Sadness or Depression?

These words seem to be used interchangeably by a lot of people: sadness and depression. Often if something that can trigger situational sadness someone may say they are feeling depressed. Is there actually a difference between the two? 

What is Sadness?

Every one of use have experienced situations that have made us sad. It is a normal human emotion that we all feel. Therefore, it is normal to have sadness when a situation happens. However, it will go away quickly and does not have great impact on your life (i.e.: you can still go to work, clean your house, see friends, sleep, etc.) Sadness may include some of the symptoms listed under depression, but typically do not last for two weeks or longer. 

What is depression?

Depression, unlike sadness, can happen when there is no noticeable trigger. In order to be diagnosed as clinical depressive episode, symptoms have to be present for at least two weeks, for the majority of that time, and have a impact on daily functioning. 

What are the symptoms of depression?

According to the DSM5 symptoms of depression include: 

  • Depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or enjoyment in activities
  • Significant weight loss or change in appetite 
  • Sleep disturbance 
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Tiredness, fatigue, low energy, low motivation
  • Worthless or hopelessness
  • Decrease in concentration
  • Recurrent thoughts of death

Five or more of the above symptoms cause significant distress or impairment on your life functioning. 

Sadness or Depression?

What can help with sadness?

  • Reach out to a friend or loved one. Connection and interactions with other people can help. 
  • Take a yoga class. 
  • Exercise 
  • Join a group that interest you ( knitting, reading, etc)
  • Create time every day to do something that you enjoy 
  • Watching something funny
  • Read comics 
  • Spend time with your animals 
  • Avoid substances
  • Take care of your body- get enough sleep, water, and healthy eating
  • Meditation
  • Volunteer 

What type of therapy can help with depression? 

Accelerated resolution therapy 

A.R.T is a evidenced based treatment that can be used to treat depression. It uses short eye movements, gestalt work, and image replacement to help decrease symptoms. You can read a prior blog post about ART here.


Many people who report experiencing depression also report a history of traumatic experiences. Using somatic based therapies such as Brainspotting and A.R.T can address both the depression and underlying trauma. You can learn more about Brainspotting from a prior blog post here.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

 CBT will help you focus on both your unhelpful thought patterns along with what behaviors need to be changed. You can find out more about Cognitive behavioral therapy from a prior blog post here.

Dialectical behavioral therapy

DBT incorporates different modules including mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness skills. You can learn more about DBT from a prior blog post here.

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) 

ACT is a form of individual psychotherapy that focuses on acceptance to cope with unhelpful thoughts, feelings, behaviors, or circumstances. 

Blog Disclaimer – These posts are not meant to treat, diagnose, or serve as a replacement for therapy. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, please contact your local crisis center or dial 911. Here are more immediate resources as well.


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