The Difference Between Being Depressed and Having Depression

October 16, 2017 Shelby Tweten

Being depressed and having depression are two separate things. Learn the differences between being depressed and having depression so you get the right help.

The difference between being depressed and having depression is the difference between sadness and a mental illness and may be the most common misconception about mental illnesses. You could have just went through financial troubles, went through a break-up, had a death in the family, or maybe lost some friends; there are plenty of reasons you could relate to things on HealthyPlace--this does not necessarily mean you have a mental illness. Let me explain about being depressed and having depression.

Being Depressed Is Temporary; Having Depression Is Something Else

People nowadays like to sound extreme. We like to use exaggerated words to describe things such as: depressed instead of sad or bipolar instead of moody. I have people constantly trying to talk to me about how they think they're depressed or have a mental illness. That leads me into asking why they think that. Their most common response is that they've been feeling really sad lately because something is wrong in their life. At that point, I try to stay calm and remember they truly think they have depression because that's what society has made it seem like. So I start to explain as nicely as I can that as long as you have a reason, it's okay to feel sad in life sometimes (How to Respond to Mental Health Stigma If You’re Frustrated).

Having Depression May Make You Think You're Just Depressed

When Should You Get Help?

On the other side of the spectrum, there are people that I know that are extremely depressed but refuse to get help. If you have depression, your life is completely turned upside down for absolutely no reason; you could be at a point where things are perfect from the outside, but it feels like you’re walking around with a cloud over your head. Every day you keep thinking to your self, “Why am I sad?”, “Why do I feel like I could break down and cry at any point?”, “Is this normal?”, or “Is something wrong with me?” If your sadness is getting to the point that it's affecting your work, relationships, sleep, or you feel suicidal, you need to get help--try not to self-diagnose.

You Are Not Alone

I wish when I was getting diagnosed there were more websites like this. You can go to places like HealthPlace and feel less alone. Once you look into it, you realize that feelings you thought were crazy are going through others people's minds, too. A lot of people are sad and a lot of people are depressed--we all just need to remember that no one knows what's actually going on behind closed doors

APA Reference
Tweten, S. (2017, October 16). The Difference Between Being Depressed and Having Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, January 26 from

Author: Shelby Tweten

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Mike Krawetz
November, 16 2018 at 11:41 am

Agreed...thanks Shelby. I'm having a hard time constantly explaining to people that Depression is not what they think it is. It's a medical condition requiring medical help, not a normal human sadness requiring a hug. I really, really and truly wish the medical community would come up with a new name for Depression, so it is distinguished from sadness... and then maybe people will stop telling me to "just cheer up" LOL

May, 26 2018 at 1:24 pm

Thanks so much for this, Shelby. It seem that depression has become very much in vogue at the moment and, from a personal view, I'm slightly conscious of my family throwing the term around a little too easily. In the past few years, we've gone through some rough times with family deaths, serious illnesses and various difficulties. My mother has told me that she's struggling and believes she has depression. What you've said here is (a far more eloquent!) version of what I gently told her; as it's very much what I've always believed. Life will knock you around, and unhappiness and feeling low are natural. It's when you're feeling low when you have no reason to, that there's a true sign that something is chemically wrong.

Lizanne Corbit
October, 16 2017 at 12:24 pm

A wonderfully helpful, and insightful read. I think your point about exaggerated language is so incredibly aware and important. We have become such an overly sensationalized society, exposed to pretty much everything, being aware of the impact of language is so important. Thanks for posting.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

October, 29 2017 at 10:46 pm

This is exactly why bringing awareness to the truth behind mental illness is so important! I'm glad you felt affected.

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