As we hear from members of The Depression Project's community every single day, rather than acknowledging depression as being the serious, life-altering illness that it is, many people instead misunderstand it as “just being sad” or “just having a bad day”.
However, as we'll talk about in detail in this blog post, depression is much, much more than “just being sad” or “just having a bad day”.
Depression VS Sadness Key Difference #1: Depression Is Much Longer Lasting Than Sadness
When it comes to depression VS sadness, the first point we'd like to make is that unlike sadness, depression is not something that afflicts someone for a brief period of time (such as an hour or a day, for example). On the contrary, depression can impact people for months, years or even decades on end. And, for this reason, when someone says that they’re struggling with depression, it means that they’ve struggled with their symptoms for far, far longer than just a few hours or days.
Depression VS Sadness Key Difference #2: Depression's Symptoms Encompass A LOT More Than Just Sadness
Secondly, the symptoms of depression encompass a whole lot more than just “sadness”1. These symptoms can vary from person to person, but typically, while prolonged, intense feelings of sadness and misery are indeed part of depression, as we hear every single day from members of The Depression Project's community, most sufferers also experience some or all of the following symptoms as well:
- Feeling Worthless1 – sometimes so much so that they don’t see how any of their friends or family members could love them.
- Decreased Motivation – including loss of interest in the things that they used to enjoy1.
- Feeling Numb – in the sense that they feel completely disconnected from the world around them, and completely disconnected from all the things that used to bring them joy – to such an extent that rather than “living”, they feel as if they are merely “existing”. This “numbness” can be due to a variety of reasons, but most commonly, because that person has become desensitised to their own suffering; as a defence mechanism to protect themselves from negative emotions2, and/or as a side-effect of an anti-depressant medication they’re taking3.
- Feeling Completely and Utterly Exhausted – because fatigue is a direct symptom of depression1, and also because, for example, they feel tired from having to fulfil all of their daily responsibilities while battling an excruciating illness; tired from having to always fake a smile and pretend that everything is “fine” because it’s more societally acceptable than saying “I’m not OK”; tired because difficulty sleeping and insomnia are common symptoms of depression1; and/or because feeling tired is a side-effect of an anti-depressant medication they’re taking.
- Social Withdrawal4 – for example, because they have no motivation or energy to leave the house; because they feel too miserable to smile and pretend that they’re enjoying themselves; because they need time alone to process complex emotions; because they need time to recharge their batteries; because they don’t want any of their loved ones to "see them at their worst"; because they want to “protect” and to “shield” their loved ones from their pain; because they’re worried that people will judge and think less of them for having depression; because they’re worried that no-one will understand their depression or take it seriously; and/or because they feel too ashamed of themselves to leave the house.
- Difficulty Concentrating1 – often because, for example, their pain and suffering is consuming so much of their mental capacity that it reduces their ability to focus on anything else; and/or because their concentration is being interrupted by the intrusive negative thoughts that their depression is constantly bombarded them with.
- Memory Difficulties and Decreased Ability to Make Decisions1 – often because once again, intrusive negative thoughts and/or being consumed with so much mental pain decreases their ability to focus and process things.
- Feeling Irritable and/or Angry1 – often because, for example, people struggling with depression are dealing with so many difficult emotions, and for this reason, they’re much more likely than they otherwise would be to get frustrated and snap over something small.
- Unwanted Physical Symptoms1 – including exhaustion, difficulty sleeping and/or insomnia like we’ve mentioned; but also constipation, aches and pains, headaches, large changes in weight, and/or difficulty having sex (including impotency). Additionally, rather than having difficulty sleeping, some people with depression find that they sleep much more than they otherwise would.
- Feeling Hopeless – sometimes to such an extent that people with depression can’t envision life ever getting better, and as a result, they wish they were dead1 and sometimes do indeed kill themselves.
This list of symptoms is not exhaustive, and as painful as they make depression sound, we still don’t feel as if they do justice to just how debilitating, devastating and soul-destroying depression actually is. So, to try to help you better understand what it feels like to suffer from this illness, below, we've included a variety of quotes from members of The Depression Project's community about what it feels like to struggle with depression.
- "Depression is not wanting to open your eyes in the morning, and wondering why you're awake and not dead. It's thinking of different ways to end your life each day. It's not doing things you used to enjoy or love doing. It's not wanting to see people, and instead lying on the sofa or bed and watching endless movies or series because it's better than facing the outside word. It's not eating until it hurts your belly. It's seeing no light at all at the end of the tunnel, and having no hope for a better future."
- "Depression makes my life feel like a horror movie. Most of the time it’s quiet, very dark, and tinged with dread."
- "It's like living in a dark hole and you can't get out, can't turn around, can't see daylight, can't breathe, and no-one can save you. Horrible thoughts go round and round in your head, and all you want to do is close your eyes and fade away so you can find peace."
- "There's no happiness in anything. The voices in my head are always negative, and tell me that the world would be a better place without me in it. No matter how many people try to support me and cheer me up, none of their positivity sinks in. The darkness never fades."
- "Depression is the absence of joy in absolutely everything - including in your favourite people and all the things you used to enjoy. It robs you of all the good in your life and leaves you with nothing."
- "I loathe my life and everything about it."
- "Everything is overwhelming. Getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, getting the mail, cleaning the house, calling a friend back. Everything goes to hell when I'm in a depressive episode. Literally just surviving takes everything out of me and I have nothing left for anything else."
- "Depression for me is very hard to put into words. It's feeling lost, not wanted, worthless, lonely, exhausted, and that no matter how hard you try it's never enough."
