Depression and sadness can share many of the same symptoms, but the difference between depression vs. sadness is very real. Since people often use the terms interchangeably, it can be even more difficult to tell the two apart.
Understanding the difference between stress, grief, burnout, sadness, and depression is critical to determining when to seek help. So, let’s explore the difference between depression vs. sadness and help you answer the question, “Am I depressed or sad?”
The Difference Between Depression vs. Sadness
Depression is a term used to describe a mental health disorder that persists over time, causes substantial disruption in your daily life, and often doesn’t improve without mental health intervention. Sadness, on the other hand, is a common emotion that most people will experience from time to time that typically resolves quickly and doesn’t cause severe disruption.
Three main distinguishing factors differentiate sadness from depression:
Sadness is typically a fleeting emotion. You can feel sad for just a couple of hours, a day or two, or even for a week. It’s often the result of some external event, such as a breakup or a disappointing event. And while you may make different choices because you are sad, you’ll likely be able to maintain your responsibilities and relationships despite your emotional state.
Depression, on the other hand, is pervasive. Depression can last for weeks, months, or years and often leads to people struggling in relationships, at work, or at school. Many people with depression experience significantly more intense symptoms that may not improve without appropriate depression treatment.
What Are the Symptoms of Depression?
When you feel sad for longer than a few days, it’s only natural to start to wonder, “Am I depressed or sad?” Understanding the symptoms of depression could help you delineate whether your low mood has crossed the threshold into a more serious disorder and could inform whether it’s an appropriate time to seek depression treatment.
While there are several different types of depression, most share a common set of symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of depression include:
- Experiencing a low mood for most of the day, almost every day
- Reduced interest in hobbies or activities that used to be enjoyable
- Unintentional weight loss or gain
- Sleep difficulties, including sleeping too much or not being able to fall asleep
- A feeling of chronic fatigue or tiredness
- Intense guilt or feelings of worthlessness
- Difficulty focusing
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
- When you are experiencing several of these symptoms for more than two weeks, and they begin to interfere with your daily life, it’s likely that you are experiencing some form of a depressive disorder.
Different Types of Depression
Depression is not a singular, catch-all diagnosis for people experiencing pervasive symptoms of low mood. Instead, there are several different types of depression, which often present in different ways or in response to unique circumstances.
Some of the most common types of depression include:
- Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): MDD is one of the most common forms of depression and is characterized by chronic low mood and impairment in everyday functioning.
- Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD): PDD is the term psychologists use to describe exceptionally long-lasting depression, lasting two years or more for adults.
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD): PMDD refers to an intense drop in mood a few days before the menstrual period that typically improves during menstruation and resolves once the menstrual cycle has been completed.
- Bipolar Disorder: People with bipolar disorder experience both a period of depression and manic or hypomanic episodes that can reoccur.
- Substance-Induced Depression: Certain drugs or medications can lead to a set of symptoms that closely parallel depression.
Most people will need the help of a trained mental health professional to determine the exact type of depression they are experiencing and recommend specific treatment options.
What to Do if Low Mood Is Not Improving
Living with a perpetual low mood can lead to you missing out on some of the most important things in life. It may also impede your ability to work, focus, or build and maintain quality relationships with your loved ones.
Thankfully, there are several evidence-based methods to help resolve low mood, lack of focus, chronic fatigue, and many of the other symptoms of depression. Starting depression treatment will not only help you start to feel better but can lead to a cascade of positive changes in your life that have a lasting and meaningful impact.
Traditional Treatment Options for Depression
The conventional treatments for depression typically involve a combination of talk therapy and medication management. These treatments have been studied and used by researchers and clinicians for decades and can resolve or improve the symptoms of depression for most people.
A number of different talk therapy approaches are used in the treatment of depression. Some of the most common forms of talk therapy that are evidence-based in the treatment of depressive disorders include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Acceptance and commitment therapy
- Interpersonal therapy
While each style of therapy takes a unique approach, there are a few common threads you can expect from starting a talk therapy program.
