Depression Vs Sadness: What is the difference?
Our brain is designed in a way that we have fluctuating moods (I have dancing, fighting and totally unpredictable mood swings). It’s not possible for human beings to be excited and upbeat all the time. We have low moods when experience sadness, naturally. You can blame it on hormones, internal bio-rhythms, certain biochemical reactions or brain makeup, there is no certain answer. Living is on its own a great tragedy that happens to everyone, without choice or will involved. That’s just philosophy and there is nothing “just” about it.
Depression also happens to most people. However, the way symptoms manifest, both physically, mentally and emotionally varies. Depression changes our thought process. It can drastically alter our sense of self.
Depression creates a dent in your ego and self-esteem while sadness, however long it might last, wouldn’t cause you to loathe yourself, doubt yourself, make you feel worthless or cause you to question your very existence. That’s the job for depression.
Unfortunately, sadness and depression continue to be used as synonyms when are clearly not. Depression leads people to kill themselves, not sadness, however great the latter might be. Sadness could be triggered by an event or have no cause whatsoever. Same goes for depression.
Interestingly, sadness can be shared and understood, depression is a lonely and often, isolating experience. There is immense stigma surrounding depression. To a large extent, because of the lack of understanding of the illness but to some extent, in lie of underestimating it as sadness, melancholy or depressed mood. Calling depression a mood takes away the seriousness of it as an illness. It is not wrong and hell, there is a even a Wikipedia page dedicated to it. I still digress. Besides, mood/s and mood swings are colloquially employed carelessly for someone with endogenous but impulsive, uncontrollable frequently altering states of mind.
It is a huge undertaking to understand depression, both for the afflicted and others. Sadness can be a companion of depression, NOT depression. It is normalized, accepted and even encouraged because to cry is human. It renders us with a certain uniqueness. Stoicism is exaggerated as a virtue, in my opinion.
The next time you feel the blues, observe your thoughts, are they self-loathing? Are they telling you to just die? Or you are worthless slob for a person? Or you are good for nothing? If not, congratulations, your mind is afflicted with sadness. Cry, talk to someone, understand why you are feeling this way, indulge in some visceral art form and sleep, you would wake up feeling rejuvenated. If it was depression, you would wake up, hating to still be alive. This reflects the extent of suffering. Even temporary depression can make a person suicidal.
Sadness, on the other hand, is often your brain’s (and body’s) way of taking a break, probing you to rest and let go of pent up emotions. Depression is your mind (and body) trying to tell you that something is dangerously wrong. It is not an illness, in itself, rather a symptom of another unidentified cause, often the real illness.
Images: Copyright of Christian Hopkins. Taken from his haunting and thought-provoking series on depression.