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While every country, culture, and community is filled with individuals who have vastly different takes on the world, a unifying factor that transcends these differences is our ability to experience emotions. Emotions show themselves in many ways and should be welcomed, as they are part of the human experience.
The nature of the world we live in often portrays sadness as an unwanted and negative emotion to be avoided. However, sadness is a normal reaction to life's problems, disappointment, loss, and other difficult situations. Occasional bouts of sadness are a normal part of life, and they often pass, so you can still continue with your day-to-day life.
In reality, sadness is an emotion that deserves as much value as every other emotion. Experiencing sadness can be a cue for introspection, to think consciously about your life and aspirations, the people around you, and the person you are as a whole. Without it, you wouldn’t have a means of growing as an individual and finding your own path.
Feeling sad without knowing why is normal. There may be events that occurred earlier in your life that is coming to the surface or other subconscious thought processes ticking away in the background. Generally, feeling sad should go away on its own and not affect life significantly.
While the terms depression and sadness are often used interchangeably, it is important to recognize the difference. Depression is a significant mental health condition, whereas sadness is a normal human emotion and a common symptom of depression.
According to a 2017 study, 17.3 million¹ Americans over 18 were affected by major depressive disorder. Depression is widespread across the world and can affect every individual differently.
You may be sad because your relationships have changed, you’re not doing well in your learning or work environment, you’ve lost a loved one, or you feel like you have lost control of your day-to-day life.
Many people experience more sadness during winter due to the lack of sunlight. Certain experiences can even cause sadness in one person but no response in the next person. Overall, there are many potential contributors to both sadness and happiness.
One of the key signs of depression is feeling persistently sad for no reason. So, if you have been experiencing unrelenting sadness with no clear cause, it may be a sign of depression.
Note that depression doesn’t always present simply as having a low mood. For instance, in some people, depression may only present as physical symptoms.
Depression can present in a variety of ways. Look out for:
Inability to sleep
Loss of interest in activities that used to make you happy
Finding it hard to focus
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
Some common physical symptoms include:
In adolescence, you have an increased risk of developing depression if you have a poor relationship with your parents, as well as fewer and less optimal peer relationships. At any age, other risk factors include life stressors such as financial obligations, losing a loved one, and chronic illness or injury.
Being the offspring of a depressed parent, particularly a depressed mother, can also be a significant risk factor for developing depression. This can occur through a combination of genetic predisposition being passed on, exposure to higher stress, and potential maladaptive parenting. Females are generally at a higher risk of developing depression than males due to various factors.
If you think you are experiencing symptoms of depression, or have been feeling off, then your best option is to speak to your doctor. Your doctor will be able to take a comprehensive history to understand what life stressors or experiences may or may not be playing a role and screen you for symptoms of depression.
Generally, you must have at least five of the symptoms of depression to be diagnosed and have experienced some of them nearly daily for the past two weeks.
There are many treatments available for depression. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed. They work by preventing the uptake of serotonin, resulting in an increase in serotonin and norepinephrine.
Norepinephrine plays a part in motivation and cognition, while serotonin is involved in regulatory processes, particularly mood. Psychotherapy is another prospective treatment and can be offered in combination with medication. Therapy can involve talk therapy and behavioral therapy and will vary depending on your individual needs.
Tuning into your sadness is very important. The same applies to any emotion—you benefit from listening to and accepting the emotions you are experiencing. This avoids bottling up any feelings, which just makes things worse.
Avoiding sadness in the short term can build up and result in more frequent and intense periods of sadness in the future. When you have a better understanding of your emotions, you make better decisions for yourself and those around you.
Create a plan for yourself so that when you are starting to experience sadness, you have steps to carry out to help alleviate this feeling and continue with your day-to-day life.
Often, when you are feeling sad, it can feel like the world is closing in. Getting out in nature is a guaranteed mood booster (or even looking at images of awe-inspiring nature can be enough). If you can combine this with exercising then you’ll be able to increase the benefits.
Interacting with strangers can have a profound effect on your mental well-being. It can make you feel an increased sense of belonging. Many of us are often reluctant to strike up a conversation with a stranger because we don’t expect a positive interaction.
However, it is often the case that we have surprisingly positive outcomes from even small gestures and interactions. Listening to music is another research-backed activity you can add to your self-care routine.
While sadness is part of life and a natural reaction to events happening around you, persistent sadness interfering with your day-to-day life may signify depression. Have a conversation with your doctor about how you’ve been feeling to help get you back on track so you can enjoy a better quality of life.
Officially, sadness without a cause is termed hypophrenia.
There is no one real reason for sadness. The causes and expression of emotions are drastically different between individuals — and no one trigger or experience of sadness is more valid than another.
Often, random sadness is a cue to take a step back and spend time looking after yourself. Surrounding yourself with positive people and doing what you love are key steps toward preventing random sadness. In saying this, feeling sad occasionally is not something to be afraid of, so try to take the time to simply observe the emotion and let it happen.
Depression statistics | Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Adolescent depression and risk factors | Pro Quest