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Depression isn’t just being sad



Being depressed is not the same as being sad. We have all experienced being sad; due to a break up, disappointing news or failing an exam for example. Depression involves more than just feeling sad, there are also feelings of hopelessness and helplessness – that nothing is going to change, you don’t know how to make things change or where to turn to for help. These feelings have to occur everyday for around two weeks before it can be called depression. How we treat sadness and depression are quite different so it’s important to know which you’re experiencing, find out more below:


Some people describe feeling sad as being down or feeling blue, this is not the same a feeling depressed even though that phrase can been used to describe this feeling. Feeling sad is a normal, human reaction to many situations; hearing or watching something upsetting, missing someone, struggling financially or having an argument with someone close to you. It’s also normal for this feeling to not last that long; a couple of hours, maybe a day or two, or once the argument has been resolved. Sometimes, feeling sad has no cause at all, and that’s still normal and should pass in a short amount of time.

What Helps with Sadness?

Sadness is something that usually passes with time but also with minimal intervention such as spending time with loved ones or alone, exercising, distractions, apologising, crying, etc. If you have tried these things and still don’t feel any different after two weeks, it might not just be sadness after all.


Engage in self care such as taking a bath or taking time off work


There is one exception to the rule here and thats grief. Losing someone very close to you or losing someone in tragic and unexpected circumstances can lead the feeling of sadness to be prolonged. If you have been bereaved recently then the feeling of sadness lingering is to be expected. Grief gets better with time so be kind to yourself, don’t expect to feel better in a few days. Consider seeking professional help (Centric link here) if you are really struggling to get back to your everyday routine. Or, if you find you can’t eat, sleep, don’t want to socialise, and are having suicidal thoughts, even several months or a year after the loss, you could have complicated grief, which can trigger depression. Seeking help if this is you might be really beneficial


We often make the assumption that depression is the same as long-lasting sadness, which is not case for most people. Suffering from depression also means you may experience the following feelings as well or even instead of sadness most of the time:

  • Hopelessness

  • Helplessness

  • Lack of motivation

  • Not enjoying things you normally do (movies, hobbies, being social, etc)

  • Over or under eating and/or sleeping

  • More frequent use of alcohol and/or drugs

  • Feeling worthless

  • Unexplained or unreasonable guilt

  • Loss of concentration

As you can imagine, dealing with all these emotions throughout the day can make it difficult to function well, making this the key difference between sadness and depression. Depression can also have an impact on your relationships and friendships, often causing isolation that isn’t seen with sadness either.

Depression can be triggered by something such as feeling overwhelmed, suffering a loss, experiencing a trauma or sometimes, as with sadness, there is no trigger. Feeling sad is usually, but not always, primarily caused by someone or something. Feeling depressed can happen even without an obvious cause.

What Helps with Depression?

While lifestyle changes like eating and sleeping well, exercising and spending time with loved ones does help similar to helping sadness, it takes longer to get motivated to do these things and for the positive impact of doing them to sink in. Also, what works for one person, may not work for another so find out what is most helpful to for you and stick with it.

Other things that might help include:

Not everyone needs professional help when it comes to dealing with depression but it is useful to talk to someone about coping skills and gain insights as to what triggers low mood for you and how best to deal with that. Check out your local therapists here.

Written by Clare O’Brien

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