Everyone feels sad sometimes. When you’re sadder than usual, you might say you feel “depressed.” But how do you know when extreme sadness crosses over into clinical depression?
What’s the difference between sadness and depression?
Depression is about being sad, sure—but it’s more than that. Depression is a mental illness that involves a lot of symptoms, like feeling exhausted all the time, losing interest in activities you normally enjoy, or thoughts of death and suicide. Episodes of depression last at least 2 weeks at a time. They can be triggered by a sad event or they can seemingly come of out of nowhere.
How do I know if I’m sad or depressed?
If you’re sad because you lost your job, are going through a breakup, or lost someone in your life… it’s certainly no fun, but it’s also pretty normal. Sadness, even extreme sadness, is a natural reaction to events like these. That said, regular sadness can also turn into depression. If the feelings don’t get better over time, or if your mood starts to get in the way of your daily life, you might be developing a case of depression.
Physical changes can also affect your mood, like hormone changes due to puberty or certain medical treatments or conditions. If you think you might be depressed, it’s a good idea to have a doctor review any medications you’re taking and test your thyroid and other hormone levels.
If you still aren’t sure why you’re feeling down, or if mental illness of any kind runs in your family, there’s a decent chance you’re experiencing depression. If you haven’t already done so, consider taking our depression screen.
The good news is, depression is treatable. You can seek professional help from a doctor or a therapist, or there are also lots of things you can do on your own. (Even if you’re just feeling sad and don’t have clinical depression, many of our DIY resources can still help you feel better.) You can also start by learning more about what depression is, what causes it, and how it’s treated.