Why Depression Is Not Just Sadness

Woman sitting on dock looking out to sea during daytime
Image credit: photo by Paola Chaaya on Unsplash.

In previous weeks, we mentioned that depression affects nearly 1 in 10 Americans. That’s a staggering portion of the population. Yet, despite how common it is, there are many people who don’t know the truth about depression.

Myth: Depression Is Only Sadness

This week, we'll take a look at depression: what it is, why it’s different from sadness, and some of the many ways it can be treated.

Sadness Or Depression: It’s A Matter Of Feeling

Although depression is often described as a deep state of sadness, this can be misleading. There are some significant differences between the depression and sadness, the greatest of which is how the individual experiences it.

Sadness Is A Natural Part Of Being Human

  • We may feel sadness after a loss, such as a death, break-up, and major life change, or in response to any number of stimuli, such as a song, movie, and comment made by a friend.
  • It can come and go in waves, appearing at various points with different degrees of intensity.
  • People describe themselves as “feeling sad,” and often release these feelings by crying. Although sadness can be intensely painful, it usually does not last very long.

Depression However, Is Defined By Periods That Last Longer Than Two Weeks In Which Most Of That Time Is Spent In A Depressive State

The state of depression is not so much a feeling as a lack thereof.  People who are depressed:

  • Feel numb, hopeless, heavy, exhausted, deadened, bleak, and disinterested in life.
  • Live in a constant state of depression that does not fluctuate like sadness does.

Depression can often lead to isolation, social withdrawal, and even self-harm or suicidal thinking.

For those who are depressed, there seems to be no end to their suffering. They live with heaviness, a lack of sensation, and an inability to feel much of anything.

Many people who are depressed state that they feel like they cannot cry.

It’s like there is a wall inside them blocking them off from experiencing and releasing their emotions.

This inability to feel is where depression differs the most from sadness.

Treating Depression

Today, there are many ways of treating depression. Psychotherapy has proven affective in alleviating symptoms, and is one of the most common methods of treatment. Some people choose to augment their therapy with medication that affects the neuroreceptors related to depression.

Movement is also an effective method of clearing the blocked emotions and freeing up the individual to experience their feelings again. [For more information on movement as a treatment for depression, you can read our Director Kathleen Dwyer-Blair’s article on it here: link.]

The bottom line: Depression is a common issue affecting 1 in 10 Americans. Unlike sadness – which is a normal emotional experience - people who are depressed have difficulty feeling and processing their emotions. Luckily, there are treatments available for depression, including psychotherapy.


Depression can be extremely difficult to cope with, both for those suffering from it and their loved ones. If you or someone who care about is depressed, there is hope. Contact Nassau Guidance & Counseling today at (516) 221-9494 for more information. 

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