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The Important Difference Between Depression and Sadness

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There is this unfortunate misunderstanding that depression is just really deep sadness.

As someone who has often experienced depression and knows many who have, this is very frustrating. Everyone will be sad at some point in their lives, but not everyone will be depressed. Sadness is your favorite sweater being ruined or losing something or someone important to you; depression, on the other hand, is a mental illness.

Depression is not simply sadness. While it often feels like sadness, it goes much further because it’s a persistent sadness that seeps into your life where it doesn’t belong. Depression as a mental illness, and is not always caused by external sources.

It’s so vital to recognize this difference because treating depression is not as simple as being cheered up after a bad breakup. The problem, however, is that people treat it like it is — that getting off the couch or watching a funny movie will make depression go away. The reality is that it doesn’t, and while it’s great people are trying to help, it really does the opposite. It puts an unrealistic expectation on someone that they have a choice and just isn’t trying hard enough.

When I hear someone tell me to cheer up when I’m depressed, I really try and when I can’t I feel like I’ve failed them. This isn’t fair to me and it isn’t fair to them, because of this basic misunderstanding of depression and how it can completely take over someone’s life. Sadness is like thinking the world is ending but clicking on the news and see that it isn’t. Depression is thinking the world is ending and not being able to even pick up the remote, and living in that state of turmoil.

Obviously being sad is not enjoyable for anyone, it’s a completely valid emotion that should be respected. However, depression is a completely different and needs to be recognized as such. Please understand when you know someone who is depressed and feel the need to tell them to cheer up, that they’re just sad. Stop yourself. Stop and remember that depression is a mental illness and can’t be cured by a pint of ice cream.

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Thinkstock photo via BalazsKovacs

Originally published: June 15, 2017
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