Is it Sadness or Depression?

February 5, 2015

is it sadness or depression OPISadness vs. Depression

It is not uncommon in our society for the terms sadness and depression to be used interchangeably. However, not only is this inaccurate, but it also diminishes and belittles the severity of depression. In working here OPI’s residential treatment program, I have seen and treated many young adults suffering from depression, and the symptoms go far beyond feelings of sadness.

Let’s start by making a few distinctions between the two.


Sadness is often experienced as emotional pain that is a normal and appropriate response to an incident, event, or circumstance. It is typically more short-term, and the cause is known.

The best treatment for sadness is typically time to heal, distraction from what is causing sadness, and support from friends and loved ones. While sadness is an emotion that every human being is bound to feel at one time or another, depression is not.


Depression, on the other hand, can be a very serious and often debilitating illness that often requires extensive residential treatment to help a young adult learn to manage his/her depression and still live a productive and meaningful life.

The direct cause is often unknown, though it could be biological, chemical, situational, or a combination. Just because someone is depressed doesn’t mean that he/she is feeling sadness. The more common symptoms of depression are lack of energy, lack of interest, disruption of sleep, feelings of guilt, difficulty concentrating, change in appetite, psychomotor agitation or retardation, and at times suicidal ideations. While depression can be short-term, usually around two weeks, it can also be a life-long illness with reoccurring episodes.

While the treatment for depression can vary, at OPI’s residential treatment program, we take a holistic approach when treating young adults. Our participants are involved in individual therapy twice a week to explore underlying issues, relationships, and events that contribute to their depression, and they learn and practice healthy coping skills to manage it.

At the same time, participants meet with a psychiatrist on a bi-weekly basis for medication management to approach the depression from a psychopharmacological perspective. In addition, we offer various services to help our depressed participants become mobilized again through extracurricular activities, education, career and volunteer support, and life coaching.

The goal is to help them increase their energy level, interest level, confidence, and sense of hope. We also have a variety of group therapies in which a person suffering from depression can gain empathy, support, and a sense of normalization from his/her peers.

While there can be varying degrees of both sadness and depression, they are two very different things and need to be treated as such.

For more information on OPI’s residential and intensive outpatient (IOP Day Treatment) programs for young adults with depression, call us at now (888) 814-5985 or click HERE to submit an online form. We want to help and will be in touch promptly.