The 8 types of sadness: characteristics, possible causes and symptoms

Whether for one thing or another, each of us has been sad on some occasion. Maybe we have suffered a loss, a breakup, we have received bad news, we have had an argument with someone close to our heart, we have not been able to achieve a goal , or that someone else’s discomfort moves us level intern.

We may not even know exactly why. But in each of these cases, it is common to appear a sense of suffering, pain, frustration, emptiness and coldness within which can alter the way we see situations, the world and ourselves, usually with a negative view.

Sadness, like its counterpart joy, is a universal emotion and is shared by all human beings as well as by other animals. But while the basic emotion is one, the truth is we often talk about different types of sadness depending on aspects such as what it is due to or whether it is consistent or useful about that source..

And it is these different types of sadness that we will be talking about throughout this article.

    What is sadness?

    Sadness is one of the so-called basic emotions, along with joy, surprise, fear, surprise, anger, and disgust. It is, as we have said, a universal emotion shared by all mankind regardless of culture, race or way of life, although it can be expressed in different ways.

    It emerges as a partly psychic and partly physiological reaction to some kind of event, Which can be exterior or interior. That is, it may appear to be derived from external events or stimuli (or the absence thereof) or from the existence of concrete thoughts which are aversive to us and upon which we consider that we are cannot or that we have few options to do what.


    It is generally defined as a feeling of discomfort, tiredness and lack of energy which usually appears alongside a perception of emptiness in the chest or intestines, a decrease in self-esteem and a tendency to lean on it. isolation and introspection. It is common for there to be motor slowdown and less muscle tone than usual. It also usually goes hand in hand with rumination around what may have generated his appearance, as well as a decrease in the attention span of the rest of the community.

    Sadness is a very aversive emotion: most people don’t like to be sad, as it usually involves mental and / or physical discomfort and suffering. However, there are also people who come to experience a tendency or to seek states of sadness, in the face of a lack of desire or fear to change the situations that generate it or in the face of the existence of secondary benefits.

    However, and even though in general we all try to avoid the situations that generate this emotion, the fact that we can feel sad (as long as we do not reach pathological levels) is of benefit to us much more than it is. thought.

    Main adaptive functions of sadness

    The existence of sadness as something that we can all experience and which besides we have a lot of animals is no coincidence: sadness has an adaptive function and it promotes our survival.

    Like pain the perception of sadness can help us to perform a type of action that allows us to get out of the situation that generates the feeling of discomfort: Although sadness generally decreases energy, it also allows us to more easily make changes in the future that prevent a return to aversive stimulation. In other words, it can motivate us to change.

    Another beneficial aspect is that the reduction in the energy it generates saves strength on a physical level, while encouraging reflection and ruminating on what is happening around us. In this way, sadness provides us with a context in which we can come to know the reason for its occurrence and become stronger in the future.

    It also allows us to enter a state of introspection and to know deep aspects of our being that with another state of mind we would not consider. Feeling uncomfortable also trains our ability to cope with adversity and, over time, can alter our perception of competence and self-esteem.

    Finally, as a rule, sadness generates empathy and compassion for group members.So expressing sadness can make our surroundings pay attention and take care of us. In this sense, it also has a function of protection and group cohesion.

    Types of sadness according to its functionality

    Widely we can identify four main types of sadness, Depending on whether its existence is functional or not.

    1. Adaptive sadness

    We will consider that we are confronted with adaptive or functional sadness when the emotion felt corresponds and is justified on the basis of the situation or the aspect which generated it. It is therefore a sadness that arises in response to an internal or external event and after which our body may need to lower the level of activity and process the information in order to be able to accept it and adapt.

    It is therefore a healthy sadness, and is characterized by the fact that with time or action it will begin to diminish and even disappear. The most typical example is the sadness we feel in times of mourning.

    2. Adaptive sadness

    Sadness is usually adaptive in a natural way. However, it is possible in some people and in some situations the emotion remains continuous, unmanageable and causes persistent suffering. In these cases, sadness is an additional issue that needs to be dealt with.

    This is what happens when a blockage of emotion and its expression occurs. A badly resolved and unacceptable duel would lead to a sort of inappropriate sadness.

    3. Pathological sadness

    We think of pathological sadness as the feeling or feeling of sadness, discouragement and lack of interest in the world in which the person shows little ability to react emotionally but that usually go together to bursts of tears.

    This state of mind is not in accordance with any event or its absence, or appears in such a proportion that it is disproportionate to the situation from which it starts. This can lead to isolation or even in extreme cases to self-destructive behavior. This is the type of sadness that can appear in depression or other disorders.

    4. Instrumental sadness

    Consider the instrumental sadness a that kind of sadness that is used to achieve a specific goal through it. It is a voluntary use of emotion, although part of it can be felt sincerely.

    On the other hand, sometimes we may also be faced with a full simulation, in which there is only the part of the sadness that is observable from the outside, and not the subjective part.

    A philosophical vision: a kind of sadness according to Saint Thomas Aquinas

    Sadness is and always has been one of the most basic human emotions and has been studied since ancient times.. In this sense, historically, some authors and researchers have attempted to make various classifications regarding the existence of different types of sadness. An example of this is Saint Thomas Aquinas, who took his research and previous classifications made by authors such as Aristotle to make his own classification in this regard.

    Although it has no scientific validity, this way of categorizing the types of sadness is interesting historically and philosophically at the same time that it can make us think that in the background the different categories that it shows, well that they are known as different emotions of each. others have things in common. In this classification we find the following types of sadness.

    1. Sadness for its own harm

    That kind of sadness is characterized by an appearance based on the pain you feel for yourself when going through some kind of painful or aversive situation, Or by the deprivation of our needs and our wills. It would be linked to deprivation or misery.

    2. Compassion

    under the philosophical prism established by this author, compassion could be seen as another type of sadness, which in this case it refers to the suffering we perceive in others. Watching the suffering of a loved one moves us and can cause us sadness and discomfort.

    Compassion is a characteristic that makes solidarity and help to the most vulnerable possible, which is the foundation of societies.

    3. Envy

    Another kind of sadness can come from watching how others come to have some sort of good or achieve a goal that we would like for ourselves.

    Finding out that others have what we want and cannot do can cause us sadness and pain., From where is born the envy. It’s an emotional tension that arises from comparing with those we consider successful in a certain sense.

    4. Discouragement or anxiety

    Sadness and anxiety are often deeply linked. In this sense, discouragement or anxiety can be seen as a type of sadness that is related to the loss of mobility or motivation by not finding anything that satisfies us or allows us to move towards our goals. It is also related to uncertainty and the desire to preserve some kind of good or to stay on track to achieve our goals. On the other hand, this psychological factor is associated with demotivation.

    Depression: beyond sadness

    One of the concepts commonly associated with sadness is that of depression. And is it that in major depression or during depressive episodes one of the main and most important symptoms is the existence of a sad mood.

    However, it would be wrong to identify depression with sadness because the former involves in addition to being sad a set of symptoms including anhedonia or the lack of ability to feel pleasure, problems sleeping (both insomnia and excessive drowsiness), loss or increased appetite, hopelessness and passivity, view of the world, self and future in a negative and aversive way, lack of energy, concentration and libido or even thoughts of suicide.

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