The 6 differences between sadness and depression
We explain the differences and similarities between these two concepts.
They are two different concepts and at the same time with many points in common.. Two ideas that are too often misunderstood and confused.
We are talking about sadness and depressionToday we want to clarify and differentiate them once and for all. These differences are not only limited to the emotional expression of both sensations, but also have to do with the psychological and psychophysiological causes that give rise to each of them.
Sadness and depression: a harmful confusion
There is a terrible confusion between the two terms, sadness and depression. Let us define both concepts and clarify the recurrent doubts about their similarities and differences.
The signs and symptoms that produce depression and sadness can be complicated to differentiate for an untrained person on foot. Fortunately, mental health professionals know that, based on a good deal of scientific research, there are certain signs and signals of different kinds that allow us to differentiate between these two states.
By way of summary, we can explain up to six basic points to know when we are in front of a sad person, or someone who suffers from a depressive disorder.
To delve deeper: "Are there various types of depression?"
1. Depression is a psychological disorder
Depression is a psychopathology in which, for different causes and reasons, the affected person manifests certain symptoms: sadness, apathy, anguish, feelings of hopelessness ... That is, sadness is only one of the facets of depression.
While sadness is a passing state of mind, people suffering from depression are in a chronic state of discomfort and uneasiness, people suffering from depression are in a chronic situation of discomfort and unease.. To be diagnosed with depression, a person must be at least six months with this type of symptomatological symptoms.
2. Sadness is a relatively temporary state of mind.
The feeling of sadness is a relatively common psychological state.It is not in itself an indicator of any mental disorder. It is simply a psychological reaction to something that has hurt us or to difficult circumstances from which we find it difficult to escape. The appearance of sadness, crying and weeping is totally normal.
Sadness is one more of the human emotions, and it is not bad nor should we worry excessively if someone is sad for a few days. We may be sad when we lose a family member or close friend, we may feel sad when a plan is cut short, and we may even feel sad for no apparent reason, perhaps because of a hormonal change or because we have woken up in a low mood.
Therefore, one of the differences between sadness and depression is that the former is to be expected, while few people develop depression throughout their lives.
3. Neuroimaging tests
As we see in the image below these lines, people with depression have a level of activation in several areas of the brain clearly lower than healthy people. clearly lower than healthy people. Through different neuroimaging techniques we can observe that the depressed brain is clearly different from the healthy brain.
In addition, serotonin levels are much lower in people suffering from depression, which influences a large number of mental processes. A sad person, on the other hand, does not experience such radical and long-lasting changes in their brain activation dynamics.
Abulia is characterized by affecting people with depression, leaving them totally (or partially) unable to cope with everyday life.. Going to work, shopping or running errands becomes an impossible mission for patients with this type of condition.
Somehow, people with depression feel that there is nothing worth moving for, and they act accordingly. They lack initiative for the most basic things, from combing their hair to going out into the street.
The abulia and the various behavioral effects of people with depression are not something they choose for themselves. The cause of these behavioral manifestations lies in the deterioration of the nervous and immune system. Abulia can be common in both people who are sad and people with depression. The difference is that depressed people have this apathy for weeks or even months..
5. When sadness goes too far
In some occasions, prolonged sadness over time can lead to a case of depression.. The progressive deterioration in the quality of life of the affected person can be noticed because they become unable to do their daily tasks, they are affected (crying, isolation) on a frequent basis and are very limited by their psychological state.
If this situation lasts for several months, it is possible that the person is immersed in the development of a depressive condition. Thus, the difference between sadness and depression is partly quantitative. But there is also a qualitative differenceIn depression, it is often not possible to identify the event or memory that generates the discomfort. This is something that does not happen when we are sad; in these situations, we feel this way because of a fact that, more or less, we know.
6. Sadness does not need therapy; depression does.
As we have seen, a common state of sadness is temporary and not of major importance.. It is very likely that people going through a period of emotional Pain do not require any specific professional support. Simply, the return to routine and the informal support of their friends, family and relatives may be more than enough for life to resume its course and to overcome this state of sadness.
However, depression is a serious disorder, However, depression is a serious disorder that should be treated by a professionalbecause it significantly affects the person's quality of life. An accurate diagnosis and a therapy focused on cognitive restructuring and, if necessary, on psychotropic drugs, can decisively help the patient to recover his psychological well-being and maintain it over time, avoiding relapses.
Another way of looking at it is to consider that sadness is actually a useful emotion. It serves to add emotional tone to certain memories and, thus, to make wiser decisions in the future. The difference between depression and sadness would be, then, that the latter is an alteration of the normal functioning of the brain, something that is not useful but rather a barrier. That is why it is considered that the symptoms of depressive disorders should be mitigated, and currently work is being done to go to the root of the problem and eliminate the disorder itself, although at the moment it is not known how to do this and many years of research lie ahead.
Foti, D. et al (2014). Reward dysfunction in major depression: Multimodal neuroimaging evidence for refining the melancholic phenotype. NeuroImage, 101, pp. 50 - 58.
Triglia, Adrián; Regader, Bertrand; García-Allen, Jonathan (2016). Psicológicamente hablando. Paidós.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)