When you live with a mental illness you understand depression. You know how much depression hurts, the damage it can cause, and the fear that results from it. But it can be hard to distinguish a state of sadness from that of depression. And it be scary not knowing if you may be relapsing or, with any luck, just feeling plain sad.
Sadness may be a simple emotion, perhaps, but not when you live with mental illness. Not when you fear your life, the road to recovery you have walked, will fall apart. It’s a feeling of powerlessness, to say the least.
Sadness is different. It is often related to circumstance. For example, the end of a relationship, stress at work or home, and even things we cannot define. Sadness is human and sadness still hurts–but not, I timidly argue, like depression.
First, let’s refer to Wikipedia in a vague attempt to define sadness.
“Sadness is a severe pain related to being sorrow, feeling alone and helpless, which results from negative outcomes. . .Sadness can be viewed as a temporary lowering of mood, whereas depression is more chronic.”
This is better than I thought it would be, though I associate the word “severe” more so with depression, I certainly cannot minimize sadness. I cannot define it just for myself; each of us experiences emotion differently.
That being said, I think the key phrase here is: “Sadness can be viewed as a temporary lowering of mood, whereas depression is more chronic.”
Alright, how is depression different?
I could list 100 depression symptoms, but let’s stick to Wikipedia. Research is sort of fun (except for when I had to research philosophy in College. Not fun.)
Wikipedia provides its inquisitive readers with this information:
“Depression is a state of low mood. . .Depressed people may feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, worried, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, hurt, or restless. They may lose interest in activities that once were pleasurable, experience loss of appetite or overeating, have problems concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions, and may contemplate or attempt suicide. Insomnia, excessive sleeping, fatigue, loss of energy, or aches, pains, or digestive problems that are resistant to treatment may also be present”
My sincere apologies on this being excessively wordy. I tried to eliminate parts of it but all of them apply to a state of depression and many of them differ from that of sadness.
How Can You Tell The Difference Between Sadness and Depression?
I say farewell to Wikipedia for this bit. I think we have enough adjectives at our disposal. I’m going to narrow it down.
>Sadness is usually temporary; depression requires assistance, medication and support. It can be chronic in nature.
>Sadness is often connected to a life change, something negative, but depression can rear its ugly head whenever it wants.
>Sadness is usually without feelings of suicide; depression can be accompanied by suicidal idealization.
>Sadness affects a persons ability to take care of themselves less; depression and the impact on energy, sleep, appetite and general well being is dramatically altered.
The important thing to remember is that when you live with a mental illness, feeling sad can indicate a negative change in mood. More often than not, sadness is just sadness, but regardless of this we need to check in with family and friends and our psychiatric team to rule out relapse. That is part of self-care.