DepressionCauses What Is Sadness? ByLeonard Holmes, PhDLeonard Holmes, PhDLinkedIn Leonard Holmes, PhD, is a pioneer of the online therapy field and a clinical psychologist specializing in chronic pain and anxiety. Learn about our editorial processUpdated on July 18, 2021Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Daniel B. Block, MDMedically reviewed byDaniel B. Block, MDLinkedInTwitterDaniel B. Block, MD, is an award-winning, board-certified psychiatrist who operates a private practice in Pennsylvania.Learn about our Medical Review Board Table of Contents View All Table of ContentsWhat Is Sadness?SymptomsDiagnosisCausesTreatmentCopingA Word From Verywell What Is Sadness? Sadness is an emotional state characterized by feelings of unhappiness and low mood. It is considered one of the basic human emotions. It is a normal response to situations that are upsetting, painful, or disappointing. Sometimes these feelings can feel more intense, while in other cases they might be fairly mild. Unlike depression, which is persistent and longer-lasting, sadness is temporary and transitory. Sadness can, however, turn into depression. Being able to tell the difference between normal sadness and depression might encourage you to take action and seek resources for an improved mood. Verywell / Nusha Ashjaee Symptoms Be aware of the signs of sadness turning into depression and get help if you notice these symptoms significantly impacting your life for two weeks or longer. Symptoms of depression include: Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" moodFeelings of hopelessness and/or pessimismFeelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessnessLoss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sexDecreased energy, fatigue, and/or being "slowed down"Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and/or making decisionsInsomnia, early-morning awakening, and/or oversleepingLoss of appetite and/or weight loss, or overeating and/or weight gainThoughts of death or suicide and/or suicide attemptsRestlessness and/or irritabilityPersistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain If you experience these, you may feel inclined to just "tough it out" and wait until it passes. However, the earlier you recognize these signs, the sooner you can seek help and change your situation. Symptoms of Clinical Depression When to Call Your Doctor Know that you are not alone if you are experiencing some (or multiple) of the symptoms above. If you've been experiencing symptoms of sadness or depression for longer than a few weeks, consider reaching out to your doctor to determine the cause and what you can do about it. Sometimes feeling depression is not a result of mental illness. It could be a medical condition, like hypothyroidism, for example, that can be causing symptoms of depression. Once your doctor rules out any potential medical causes, they will be able to provide other options for your depression or refer you to a psychiatrist or therapist who can help you. Depression Discussion Guide Get our printable guide to help you ask the right questions at your next doctor's appointment.Download PDF Diagnosis Your doctor will use a number of techniques to determine if what you are feeling is normal sadness or depression. This often involves asking questions or having you complete a questionnaire about what type of symptoms you are experiencing, how long you have been feeling them, and how severe they are. Your doctor will also want to know more about your life and the impact these symptoms have had on your ability to function at home, work, and school. Your doctor may also perform a physical exam and conduct lab tests to rule out medical conditions or that might be contributing to your symptoms. Remember to tell your doctor about any medications or supplements that you are taking since certain medications, such as beta-blockers and corticosteroids, may also cause feelings of depression. Causes There are a number of factors that can play a role in causing depression. Some of the risk factors for depression include: A family history of mental illnessSubstance useA history of other mental health conditionsA weak social support systemExperiencing a traumaChronic health conditionsPoor self-esteemStressful life eventsBrain chemistryChildhood trauma Treatment for Depression Depression is usually treated using medications called antidepressants or through talk therapy. Usually, the best treatment plans include both. Medications Some popular medication choices for depression include: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Paxil (paroxetine), Prozac (fluoxetine), and Zoloft (sertraline)Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) like Cymbalta (duloxetine), Effexor (venlafaxine), and Pristiq (desvenlafaxine). Your doctor will discuss with you which option is best for you. Psychotherapy Cognitive therapy is a popular type of psychotherapy for depression. It teaches people to take their negative patterns of thinking and replace them with more positive ones. This is helpful because our thoughts and what we say to ourselves impacts our mood and motivation. If we frequently say negative things, we're creating a mental environment relevant to depression. Positive thinking, on the other hand, triggers positive emotions. And while controlling all aspects of depression isn't possible, this is one aspect we do have some power over. The Best Online Therapy Programs We've tried, tested and written unbiased reviews of the best online therapy programs including Talkspace, Betterhelp, and Regain. Lifestyle Your doctor may also recommend lifestyle changes that you can make that may help you cope with your symptoms. Doing things like getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, and staying connected with loved ones can help you manage your condition. Coping With Sadness 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 day to wallow. Plan a day or evening just to be alone, listen to melancholy music, and observe your thoughts and feelings. Planning time to be unhappy can actually feel good and can help you ultimately move past the sadness into a happier mood.Think and/or write about the context of the sad feelings. Are you sad because of a loss or an unhappy event? It's usually not as simple as discovering the cause of the sadness, but understanding why you're sad and exploring those feelings can help you feel better.Take a walk. Sometimes some fresh air and a little quiet time can change your perspective.Call a close friend or family member. Sometimes venting your feelings can help you process them.Be kind to yourself. This may include a hot bubble bath, indulging in a nap, or splurging for some really good chocolate.Let yourself laugh. Fire up a favorite comedy and binge watch it for a while, or find a funny YouTube video.Consider starting a gratitude journal. Focusing on the positive, even if you can only think of one thing to be grateful for per day, helps you to shift away from the negative, sad feelings.Remember that 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. If you're sad because you need to change something, think about the steps you can change to make your life more joyful. Get Advice From The Verywell Mind PodcastHosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares how to face uncomfortable emotions, featuring comedian Paul Gilmartin.Follow Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts A Word From Verywell Finding ways to overcome sadness or depression can get you back to feeling like your normal self. While normal sadness is usually temporary and can often be relieved with lifestyle adjustments, you should talk to your doctor if your symptoms last longer than two weeks. If what you are feeling is depression, there are effective treatments available, including medication and psychotherapy, that can help. If you or a loved one are struggling with sadness or depression, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. 6 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.Lokko HN, Stern TA. Sadness: Diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment. Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2014;16(6). doi:10.4088/PCC.14f01709Hecht D. The neural basis of optimism and pessimism. Exp Neurobiol. 2013;22(3):173-99. doi:10.5607/en.2013.22.3.173Targum SD, Fava M. Fatigue as a residual symptom of depression. Innov Clin Neurosci. 2011;8(10):40-3.Simmons WK, Burrows K, Avery JA, et al. Depression-related increases and decreases in appetite: Dissociable patterns of aberrant activity in reward and interoceptive neurocircuitry. Am J Psychiatry. 2016;173(4):418-28. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2015.15020162Hage MP, Azar ST. The link between thyroid function and depression. J Thyroid Res. 2012;2012:590648. doi:10.1155/2012/590648Driessen E, Hollon SD. Cognitive behavioral therapy for mood disorders: Efficacy, moderators and mediators. Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2010;33(3):537-55. doi:10.1016/j.psc.2010.04.005By Leonard Holmes, PhD Leonard Holmes, PhD, is a pioneer of the online therapy field and a clinical psychologist specializing in chronic pain and anxiety. See Our Editorial ProcessMeet Our Review Board Share FeedbackWas this page helpful?Thanks for your feedback!What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Speak to a Therapist for Depression Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.