Depression or Sadness?
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What is the difference between being sad and having depression?
Sadness is a normal human emotion. Sadness is usually a result of a difficult, hurtful, challenging, or disappointing event, experience, or situation. In other words, people tend to feel sad about something. This also means that when our emotional hurt fades, when we’ve adjusted or gotten over the loss or disappointment, our sadness remits. In short, sadness is fleeting and temporary.
Having depression is an abnormal emotional state that interferes with an individual’s ability to function or find enjoyment in activities. Depression is a mental illness that affects our thinking, emotions, perceptions, and behaviors in pervasive and chronic ways. When people think of depression, they often associate it with sadness. And it’s not that simple. People who experience depression, like yours truly, may feel the following: a sense of nothingness, sadness/grief, guilt, loneliness, anxiety, isolation, self-loathing and hopelessness. While this list is not exhaustive, it is important to remember that every person who experiences depression is different.
For example, I myself, suffer from a type of depression known as Dysthymia. A fancy name for mild but chronic depression. While that doesn’t sound bad, it can be quite debilitating. The most consistent depressive emotion I feel is a complete lack of energy or motivation to do anything. Maybe I don’t get out of bed for days. Sometimes I don’t leave my apartment for weeks. But more often than not, I cannot find joy in things. Cute Youtube videos of animals have lost their appeal. I feel like everything I do is mechanical. If I had to give you an image of what it is like to live with depression, it’d be Eeyore. I am Eeyore, and that is okay.
Depression does not require a painful event or situation, a loss, or a change of circumstance as a trigger. In fact, depression often occurs in the absence of any such triggers. People’s lives on paper might be fantastic—they would even admit this is true—and yet they still feel horrible. The worst part is that depression does not discriminate. It affects people regardless of social status, race, age or gender.
I hope this helps. If you are experiencing depression, I highly encourage you to reach out for help. Talk to a parent, teacher, friend or healthcare provider. If someone you know is experiencing depression, the best thing you can do is let them know you are there.
If you are experiencing thoughts of hurting yourself or others, call 911 immediately or go to your nearest emergency room or psychiatric hospital for a crisis evaluation.
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BETHANY KILLEN - RESIDENT ADVICE COLUMNIST & SEX THERAPIST
Bethany Killen (she/her), whose time spent finding ways to navigate through her own personal struggles led her to pursue a career in social work.