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Feeling Sad or Depressed?

Many clients seek therapy because they think they may be suffering from depression. How do you know if you are just feeling sad or experiencing symptoms of depression. We live in a world that can be harsh and lead us to feeling a way that feels uncomfortable. Let’s first off start by defining both words:

Sadness vs Depression

Sadness: According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “sadness means affected with expressive grief or unhappiness, or causing or associated with grief or unhappiness.” Sadness generally is triggered following an event or incident that was unfavorable.

Here’s an example to put this into context:

  • It’s tax season and you are hopeful that a refund will be coming your way. However, the opposite happens, and you learn from your accountant that you owe money to the Internal Revenue Service. Your feelings of excitement about getting a refund quickly turn into sadness. This is not a long-term feeling and will dissipate as time allows and you experience other joyous experiences.


Depression: Again, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, depression is a mood disorder that is marked by varying degrees of sadness, despair, and loneliness and that is typically accompanied by inactivity, guilt, loss of concentration, social withdrawal, sleep disturbances, and sometimes suicidal tendencies.

Are you still feeling confused about the differences between sadness and depression? That’s okay because it can be very confusing. Let’s further explore and understand the types of depression since it’s not just a feeling.

  • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): This is known as clinical depression and is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest in pleasurable activities. It can impose a significant impairment in daily functioning. Treatment may be required with a Mental Health Professional.
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD): This involves chronic feelings of depression lasting at least two years. Symptoms may not be as severe as MDD but can still impact your daily life.
  • Bipolar Disorder: Involves periods of extreme mood swings, including episodes of depression like MDD and periods of mania or hypomania characterized by increased energy, elevated mood, and activity levels. This requires mental health treatment and psychotropic medication.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Since the acronym is SAD, this is not to be confused with feelings sad. This type of depression occurs during a specific time of the year, typically fall and winter months. There is usually less sunlight and symptoms may include low energy, feeling irritable and agitated, oversleeping and overeating, and weight gain.
  • Psychotic Depression: This type of depression is associated with psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions. These symptoms indicate a more severe form of depression and require psychiatric treatment immediately.
  • Postpartum Depression (PPD): After childbirth, women experiences feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and fatigue. This can make it more challenging for new mothers to feel engaged and bond with their new infant(s). This may require psychotherapy treatment to alleviate the symptoms.
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD): This is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome with symptoms including irritability, tension, and mood disturbances in the weeks leading up to menstruation. Many women suffer from this type of depression and disregard the symptoms unless others point it out to them.
  • Atypical Depression: This type of depression is identified by mood reactivity (a person’s mood can improve in response to a positive event). There are other symptoms such as weight gain, excessive sleep, increased appetite, and limbs feeling heavier than normal.

Depression should not be taken lightly and if you identify with one or more of the above disorders, it may mean that seeking treatment with a mental health professional would be beneficial.

Depression can vary widely with severity and the way it presents among individuals means that not everyone will fit neatly into these categories. Some individuals may experience specific symptoms that overlap with the different types of depression. It’s vital to consult with a mental health professional to obtain an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.


Nurturing Connections Counseling has skilled therapists that are ready to assist you towards understanding your symptoms and collaboratively develop a treatment plan that is right for your unique self. Please reach out if you feel that you may be depressed rather than feeling sad following an unfortunate incident or specific event. We can schedule an appointment without any wait time. Please contact our office at 714-617-5955 or schedule an appointment directly through our website:

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