Our mind being so intricate, feelings of a complex bundle of emotions are common. And, feeling a certain way does not indicate that you are broken from inside and needs to be fixed. In contrast, it can guide your life to a meaningful path.

 Secondly, if your depression tendencies are serious, I recommend you to visit a therapist or a psychologist. They can help in ways that the experience will be life-changing and show you a different perspective on life. They can help you discover your mental blockages. Even one session with a therapist can be highly rewarding.


In short, depression is a serious mental health issue. If kept untreated, it can prove very fatal for the sufferer and their family members.

Sadness comes and goes. But depression can scar your mental health life and create unnecessary obstacles in your path to a better life and relationships. So, before labeling yourself as a depressed person or a sad person, do get it confirmed first- just the way you do for your physical health.


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Trisha Nandi

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