There is a common misconception that depression is an intense form of sadness. This idea is understandable. For most people, sadness is the only thing that could make them so unhappy that they would struggle to function. However, sadness and depression are not the same thing and the difference is important.
To understand the difference between sadness and depression, it is important to first define what each of them is.
What is Sadness?
Sadness is an emotion that is typically described as painful. It is usually a response to loss, disappointment, mistakes, and other difficult events. Most people would describe sadness as a negative emotion.
However, sadness is not negative in and of itself. In fact, it is a healthy part of human existence. Imagine not feeling sad after losing someone you loved deeply. It would lessen your experience of their loss, leaving you feeling empty.
Sadness is not always healthy. It can be a symptom of depression and can sometimes be connected to underlying issues that need to be addressed. That said, it is an emotion that is not just tolerable but necessary.
What is Depression?
Depression, on the other hand, is not an emotion. Depression is more akin to a state of being. It is an illness that impacts your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.
Sadness can be a symptom of depression, as can fatigue, despondency, warped thinking, an inability to feel pleasure, apathy, and anxiety. It is no more definitive of depression than any of these other symptoms.
There is a reason that people equate depression and sadness. This is often because they have not experienced depression and simply cannot imagine what it would be like. If you have suffered depression, on the other hand, you will know that it is incomparable to other human experiences.
Why is it important to differentiate between Sadness and Depression?
This matter might seem moot. After all, we are talking about the definitions of two concepts. What does it matter if people misunderstand them?
However, it has a real impact on how people respond to depression. Responding to depression in the same way one would respond to sadness can be damaging.
Sadness is usually experienced in response to an event. When someone thinks depression is similar, they assume that the person just needs time to move on. Sadness is not something that needs to be treated professionally, whereas depression requires clinical treatment.
Depression is a mental illness and not an intense form of sadness. Equating the two is unhelpful and can even be harmful.