Clinical depression vs. sadness: How to tell the difference

In today’s society, it’s common to feel sad, or depressed. However, it’s easy to mistake sadness and depression for one another. Hence why it’s often difficult to discern actual depression from prolonged sadness. On the other hand, some forms of depression are rather undetectable precisely due to the absence of sadness. So, the question is: How should one know if what they experience is a depressive state or deep sadness? The best course of action is to explore the best affordable online counseling that will help understand what you are feeling. Also, this article will draw the main clinical depression vs. sadness differences.

The main differences between clinical depression vs. sadness

While they might seem similar, depression and sadness are two completely different things. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand their differences. When you know how to recognize where sadness ends and depression begins, you can help either yourself or a loved one.

a sad woman coping with grief
Clinical depression vs. sadness – how to differentiate them?

There are plenty of misconceptions about depression in today’s society. Although it’s the main mental health issue in today’s society, there’s still a lot of stigma around it. Even sadness is often mistaken for depression, which is why many people self-diagnose and end up taking prescription medications they don’t need at all. Misdiagnosis is an unfortunate result of confusing depression for sadness (and vice versa) even among the mental health community.

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Sadness is an emotion

People experience an array of emotions, including sadness. For some, sadness might last for longer periods. However, this doesn’t mean a person is depressed by default. The intensity and depth of sadness depend on the event that took place:

  • Loss of a loved one
  • End of a relationship
  • Sudden loss of a stable source of income
  • Injustice in the workplace, personal life
  • Disappointment

It’s not impossible that a person naturally leans more toward the pessimistic side of the spectrum. This, however, also doesn’t count as an early sign of depression. Unlike clinical depression, sadness doesn’t require medications. Psychotherapy, physical activity, family support, and time can minimize sadness.

Depression is an overpowering mental illness

Depression is a serious mental health condition that requires special care, attention, and strategy in order to overcome it. In most cases, sadness is its integral aspect. A person suffering from clinical depression:

  • is disconnected from the outside world
  • doesn’t have the desire to live daily life, let alone achieve goals
  • has a difficult time doing simple household tasks like washing the dishes
  • often doesn’t take good care of their hygiene
  • experiences complete apathy
  • feels chronically sad and hopeless
  • either sleeps a lot or has insomnia
  • can’t remember when the last time they experienced the joy was

Both depression and sadness can reflect on a person’s life. While sadness stays temporary, depression overtakes every life aspect long-term. Sadness is like stormy weather that will eventually change into sunny and breezy, while depression is more like a black hole. That means, it takes a lot of effort, time, and commitment to get out of it. This process may last for years, depending on various circumstances.

a young woman observing people outside
Depression and sadness are often mistaken for one another.

Participation in activities

A depressed person has little to no desire to take interest in any activity. A sad person, on the other hand, partakes in group training, goes hiking, takes up knitting, or any activity as a positive means of distraction. Hobbies can actually help a person dealing with sadness overcome a difficult period. Physical exercise and hiking in nature, for example, supply the brain with oxygen, boost dopamine and make a person feel good.

When it comes to depression, it’s not enough to just go run outside. In fact, a person suffering from clinical depression barely has any desire to go for a walk around the block. If it’s aided by anxiety, then exposure to the outside world becomes stressful and mentally taxing. The brain lacks serotonin and is drained of joy. That’s why taking up a hobby feels more like a duty than like a hobby for a depressed person.

Clinical depression vs. sadness – physical symptoms

Clinical depression and sadness both reflect on external appearance. However, there are differences here as well. A clinically depressed individual exhibits the following physical manifestations of depression:

  • Speech becomes more quiet and slow. People suffering from depression tend to make long pauses in their speech
  • Muscles become weaker due to prolonged inactivity
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Weight gain due to emotional eating
  • Body movement becomes much slower than before
  • There’s barely any facial expression or emotional response
  • Empty, soulless stare
  • Neglected hygiene
  • Poor skin quality

The above-mentioned symptoms may show up due to sadness, however, in a mild form. For a sad person, hygiene doesn’t represent a difficult task, while it does for a depressed person. Loss of appetite is often temporary if caused by sadness. On the other hand, it lasts longer when caused by depression. The symptoms exhibited due to sadness are enhanced tenfold in the case of clinical depression.

Health issues

Loss of appetite and trouble sleeping are common results of grief. Deep depression, on the other hand, entails a long list of health issues:

  • Suppressed appetite
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as nausea and constipation
  • Poor circulation
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Constant fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Chronic body pain

Therapies for depression and prolonged sadness aren’t the same

green and white pills
Another difference between clinical depression vs. sadness is that medical assistance is necessary in the case of depression.

Another misconception about depression and sadness is that both require psychotherapy and more time in nature. Technically, nature and psychotherapy do help in both cases. However, a person suffering from clinical depression will require proper medical treatment. Furthermore, psychotherapy for a person suffering from depression will last much longer than psychotherapy for a person experiencing grief.

Psychotherapy for clinical depression involves the usage of antidepressants. The dosage is reduced as time goes by. The progress also dictates the dosage a person suffering from depression will be taking. If other mental health issues are involved, additional therapies should be considered. Nowadays it’s possible to come by some of the best online CBT therapy for anxiety and other issues that accompany depression.

