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  • Writer's pictureAleesa Harp

Depression - Different than Sadness

Updated: Jan 8, 2022

Depression isn’t fun.

It’s not an attention-seeking joke. It’s not “just a feeling.”

Jim Carrey describes it well:

“Depression is your body telling you, ‘I don’t want to be this character anymore. I don’t want to hold up this avatar that you’ve created in the world. It’s too much for me.’”

If you’ve never known depression, let that quote sink in.

Can you imagine what that feels like for a child, for an adult, for an elder? It’s a dark place.

If you resonate… take a breath.

We want to educate anyone confused, and give helpful ideas to make depression better for anyone who understands.



It’s not the same as sadness.

A good night’s sleep, and carbs and cookies won’t fix it. It doesn’t go away after a few days, or weeks, or sometimes months and years. It doesn’t go away when you try your best to make it go away.

For all you doubters – it can’t “just be fixed.”

For all you that understand – you can feel better.

(Spoiler alert – it’s a part of you that you can control… let’s explain.)

The difference between sadness and depression

Sadness is a state of being.

It’s a moment in your life resulting from something that has happened — an event, a singular scenario.

Depression is a part of who you are. It’s your genetic and neurochemistry make-up, a predisposition that affects how you think and interpret events.

There often seems to be a cultural competition between sadness and depression, like one is better or worse than the other.

Ultimately, they’re different, and they can be differentiated pretty quickly if you understand what contributes to each.

Depression is considered a disorder

As controversial as it is, there are certain “disorders” outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

As annoying as typing out that entire book name is, it’s a relatively important resource.

There are a lot of arguments about what-constitutes-what within versions of the manual (I’ll spare you from the details), but for today’s post: feeling sad doesn’t exist in there.

Depression, though… it’s definitely there.

Here’s the diagnostic criterion of depression. Hang with me.

Depression includes 8 total symptoms, of which the individual must experience 5 or more of them within the same 2-week period or longer including depressed mood (duh?) or loss of interest.

Kinda specific. If you’re interested, look it up — fun times.

Can you describe an instance of sadness that requires that kind of detail?

Nah – sadness is sadness. It’s not wrecking your neurochemistry.

Since we can’t diagnose sadness, let’s look in the dictionary.

Webster defines sadness as: “the quality or state of being sad,” or “an instance of sorrow.”

Hint: “instance” is your key phrase here.

Depression feels like you’re trying, over and over, and you can’t see the light.

It’s like you’re blindfolded and deafened to your surroundings, where everything is numb, and all you crave is feeling.

If that doesn’t make sense, it’s like someone captured you, put you in a bag, numbed your senses, and told you that you could almost reach what you wanted…but you’ll never get there.

It’s a mind-game you feel like you can’t control.

And most people don’t have to because they don’t experience that.

If that’s you — if you’re fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with that type of hopelessness, I hope you have a better idea of what depression entails.

If you feel what we’re talking about… take another breath. We have helpful pieces here.

Feeling better takes effort

Our wellness group encompasses an attitude of self-acceptance. Depression is a part of who you are, and there are ways you can control how you feel. Yay! But, severe depression can have some scary consequences. Let’s start with some positive steps to help you live your best life.

  1. Depression sucks. It totally sucks. It’s annoying and angering and frustrating. Totally. Admitting that is step one.

  2. Counselors understand. Reach out to our group – or we can help or refer you to someone that fits your personality. We just want to help connect you with someone who you feel safe with.

  3. If that’s not your jam, here are some steps you can take (before you get in touch with a counselor that helps you feel totally heard and understood)….

    1. Self-awareness is key. Take notes when you feel exceptionally down. Try to find a pattern – stress, lack of sleep, missing medications, your annoying brother keeps interrupting your Zelda game. Find a common factor. Depression can wax and wane, and we can do things to help it wane more than wax, but finding a pattern is key.

    2. Deep breathing is not a joke. There are centuries of research on the benefits of taking deep breaths. Try some free or cheap mediation apps or check out youtube (I can’t affiliate here…) Give them at least two weeks of trying. The point is to practice thinking about nothing.

    3. Thought-stopping. Sounds like the dumbest thing in the world – I know. It’s a world changer though. The moment you find yourself thinking about the worst thing that’s “going to happen,” say “STOP.” Picture the strongest emblem of a stop sign you can. Identify the details. Focus on those details for as long as you can. If you start thinking about the same thing, go back to “STOP.”

  4. Try these… if it’s still hard to be, call us. No judgment. We have tons of strategies in our idea bank – and we want to meet you where you’re at, help you how you want to be helped, and understand you how you want to be understood. We want you to live your best life.

We hope to educate those that may feel confused, families that might not understand, and employers that want to learn more. But more importantly, we want to hold a hand out to those that are unsure and quiet – those that want help but are nervous to ask for it. If you or you have a family member or friend that you feel might resonate, we encourage you to reach out or share this post. You can reach us via our contact page at Harp Wellness Group or via phone at (469) 830-6110.

The end of Jim Carrey’s quote from above is this: “You should think of the word ‘depressed’ as ‘deep rest.’ Your body needs to be depressed. It needs deep rest from the character you’ve been trying to play.”

It’s hard. We understand.

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