For the media

What is the difference between sadness and depression?

By The Health News Team | October 4, 2023
Mother comforting her child

Feeling sad from time to time is normal. We can feel sad for various reasons, such as learning our favorite coworker is leaving for another job, fighting with a loved one, or not achieving a personal goal. But what is the difference between sadness and depression?

Unlike sadness, depression is a mental health condition that is characterized by a depressed mood or loss of pleasure or interest in activities for a long time. While sadness eventually vanishes, depression is persistent. A person experiencing depression constantly feels sad or empty for several days — or almost every day — for at least two weeks.

Paola Berg, LCSW, a social worker from the Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Intensive Outpatient Program at Sharp Mesa Vista, says depression can also have the following symptoms:

  • Feeling irritable or angry

  • Feeling exhausted or having low energy

  • Feeling worthless or guilty

  • Eating too much or too little

  • Sleeping too much or too little

  • Struggling with concentration or making decisions

  • Having thoughts of hopelessness or suicide

However, not all these symptoms need to be present for someone to have depression, Berg says. A person may experience only a few symptoms at a time.

When depression affects your daily life

At times, an individual may not even realize they have depression. That’s why often checking in with yourself, taking a depression screening, or talking with a trusted individual is crucial, as depression can make life difficult.

“Someone with depression may experience relationship issues due to feeling withdrawn,” says Berg. “They may also struggle to complete tasks at school or work, and not find enjoyment in activities they used to like.”

While there can be various factors that cause depression, sometimes there may be no reason at all. No matter what the case may be — and whether someone’s depression is mild or severe — Berg encourages anyone experiencing depression to seek help.

“If feeling depressed is affecting your life, or you’re experiencing symptoms for more than two weeks, talk with someone you trust, such as a loved one, counselor, pastor or your primary care doctor,” she says.

The importance of seeking treatment

Berg adds that effective treatment options exist, such as many forms of therapy, different kinds of medication, and various support groups.

“For someone experiencing a severe form of depression, Sharp Mesa Vista has several programs, including partial hospitalization, and inpatient or outpatient treatment,” she says.

Berg also reminds everyone that depression is common. In the U.S., about 18% of adults — more than 1 in 6 — say they are depressed or receiving treatment for depression.

“Please don’t struggle alone,” Berg says. “You may feel like everything is hopeless, but there is always hope.”

Call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 if you are having thoughts of suicide and need help. And if you or a loved one is experiencing a severe mental health condition, learn how Sharp Mesa Vista can help.


Paola Berg


Paola Berg, LCSW, is a social worker from the Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Intensive Outpatient Program at Sharp Mesa Vista.

You might also like:

Get the best of Sharp Health News in your inbox

Our weekly email brings you the latest health tips, recipes and stories.