Is it sadness or depression? Here’s how to tell the difference

Low mood, sadness, or depression are mental health conditions that are often confusing for people to understand. Here's how to differentiate between them.
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Try to understand yourself! Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Aayushi Gupta Published: 16 Feb 2023, 14:45 pm IST
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Covid-19 has altered people’s lives in unimaginable ways. Stress brought on by such a hectic environment, has the capacity to negatively affect our mood and state of mind. It may be common to feel down and sad. In some serious cases, some of us may suffer from depression. Despite the fact that these are all distinct disorders, it can be difficult for people to tell the difference between low mood, sadness and depression

As a result, some people with depression mistakenly believe that they are sad, while those who are feeling down and sad mistakenly believe that they are depressed. This also happens because the symptoms of these conditions are not clear and they may overlap each other.

In an exclusive chat with Dr Sonal Anand, Psychiatrist, Wockhardt Hospitals, Mira Road, Mumbai, revealed that there is a significant difference between being depressed, sad and having a low mood. The symptoms, underlying reasons and methods of treatment of each condition differ from one another. In order to properly diagnose and cure your issues, you must first be cautious with their symptoms.

Difference between low mood, sadness and depression:

Low mood

Current stresses such as financial concerns, family issues, sleep challenges, chronic illnesses and stress-inducing arguments with individuals at home or at work, and disappointments, are typically what cause a low mood. They make a person feel exhausted and more restless than usual. In fact, a person may feel down without there being an obvious reason. However, it represents the emotional state that is now being experienced in light of the current situation and can go away on its own after a few days.

sadness or depression
You can lift up your mood by doing your favorite activity. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

General low mood symptoms may include:

  • Worrying
  • Sadness
  • Tiredness
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling anxious

These symptoms can differ from person to person. To lift your mood, you can try eating your favourite food, watching a movie, going out with your friend and family, getting more sleep, or talking about your problems with someone.


Sadness is a prevalent emotion that is often a response to a circumstance or someone’s actions. It is a feeling that can be associated easily with helplessness, despair, grief, diffidence and sorrow, but not a mental condition. All of these circumstances may have a detrimental impact on your mood. But according to Dr Anand, “Sadness is a fleeting emotion and may not last for a major portion of the day or might not affect your work output. It might go away by accepting or modulating the situation or self-soothing behaviours like crying or distracting oneself.”

sadness or depression
Sadness can be normal until you’re able to deal with it. Image Courtesy: Freepik

Symptoms of sadness may include:

  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Not being able to sleep at night
  • Loss of appetite and weight
  • A sense of guilt
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiousness
  • A sense of worthlessness and a lack of motivation
  • Loss of interest and enthusiasm
  • Fatigue

In case a person experiences sadness that doesn’t go away after a few days or weeks and finds themselves unable to function normally again, this could be an indication of depression. Consult your doctor in this case.

What is depression?

While sadness might go away with a heartfelt conversation, depression is something that must involve the help of a mental health professional. Depression, also called clinical depression or major depressive disorder, is a mood disorder and an abnormal emotional state. From a more general standpoint, this might have an impact on how you feel and act.

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Sadness can be normal
There is more to depression than what meets the eye. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

You may experience symptoms of depression such as:

  • Sadness or feeling down
  • Lack of interest in doing anything
  • Sleeping problems or sometimes sleeping too much
  • Hopelessness
  • Feelings of anxiety, anger, and irritability
  • Lack of energy levels
  • Changes in your appetite that can lead to weight gain and loss
  • Constant death-related thoughts
  • Having suicidal thoughts or thoughts about harming yourself

Depression is a long-term clinical disorder and can last for weeks, months and even years. To treat it, you need to follow the prescribed medicines, take therapy sessions, and various other measures. Though a person may take time to recover, it isn’t a permanent condition.

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About the Author

Aayushi Gupta is a health writer with a special interest in trends related to diet, fitness, beauty and intimate health. With around 2 years of experience in the wellness industry, she is connected to leading experts and doctors to provide our readers with factually correct information. ...Read More

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