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Sep 15 2022

How To Differentiate Between Sadness and Depression

Young, AFrican woman confused if she's experiencing sadness or depression.

When I’m sad, sometimes, I spend half the time worrying if I’m actually depressed or just sad. It’s tough to draw the line between sadness and depression because their signs are so similar! 

Sadness is a natural reaction to pain, disappointment, loss, or difficult situations. It’s a normal feeling because everyone feels sad from time to time. Depression, on the other hand, is a mental disorder characterized by extreme and recurrent sadness. It can affect your mood, feelings, how you see yourself, and how you relate to situations around you.

In other words, sadness = a natural reaction to unpleasant situations; depression = sadness on steroids.

A woman experiencing sadness and depression.

Differences Between Sadness and Depression

The most significant difference between sadness and depression is the length of time: Sadness is usually short-lived and fades with time, but depression extends for a long period. A depressive episode typically lasts for at least two weeks.

Moreso, depression comes with additional symptoms. Common symptoms of depression include:

  • Anhedonia (loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy)
  • recurring thoughts of suicide or self-harm
  • changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • withdrawal from social activities
  • constant feelings of sadness
  • feelings of guilt and shame
  • feelings of worthlessness
  • body ache or headaches
  • difficulty concentrating
  • irritability

Note: Recurring thoughts about death, suicide, or self-harm are solely symptoms of depression.

If you’re sad, you may experience some of these symptoms, but they won’t last up to/more than two weeks. But if you can relate to these symptoms constantly beyond two weeks, you may be depressed. Reach out to a mental health professional and identify whether you’re really dealing with depression or not.


Everyone feels sad, but if you’re struggling to figure out if you’re experiencing sadness or depression — or just want to talk it out, talking to a mental health professional is a great step to consider. Reach out to us if you need help finding a qualified professional. Your mental wellness is our utmost priority!


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