Depression vs. Sadness: Ways to Tell the Difference

Everyone gets sad once in a while, and commonly the phrase “I feel depressed” is used to describe these temporary feelings of melancholy. However, while sadness is a normal human emotion, depression is a recognized mental illness.

It’s important to be able to distinguish between the two, as it will help you address it (or help you address it in a loved one). Sadness will pass, but depression often takes treatment to overcome and shouldn’t be ignored. Here are 12 ways to tell the difference between them…

By The Symptoms

Sadness may mimic depression for a short time – but as Healthline points out, “you should also have moments when you are able to laugh or be comforted.” Depression, on the other hand, is a different beast.

Depression creeps into all aspects of your life, making it tough to get enjoyment from the things that normally bring you joy. There can also be physical symptoms such as body aches, along with feelings of worthlessness, and suicidal thoughts – the latter a clear sign of a bigger problem than sadness, which should pass in 2-weeks or less according to the source.

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Greg Dorter, RP

Greg Dorter, RP

Greg has a master's degree in counselling psychology and is a registered psychotherapist in Ontario where he's been practicing with individuals and couples for 15 years. He specializes in evidence-based treatments such as CBT and mindfulness, and produces a variety of online self-help content you can find on ( and twitter (@GregDorter).