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Am I Sad or Depressed?

Many clients come to my office wondering if what they are experiencing is depression or sadness.

Sadness is a normal and healthy human emotion, in response to variety of experiences. It often is connected to disappointment which is mild to moderate, feeling hurt by someone or something, feelings of occasional loneliness, work related stress or mishap of some kind or another. It is an opposite of feeling “happy” or joyful. This is usually a feeling that passes relatively soon, it can be days or hours and the person will return to a “normal” emotional state. Usually when one is sad there is no disturbance in sleep or appetite, no issues with functioning at the workplace or school or generally in any major area of life. Feelings of sadness usually resolve spontaneously.

Depression on the other hand is a more profound state. It is deeper than sadness, or is a sadness that does not lift over time. In fact, it usually gets worse. It is also, unless, biologically driven, connected to disappointment, failure, rejection, sense of aloneness, low self esteem and generally a profound sense of loss. Depression is characterized by low energy, lack of desire for anything, inability to experience any pleasure, social withdrawal, disruption in sleep and eating, a general sense of hopelessness and futility. It is a much deeper, darker and more profound state. Whereas a sad person can sometimes be cheered up, a depressed person, generally can not get out of their state and attention and intervention by loved ones do not help or if they do, it is not lasting. Depression can last a long time, and, over time can get worse and needs professional attention.

There is usually no treatment needed for sadness, it is part of natural ebb and flow of human emotions, and is as normal as joy. In case of depression, usually psychotherapy and often times medication as well, are in order. This combination is usually sufficient to resolve depression over time.