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What’s the Difference Between Sadness and Depression?

Depression is a major risk factor for addiction, and addiction can cause, or worsen depression. If you’re suffering from both addiction and depression, it’s important to find a programme that can treat both. Treating only the addiction without treating depression leaves you more vulnerable to relapse. How do you know whether you are depressed or just feeling down?

Depression persists. It’s normal to feel sad sometimes. Usually, sadness is brief. It’s unusual to feel sad for more than a day or two. If you consistently feel sad for a long time, you might be depressed. A diagnosis of depression usually requires symptoms to persist for two weeks or longer. Two weeks of feeling mostly sad is quite a long time.

Sadness is about something. We’re almost never just sad; we’re almost always sad about something, usually a loss of some kind. Maybe your dog runs away and you feel very sad about it. That’s a normal reaction. The sadness will gradually decrease over the following days and weeks. Depression, on the other hand, can just show up when everything is fine. Sometimes a sad event can precipitate a depressive episode, but it’s not necessary, especially if you’ve had two or three episodes before. You can be rationally aware that everything is fine but still feel awful, as if your best friend had just died.

Depression is pervasive. Because sadness is about something, it is also mostly limited to whatever your feel sad about. If your dog ran away, you might feel a twinge when it’s time for a walk and you remember she’s not there. Otherwise, you might feel pretty normal. With depression, you feel sad about everything for no apparent reason. It’s pervasive. It’s the lens through which you see the world.

Depression is more than sadness. While sadness is a common symptom of depression, it’s never the only one and it’s not always a symptom. Typically, a diagnosis of depression requires five of the following:

  1. Feeling depressed or irritable most of the time
  2. Losing interest or no longer enjoying things you used to enjoy
  3. Dramatic changes in appetite or weight
  4. Disturbed sleep or sleeping too much
  5. Feeling physically slow in your movements
  6. Lacking energy, or feeling tired and sluggish most days
  7. Feeling guilty or worthless most days
  8. Having trouble concentrating, thinking, or making decisions most days
  9. Having thoughts of death or suicide

A diagnosis of depression also depends on the severity of these symptoms. If you experience five or more of these regularly, talk to your doctor.



If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, The Raleigh House can help.

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