The phrase “I’m depressed” is one that is often overused and misused as the emotion we are actually experiencing is sadness opposed to depression.

Differences are very distinct but as we often feel sad when depressed so it is easy to confuse and wanted to explore further providing clarity allowing you to differentiate between the two and know when to seek help.

Let’s start with sadness: it is an emotion that is typically associated with a triggering event whereby we have endured a disappointment such as breakdown in a friendship or relationship or failing an examination.

Sadness, like all emotions, is fleeting, however the duration will be dependent on the triggering event but in general can persist either for minutes, hours or sometimes days but it eventually fades, and we return to our normal baseline mood.

Whilst feeling sad, it is important to utilise coping strategies or reach out for help as it will allow you to navigate your feelings, put them into context enabling you to move forward.

Equally as important is to remind yourself that the feeling is temporary and the only way through it is through it, but it will pass!

Depression however is not an emotion, it is a mental health condition which alters our ability to function both physically and emotionally.

It requires treatment and can be effectively managed with medication or therapy, but combining both will result in optimum outcomes and recovery times.

Medication aids us to manage the undesirable symptoms of depression such as irritability, lack of motivation and or anxiety whilst therapy will provide you with the strategies to recognise, understand and manage the condition.

There are several types of depressive disorders so it is important to seek help through a GP who may provide treatment and or refer you for diagnostic clarification to a Psychiatrist to allow you to receive the most appropriate treatments.

Lifeline Australia lists some of the common symptoms of depression outlined below, but keep in mind each person presents differently.

If you can relate to these, I encourage you to reach out and seek help through your GP:

  • Feeling sad, ‘flat’ or down most of the time (for two weeks or more)
  • Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy (for two weeks or more)
  • Change in appetite, sudden weight loss or gain
  • Having problems sleeping or sleeping all the time
  • Feeling tired or lacking energy and motivation
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Feeling angry or lashing out
  • Difficulty concentrating or being indecisive
  • Increased alcohol and drug use
  • Withdrawal from social interaction
  • Thoughts of suicide

I want to emphasise it is okay to not be okay.

Please remember that when we feel sad, we are viewing the world through an emotional lens so it can be difficult to have clarity at that point in time to differentiate between sadness and depression.

So if unsure, know that there is absolutely no harm discussing these concerns through reaching out to your GP or mental health professional as they will be able to steer you in the right direction ensuring you are provided with relevant treatment and supports.

To conclude I wanted to leave you with a quote which I find befitting as it encourages us to cultivate help seeking behaviours which in turn destigmatises mental health.

It is by Sandeep Jauhar  who befittingly reminds us that “The only mistake you can make is not asking for help.”

  • Lifeline 13 11 14
  • Kym Marsden is a  Queensland-based Indigenous forensic mental health coordinator