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Why is it not easy to distinguish clinical depression vs. sadness?

The lack of knowledge about emotions and psychological issues can be one of the reasons why people mistake sadness for depression and vice versa. Furthermore, sadness is just an element of depression. However, unlike sadness, depression can be a long-lasting state of mind, and body. It can completely overtake one’s life if the underlying causes aren’t treated on time.

The inability to distinguish the emotion of sadness from actual depression is also a cultural and sociological problem. Those who feel sad label themselves as depressed, which waitlists those who are actually depressed. Furthermore, there’s still a stigma around depression across the world. In some cultures, work environments don’t have enough compassion and understanding of the mental health issues of their workers. For that reason, people rather choose to ignore the issues.

Depression among teens is frequently mistaken for sadness

Parents dismiss their children as being simply sad, or overly sensitive. Because of that, a child goes into a deeper depressive state due to neglect. This continues further into teenagehood, making already intense puberty hard to handle.

The existence of some of the best online therapy for teens makes it easier for parents to help with the mental health struggles their children might face. However, there’s still much work to do regarding proper psychological help for teens.

Is it possible for sadness to turn into depression?

a calm and focused person drinking coffee outside representing the sadness vs. clinical depression difference
A person can cope with sadness through hobbies and physical activity.

The answer is – yes and no. Certainly, sadness can be a contributing factor, however, it’s not the main one. Sadness, followed by loss of confidence, a series of unpleasant events, and many other situations may lead a person towards the beginning stages of depression. If it goes unattended, it may further progress to a clinical level and overtake a person’s life.

Different therapy approaches apply in cases of clinical depression and emotional hardships

If you or your loved one struggle with sadness or depression that starts affecting your lives on a grand scale, it might be time to visit a licensed psychotherapist. For many, this seems easier said than done. The problem is the lack of trust people have in mental health professionals, often supported by some questionable therapeutic practices. Those who gave a chance to several psychotherapists, only to end up disappointed, will have an especially hard time trusting someone again. If this is you as well, rest assured your feelings are valid.

As someone seeking help, you need no less than the best treatment you hope for. Hence why the best thing to do is to spend time researching experienced online therapists. Luckily, nowadays there are time-saving, online therapy options that allow you to have sessions from the comfort of your home.

Keep in mind you have to be specific about the therapist you seek. A person struggling with depression has to seek someone specialized in that area. On the other hand, a couple having hardships in relationships that affect their emotional health should seek the best online couples therapy for them. Psychotherapy is far from being one-size-fits-all.

Find the best therapist you actually need

If there isn’t someone who can recommend you a good therapist, an online search will do just fine. However, bear in mind there will be some research involved. Simply put, the well-being of yours or your loved one isn’t something to take for granted. Only an experienced mental health expert should take care of your recovery.

Check if the therapists implement Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

a psychotherapist listening to a patient
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has a high success rate in treating chronic sadness, depression, etc.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a worldwide applied method in treating addictions, depression, and many other issues. It aids both people who require occasional psychotherapy and those who are in deep depression. CBT helps the patient uncover what drove them to depression in the first place. It also helps them rediscover emotions, and most importantly, their self-worth. To achieve that, a therapist emphasizes the importance of the patient’s self-care in a non-intrusive way. The patient is reminded of the power of simple steps

Later stages of CBT involve hobbies and interests that are used to give a patient joy. It’s essential for a patient to re-discover or learn about some new interests. This is when a patient becomes interested in an external world again. All in all, CBT is an effective, proven treatment for those who fell off the track a bit, and an integral segment for treating clinical depression.

Consider online therapy companies

The Internet made it possible for many to get the psychological help they need from the comfort of their homes. Online therapy is a convenient way to have a therapy session in a personal safe space. Plus, it saves plenty of time.

When researching some of the best online CBT therapy, make sure to read reviews to gain more information about:

  • Expertise – You’ll need a professional who will have your recovery in the first place.
  • Credibility – Avoid any online mental help platform where you can’t check the accreditations of the therapists involved.
  • Customer experience – Pay attention to overall impressions previous and current users have about an online therapy company you’re researching.
  • Cost – It’s true that online therapy is often more affordable than classical one-on-one. However, don’t forget to check if there are additional fees or exclusive online therapy discounts that might come with the price of a therapy you choose.

Online therapy for depression is a more convenient option

a person reading about the difference between clinical depression vs. sadness
People often choose online therapy.

Flexible scheduling and the possibility to attend sessions from home are the most significant advantages for those suffering from clinical depression. Hence why they mainly opt for the best online therapy for depression conducted by a trustworthy professional.

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In addition to numerous benefits, online therapy offers the possibility to attend more than one therapy. If a person suffering from depression also requires the best online therapy for OCD, it’s much more convenient to attend it online.

Final word

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, depression is one of the most common mental issues in today’s world. Knowing the difference between clinical depression vs. sadness can save lives. Misdiagnose or complete neglect could be easily prevented if society got more educated in the field of emotional and mental health struggles. In addition to this,  it’s necessary to loosen the stigma around this global issue and make it easier for people to understand what they are going through.

If you need more resources on online therapy or you wish to explore some of the best online therapy companies, you can find it all at Consumer Opinion Guide. We are here to help you find the best solution for you and get better!

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