- "It's like existing and not living life. There is no joy or happiness in anything and your world is just misery and gloomy. What makes it even worse is that nobody understands."
- "It’s like a hamster wheel of dread, fear, and defeat that you can’t seem to get off of. One step forward and sometimes three steps back. You think you are fine and then bam, you aren’t. For those who have never felt such frustration and pain, I envy them."
- "Depression is horrible. I can barely function on most days. Getting out of bed can feel impossible. I can go days without showering - in fact my longest has been almost two weeks. Everything feels like too much. Literally everything."
- "It's so deeply painful thinking that because of your depression, you can't live the life you dreamed of as a child ... or even just the life of an average person."
- "Depression makes me feel like my time on earth is a complete and utter waste. When you don't think you'll ever be happy again, then what's the point? That's when thoughts of suicide creep in."
- "Depression is absolute hell. I feel like a happy person in a sad person's body. I fight so hard every day to stay afloat and try to have the slightest glimmer of something good. Unless you've been through it, you'll never understand how torturous it is."
- "It's debilitating - my mental health has robbed me of so much and I don't know if it will ever set me free."
- "Depression's pain is so intense that I've become numb. Numb to everything. Depression has destroyed everything."
- "My mind is a prison. I would rather be anywhere else than inside it."
- "Depression = you hate yourself, you cannot see the point in anything, you think nothing is ever going to go right. It's completely crippling."
- "I feel so worthless. So hopeless. I can't see any future for myself. Depression has stolen everything from me and I just don't see a point anymore."
- "It's like you’re adrift in the sea with no anchor, and no idea where to get one."
- "Depression is like living inside an invisible bubble of misery and pain. You feel isolated, even with people around you. If you try to explain it, it's like you are talking another language that no-one understands, or wants to understand. In the end, you retreat into yourself, as you just don't have the energy for anything or anyone."
- "It's like drowning when you're surrounded by people ... but they can't reach you."
- "Depression is exhausting, especially when people think because you look OK, that everything must be fine. You feel isolated and alone because no-one understands."
- "It's a deep black hole, where the light at the end of the tunnel ends up being an electric train."
- "For me when depression is at its worst, life and living is too much of an effort. I have no energy, desire, motivation or volition to want to do anything. Somedays I'd rather not be here. When I completely shut down and shut the whole world out, I love the comfort of my bed, and the silence and darkness of my bedroom. I call it my blackness. It's the only way I can find peace and solace from the war going on in my head."
- "It's a never-ending battle with self-doubt, fear and shame."
- "The worst experience in the world. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy."
- "Depression is self-hatred. It's self-harming as a result. It's wishing you were dead because you think everyone would be better off without you."
- "For me, depression means having this rage inside because you don't want to live anymore but you keep waking up."
- "It sucks! Depression has robbed me of happiness for over 50 f***ing years."
Many people with depression say that it’s impossible to understand exactly what it feels like unless you’ve been there yourself. This may be true, but we hope the above descriptions help provide an insight into how all-consuming and deeply painful depression can be, even if you don’t have personal experience of it. At the very least, these descriptions should illustrate that depression is far more complex and severe than simply “feeling sad” or “just having a bad day".
Quotes About The Differences Between Depression VS Sadness From Members Of The Depression Project's Community
Now that you've almost finished reading this blog post, we hope that the differences between depression VS sadness are much clearer than they were beforehand. And, in order to add a little more clarity still, we'd like to conclude by sharing a handful of quotes with you about the differences between depression VS sadness from members of The Depression Project's community.
- "Most notably, sadness comes and goes. Depression stays, and it's hard as hell to shake it. I've been trying my damnedest ... for years ... and I'm still not there yet."
- "With sadness, you feel connected to the emotion and the root cause of it - and in many cases, you know exactly what would 'fix it' and make you feel better. But with depression, you’re just completely lost in it, and have no idea how to save yourself."
- "Sadness can come with comfort. When I feel sad, I typically want to be around people who can help cheer me up. But there is no comfort with depression. When I feel depressed, I don't want to be around people at all, because I feel like nothing and no-one could help me."
- "When I am sad, I can still feel my emotions, and while I'll cry, I'm still able to push through the sadness and function. But when I'm depressed, I'm numb, and I can’t feel my emotions. My routine feels robotic, helpless, and I'm drowning in my responsibilities."
- "To me, I'm usually sad for a reason, but there doesn’t have to be a reason to feel deeply depressed."
- "Sadness is polite. It knocks before it comes in and leaves when it’s done. Depression overstays its welcome - it messes up the pillows, eats all of your food, and doesn’t put things back where they belong. It doesn’t want you to forget it."
- "Sadness misses happiness, but depression can't remember happiness."
- "As others have said, sadness is fleeting, but depression sinks in its teeth and doesn't let go for anything. And sadness is just one of many, many components of depression."
We really hope you've found this blog post about the differences between depression VS sadness enlightening.
All our love,
The Depression Project Team.
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Dana, D. (2021). Anchored: How to Befriend Your Nervous System Using Polyvagal Theory. Sounds True.
NIDA. 2022, March 22. Drugs and the Brain. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drugs-brain.
Teo, A. R., Nelson, S., Strange, W., Kubo, H., Katsuki, R., Kurahara, K., Kanba, S., & Kato, T. A. (2020). Social Withdrawal In Major Depressive Disorder: A Case-Control Study Of Hikikomori In Japan. Journal Of Affective Disorders, 274, 1142–1146.