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Sadness Is not Depression

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Updated July 14, 2014

We all feel sad sometimes. Sadness is a normal emotion that can make life more interesting. Much art and poetry is inspired by sadness and melancholy. Sadness almost always accompanies loss. When we say goodbye to a loved one we usually feel sad. The sadness is even deeper if a close relationship has ended or a loved one has died.

Sadness also helps us appreciate happiness. When our mood eventually changes from sadness toward happiness, the sense of contrast adds to the enjoyment of the mood.

Here are some ways to experience normal sadness in a healthy way and to allow this emotion to enrich your life:

  • Allow yourself to be sad. Denying such feelings may force them underground, where they can do more damage with time. Cry if you feel like it. Notice if you feel relief after the tears stop.

  • If you are feeling sad, plan a sadness day.Plan a day or evening just to be alone, listen to melancholy music, and to observe your thoughts and feelings. Planning time to be unhappy can be actually feel good. It can help you ultimately move into a more happy mood.

  • Think about the context of the sad feelings. Are they related to a loss or an unhappy event? It's usually not as simple as discovering the "cause" of the sadness, but it may be possible to understand factors involved.

  • Sadness can result from a change that you didn't expect, or it can signal the need for a change in your life.Change is usually stressful, but it is necessary for growth.

  • Know when sadness turns into depression. Get help if this happens rather than getting stuck in it.

Get help if you experience more than a couple of the following symptoms of depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain.

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