Is It Sadness or Depression?

What’s the difference between feeling very sad and having depression?

And some strategies to help you cope…

All of us feel sad sometimes. It’s a natural emotion, whether it’s something minor we feel rather sad about, or something major. E.g. a relationship break-up, the loss of a loved one, losing your job, even a tragic world event.

The loss of something, or someone loved, or important to you can cause a range of emotions. From sadness right through to overwhelming grief. But when does this sadness and grief become something that may need medication?

“Depression” is currently diagnosed as: a persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life. In other words, it can negatively affect how you feel, the way you think and how you act over a long period.

It used to be that you had to be feeling very down for many months before it would be diagnosed as “depression”.  You’d work though this grieving process and generally you’d come out the other end still feeling some sadness about the loss, but able to view it with a different perspective, better able to cope and move on with your life. This may take a few, or many, months.

While this is a generalisation, and after a period of time, some people would not be able to reach the later stages and would require treatment. And others, after a traumatic event, would require help right away.

However, in more recent years, a person only has to be feeling this way for a few weeks before being diagnosed with “depression” with medication being prescribed.

While this can help take the “edge” of their feelings, it does tend to ‘mask’ them and the grieving process to a certain extent.  And maybe this “quicker” diagnosis is the reason why depression has often been cited as the most common “illness” in the world? The World Health Organization has called depression a major cause of “disability”.

These days “depression” seems to be an all-encompassing word these days. When, in fact, what a person is going through could be seasonal affective disorder or SAD, dysthymia (a mild form of just a few longstanding depression symptoms), major or chronic depression, bipolar disorder (manic depression), or some other type of clinical depression.*

It’s when people somehow get stuck in this depressive state, that things can go awry. It may seem like a big black hole that seems to swallow them up, they can’t seem to get out of. Or it may be as if a large black cloud is right over their head, that they cant shake off.

There is no one way to experience great sadness or grief. It can affect anyone, anywhere and can prevent people from carrying out their daily tasks. This makes them less productive and present with work and with home life. And because it is so readily diagnosed as “depression” now perhaps this is the reason more and more people are asking for help to get rid of these negative feelings earlier.

Actually being sad, grief or depressed is not a choice. It is something which can happen to anyone of us. It could be you, or your spouse or teenager, or it could be your neighbour, boss, co-worker or anyone else you know.

We are going to discuss some of the most common symptoms of depression and some ideas of what you can do to help yourself manage these symptoms.


Do you, or anyone you know, display a lot of these symptoms AND is it a regular occurrence that has been going on over quite a long period of time?

  • Feeling really down and that feeling doesn’t go away.
  • Feelings of hopelessness.
  • Having little pleasure in things you used to like doing.
  • Tiredness, having no energy.
  • Feelings of emptiness and loneliness.
  • Having sleep issues – either too much or too little, or very disrupted sleep.
  • Losing or gaining weight, and a change in appetite
  • Feeling bad about yourself
  • A loss of concentration
  • A decrease in sex drive
  • Often having thoughts about death and harming yourself
  • Feeling anxious and irritable (anxiety is often linked to depression)
  • Aches and pains – stomach cramps, digestive issues, sore back, joints and/or neck
  • Drinking more, or too much, alcohol
  • Having poor hygiene – not showering, brushing teeth, getting dressed in the morning
  • Feelings of overwhelming guilt.
Coping Strategies

When recovering from and managing these symptoms, it is important not to rely on medication alone. Lifestyle changes can definately help. Even if it feels hopeless now, it will get better if you persist and stay in a healthy routine.

WORK  – If you are feeling overwhelmed then try taking a mental health day. Mental health days are becoming more common as workplaces are acknowledging the benefits for workers to take care of their mental health as well as physical health. If this is difficult, ask for help from others at work, or at home with house work.

However, rather than stay at home, get out in the fresh air for at least part of the day. Go for a walk at the nearest park or beach. Or even just walk around your suburb. Research has proved that fresh air and moving your body more can help.

DIET – Ensuring that you eat more healthily will help improve your mood and ensure you are getting enough of the right nutrients. Focus on the basics. And it’s not a good idea to go on the latest diet fad which restricts certain foods.

Increase your fruit and vegetable intake, eat more whole grains. Limit sugar and unhealthy fats, avoid alcohol.

SLEEP – Not getting enough sleep increases irritability, moodiness and sadness. Have a regular sleeping schedule. Get up and go to bed at around the same times everyday.  Avoid naps and try to unwind before bed. At least one hour before bed turn off any devices. Try reading a book and listening to calming music before sleep.

If you go to sleep, wake a few hours later and you cant get back to sleep –  within 15 minutes or so – get up. Make a milky drink (not coffee or sugary drinks) read a book, listen to music, or even write a list of things that are worrying you or that you need to do, to help clear your mind. Only go back to bed when you start feeling sleepy again.

EXERCISE –  Moving your body more improves mood and helps with sleep. Find something that your really enjoy doing. It could be just going for a regular walk with a friend. If it’s a sunny day, even better!  Work up to exercising at least 3-4 times a week. Even just getting out in the fresh air for at least 20-30 minutes a day, increases those feel good hormones in your brain. Relaxation techniques like yoga, deep breathing and meditation can help as well.

GET OUT THERE – It’s important to stay active and connect with people in your life. Isolating yourself will only increase feelings of loneliness. Confide in trusted friends and family often. Try a new activity, or persist with a hobby that you used to find fun. Keep going to social events, even if you feel like you don’t want to. Take time out for yourself regularly.E.g. Going to the moveies, share dinner with friends, take a walk in the park, beach or bush.

Challenge negative thoughts and use logic. If you are thinking something like “everybody hates me”, challenge yourself – is this logical and where is the evidence for this thought? Statements like: anyone, all etc are generalisations and are not based on fact.

BE GRATEFUL – Research has proved that by starting the day listing 3 things you are greteful for, can help you feel better. This can be as simple as being grateful of the beautiful sunset, a flower, a piece of music. See the link below to 30 Days of Gratitude.**

If you have been feeling down for a long time and can’t seem to snap out of it, getting into a regular routine of the suggestions above can help you feel like more positive, more like “yourself” again.

NOTE – The more you focus on a problem, issue or negative behaviour, the larger and all consuming it becomes in your mind. Rather than focus on feeling bad, or on something negative that has happened, focus on something positive, something you can be grateful for. There is always something. E.g. being alive, living in a safe place like New Zealand, having food to eat, people who care about you, etc.

As all of our automatic behaviour comes from our subconscious mind, it makes absolute sense that Hypnotherapy can assist you to feel better. It can help give your subconscious mind different, more postive messages. And, if required, it can assit to get to the real cause of what is affecting you, help you resolve past issues and/or traumas, so you can come to terms with them and be better able to move on with a more positive life.

For help with an experinced Clinical Hypnotherapist, you can call us on 098377877 or email us on 

* WebMD –


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If you, or someone you know, needs help NOW please call Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Alternatively, to talk to someone:

Depression-specific helplines

  • Depression Helpline – 0800 111 757 or free text 4202 (to talk to a trained counsellor about how you are feeling or to ask any questions)
  • – includes The Journal online help service
  • –  online e-therapy tool provided by the University of Auckland that helps young people learn skills to deal with feeling down, depressed or stressed