Sadness Is Not Depression

How to Deal with Sadness

Woman sitting on sofa and thinking
Jamie Grill/Getty Images

We all feel sad sometimes, but that doesn't necessary mean that we're actually experiencing clinical depression. How can you tell when your sadness has crossed the line?

To Be Sad Is To Be Human

Sadness is a normal emotion that can make life more interesting. Much art and poetry are inspired by sadness and melancholy. Sadness almost always accompanies loss. When we say goodbye to a loved one we usually feel sad.

The sadness is even deeper if a close relationship has ended or a loved one has died.

Sadness also helps us appreciate happiness. When our mood eventually changes from sadness toward happiness, the sense of contrast adds to the enjoyment of the mood.

How to Cope With Normal Sadness

Here are some ways to experience normal sadness in a healthy way and to allow this emotion to enrich your life:

  • Allow yourself to be sad. Denying such feelings may force them underground, where they can do more damage with time. Cry if you feel like it. Notice if you feel relief after the tears stop.
  • If you are feeling sad, plan a day to wallow. Plan a day or evening just to be alone, listen to melancholy music, and observe your thoughts and feelings. Planning time to be unhappy can actually feel good and can help you ultimately move into a more happy mood.
  • Think and/or write about the context of the sad feelings. Are you sad because of a loss or an unhappy event? It's usually not as simple as discovering the cause of the sadness, but understanding why you're sad and exploring those feelings can help you feel better.
  • Take a walk. Sometimes some fresh air and a little quiet time can change your perspective. 
  • Call a close friend or family member. Sometimes venting your feelings can help you process them.
  • Be kind to yourself. This may include a hot bubble bath, indulging in a nap or splurging for some really good chocolate.
  • Let yourself laugh. Fire up a favorite comedy and binge watch it for awhile or find a funny YouTube video. 
  • Consider starting a gratitude journal. Focusing on the positive, even if you can only think of one thing to be grateful for per day, helps you to shift away from the negative, sad feelings.
  • Remember that sadness can result from a change that you didn't expect, or it can signal the need for a change in your life. Change is usually stressful, but it is necessary for growth. If you're sad because you need to change something, think about the steps you can change to make your life more joyful.

When Sadness Turns Into Depression

Be aware of the signs of sadness turning into depression and get help if you notice these symptoms significantly impacting your life for two weeks or longer. Symptoms include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue and/or being "slowed down"
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering and/or making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening and/or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and/or weight gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide and/or suicide attempts
  • Restlessness and/or irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain

Continue Reading