The Difference Between Major Depressive Disorder and Sadness


One major thing that contributes to the misunderstanding and stigma surrounding major depressive disorder (MDD) is the fact that the word “depression” is used to denote both sadness and MDD. The usage of the word is so common these days, that most of the time, one cannot really distinguish if a person is just sad or “clinically depressed.”

The first thing people need to understand about major depressive disorder is that it is not the same as sadness. Sadness is a mood, while MDD is an illness. Let me explain how they are different.

Sadness is the sinking feeling in your heart when you go through a bad event in life. The bad event could be anything from being unable to eat your favorite food for dinner to death of a loved one. Sadness can last for a few hours to few weeks. But you can see yourself feeling better as time passes by. One day you are crying in the bed, the next day you pull yourself out of the bed and try to get on with life. And soon, you start feeling happy again. With sadness, you get used to the suffering and soon, you may even find yourself forgetting about it.

To sum it up, sadness is a temporary phase that will fade away sooner than you may think.

However, major depressive disorder (commonly called “depression”) is an illness. And unlike sadness, you don’t necessarily need to go through a bad event in life to have it. That is pretty much the only way to put it.

I find it hard to find a specific way to describe feelings and thoughts when I’m depressed. Each patient may experience the symptoms at different levels. Some patients may require therapy, some may require medications and some may need both. But the suffering is common. Furthermore, unlike sadness which fades away with time, depression doesn’t necessarily disappear over time. As time passes, it might even get worse or stay the same. Sometimes, you may seemingly get better only to relapse again. It is a lot like drowning… except with depression, the end is not in sight. It may take you months or it may take you decades. Sometimes, it might even last a lifetime.

To manage depression, it’s important to get help. This might mean therapy, medication or both. Whatever you do, just hope one day you may be able to live life and experience things like you once did.

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