How to Tell Sadness from Depression

how to tell sadness from depression

You have and will experience sadness. It might be the loss of a job, pet or a loved one. Yes, even a loved one. The trouble is, particularly here in the United States, we have a quick-fix for everything… why not sadness too?

Our quick-fix for sadness is that it’s simply not allowed. Healthy purging of sad feelings is great for you physically and wonderful for your mental health. When you stuff the expression of healthy sadness it may lead to health problems, interpersonal issues, and depression.

So, the first lesson is FEEL your sadness over whatever issue is at hand. It doesn’t make you weak or less a man or woman to do so. Yes, I have to say “woman” today too, because women have also begun to place the same negative meaning on expressing feelings of sadness; so they hold back too.

There are Five Basic Stages you will go through with a significant change or loss in your life. They are:

  1. Shock/Denial
  2. anger
  3. Asking “What if…” questions or making “If only” statements.
  4. Sadness
  5. Acceptance

Please keep in mind several points about the five statements made above. First, each one is NORMAL! You may cycle through the steps several times and may not do so in the order listed above.

The only time these steps become a problem is when you become stuck at a particular step. Here’s an example.

I met a woman about a year ago. She’d been married over 25 years. She and her husband were planning on traveling after he retired. He died within a year of retirement from cancer. She came to see me three years after his death.

She had become stuck at step 3 above. She questioned, over and over again, whether she had done everything she could for him and all their family during those last days before his death. After about a year of ruminating minute-by-minute, she became quite seriously depressed. Then later, she was referred to me by her physician.

We worked through her questions from step 3. She then went through a normal period of being angry over the loss of her husband and how that had changed her life and retirement plans. She felt appropriately sad about the loss of her best friend.

She’s not terribly happy about working, but she’s been working full-time now for about six months. She is hoping to begin dating. She’s insecure about it. “It’s been so long since I’ve dated!” She quips. But, she is on her way to a new life and her level of acceptance is growing each day.

Other times depression may set in from a traumatic event, or a series of negative life events that overlap and overwhelm your usual ability to cope. If this is you, you are often bewildered as to why you can’t simply shake out of it as you normally would. Or if it was a trauma event, you will often find that simple security issues (e.g., walking out into a dark parking lot at night after shopping) will trigger panic and later deep depression. Sudden trauma threatens your sense of general safety in the world at large.

If you are wondering if you have major depression here are some guidelines to help you to the correct answer. For the best possible solution please seek professional evaluation. I offer professional consultation for individuals through email, making this step easy and convenient.

Major Depression Symptoms:

  1. Depressed mood nearly every day.
  2. Diminished interest in regular activities.
  3. Significant weight loss or weight gain.
  4. Sleeping difficulties.
  5. A feeling of being “slowed down.”
  6. Fatigue and energy loss nearly every day.
  7. Feeling worthless or excessive and inappropriate guilt.
  8. Difficulty in staying on task or making decisions.
  9. Frequent thoughts of death, including but not limited to suicidal thoughts.

Having a few of these symptoms does not necessarily qualify your for the diagnosis of major depression. You need to have at least five symptoms consistently over a two-week period of time or longer.

If you decide you have major depression please confirm this with a depression screen which you may reach by clicking here. Additionally, please consult your family doctor and a trained professional who specializes in depressive disorders. A family doctor can assist in ruling out a possible medical condition and a therapist knows how to assist you in digging yourself out of that deep depression rut.


Dave Turo-Shields, ACSW, LCSW is an author, university faculty member, success coach and veteran psychotherapist whose passion is guiding others to their own success in life. For weekly doses of the webs HOTTEST success tips, sign up for Dave’s powerful “Feeling Great!” ezine at http://www.Overcoming-Depression.com

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