Why It’s Important to Distinguish Between Being Depressed and Being Sad

At a time when, unfortunately, it is common for perfectly normal human experiences to be pathologized, many confuse sadness with depression.

Some of these people think that these kind of labels related to the world of mental health are just that, labels, and for this reason it is not worth stopping to think long and hard about whether to somehow call how we feel.

However, in the field of psychology and psychiatry, efforts are made to conceptually delineate mental and behavioral processes, and this is clearly seen in the field of draw a line between mood disorders such as depression and emotions such as sadness. Let’s see why it is important to know these kinds of differences.

    Distinguish between a disorder and an emotion

    What is depression? Major depression is a psychological disorder, that is, it appears in the diagnostic manuals used in the world of metal health., such as DSM-5 (officially labeled “major depressive disorder”). In fact, it is one of the most common mental illnesses, being present in approximately 2% of the world’s population. Moreover, it is estimated that between 7 and 22% of people will develop this disorder at some point in their lives.

    But depression is not only a very common psychopathology, it is also one of the most dangerous. Although it does not in all cases escalate into more severe depression, if it develops to become very intense it makes the sufferer feel suicidal thoughts usually fantasizing about his own life and often trying to kill himself.

    This is why more and more mental health awareness campaigns are created because when people detect the first symptoms, people go to therapy as soon as possible because with professional support, can overcome the disorder and regain an adequate quality of life.

    And what is sadness? It is, as I have already said, a human emotion. This means, among other things, that it is present in the life of all people without psychological disorders, and that in fact the inability to feel it is a sign that a medical and/or neuropsychological examination should be carried out.

    It is true that usually when we are sad we prefer not to be sad because it is an unpleasant experience, but if we expand our scope we realize that this element of our emotional side has important functions . In reality, all the basic emotions we feel are there for a reason, so much so that they can be found in virtually all species of mammals. Sadness motivates us to repeat the actions that drive us away and to avoid those that lead us to that emotion.

      The importance of differentiating between sadness and depression

      Now that we’ve looked at depression and sadness, we can see why it’s important to distinguish between the two. Depression, as a mental health problem, is one aspect that requires professional support through treatment or a combination of treatments. However, sadness is not even a problem in itself; in any case, it is the consequence of a problem that we are going through, and it is perhaps not even the most important.

      Also, while depression is a sign that something is wrong in our lives, sadness is part of normalcy, living and exposing ourselves to different situations when we interact with the world and others. . No one should ever think about being sad, but they should try to lead a life that minimizes the risk of developing depression (a disorder that is also present over the months, when we are only sad for a few hours or A few days).

      Depression also causes people to behave in ways that fuel the disorder., generating a vicious circle; sadness does not have this effect, among other things because the duration is shorter and does not significantly change habits. This is another reason why early therapeutic intervention is important with a depressive disorder.

      Finally, it is also important to know the distinction between the two because, beyond the stereotypes, it is not even true that all people suffering from depression feel very sad. Some reach a state of affective flattening in which they feel that nothing matters to them, and therefore do not even feel the emotions intensely; in any case, they want to stop experiencing psychologically exhausting and frustrating daily situations. Depression is a phenomenon that goes beyond a specific emotion.

        Would you like to benefit from professional psychological help?

        If you are going through difficult times and you find that your daily life is causing you emotional distress, I invite you to contact me.

        Dams of Santa Cecilia

        Consulting Psychologist: Master in Cognitive Behavioral Psychology

        Verified Professional


        Online therapy

        See profileContact

        My name is Tomás Santa Cecilia and I am a psychologist expert in cognitive-behavioral psychology; I serve adults and adolescents either during my consultation in Madrid or through the online mode by video call.

        Leave a Comment