Working with a therapist can teach you how to understand the root of depressive thoughts, how to challenge these thoughts, and how to build skills that can help counteract the effects of depression. Essentially, working with a therapist is a style of training yourself against common patterns seen in people living with depression.
Scientific research has shown that the vast majority of people with depression benefit from talk therapy alone and that combining talk therapy with other depression treatments further enhances its effects.
The second conventional approach to depression treatment is through the use of medication management. Certain medications — collectively known as antidepressants — can substantially reduce the symptoms of depression and can lead to total remission of a depressive disorder.
However, medication management is more than simply taking a pill. Medication management means working directly with a psychiatrist for an extended period to determine which medication is right for you, what dosage is required, how often you should take your medication, and whether switching medications is appropriate, considering how you’ve responded to treatment.
Medication management can be done alone or in conjunction with other forms of depression treatment to enhance the overall effect. The success rate of medication management is similar to talk therapy in which most people benefit.
Novel Depression Treatments
As effective as conventional treatments are, they don’t always work for everyone. Thankfully, there are several innovative and novel treatment methods that can help people achieve recovery even if they have treatment-resistant depression.
These techniques can be used both as a first-line treatment or as an alternative option for people who have tried conventional treatments without success. Further, many can be used in conjunction with more traditional methods, enhancing your overall chances of success.
Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that has been used in medical practice for decades. While ketamine has traditionally been used as an anesthetic, recent research has shown that it is remarkably beneficial in the treatment of depressive disorders.
Ketamine-assisted therapy follows a simple protocol that can create massive changes in depressive symptoms. First, you’ll meet with our team to discuss your concerns, receive an assessment, and ensure that you don’t have any medical conditions that could lead to adverse side effects.
The next step is a ketamine-assisted therapy session. This includes taking a subanesthetic dose of ketamine under the careful supervision of a therapist and our medical team.
The effects of ketamine last about two hours — during which time you’ll speak with your therapist, discuss your difficulties with depression, and talk about how you can move forward onto the path of recovery.
Ketamine works as a therapy incubator that helps people break down personal barriers and address the root cause of their depression. What might take months in traditional therapy can happen in just a single ketamine-assisted therapy session, producing lasting reductions in depression symptoms.
Finally, our team tracks your progress and provides resources and tools to help you sustain your recovery. While most people feel the benefits of ketamine-assisted therapy straight away, repeated sessions can often enhance the overall effectiveness of the treatment program.
Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (Deep TMS) combines recent findings from neuroscience with advanced technologies to help treat depressive disorders. Deep TMS begins with a detailed brain scan, identifying regions of the brain that are commonly associated with depressive disorders.
Using this scan and a specialized helmet, electromagnetic impulses are sent to underactive regions of the brain. This causes a direct activation of underactive brain circuits, which can lead to a reduction in a number of symptoms associated with depression.
With several treatments, Deep TMS can create lasting positive brain changes and often leads to complete remission of depressive disorders. Research on Deep TMS shows that this approach is highly effective at treating certain types of treatment-resistant depression and can play a key role in your recovery plan.
Start Treatment at Plus by APN
Whether you’re seeking depression treatment for the first time or have tried other treatments before without success, the team at Plus by APN can help. Our premier facility specializes in providing both innovative and conventional treatments for depression, offering our clients the best in evidence-based mental health care.
- Cuijpers, Pim, et al. “A Meta-Analysis of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy for Adult Depression, Alone and in Comparison with Other Treatments.” The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 2013, https://doi.org/10.1177/070674371305800702. Accessed 31 Dec. 2023.
- Professional, Cleveland Clinic medical. “Depression: Causes, Symptoms, Types & Treatment.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9290-depression. Accessed 31 Dec. 2023.
- “Sadness and Depression.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 May 2023, www.cdc.gov/howrightnow/emotion/sadness/index.html.