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"Feeling sad is a natural part of being human. The sadness that accompanies depression differs from our typical experience of sadness."

Sadness can be a painful emotion, but it’s normal to feel it from time to time. Many of us can think back to a time when we experienced deep sadness. 

Sadness is difficult to describe, but it can feel like an intense emotional pain – no less painful than something physical. Sadness is often tied to grief, rejection, unhappiness, helplessness, disappointment and hopelessness. 

But how can men differentiate between sadness and depression? 

When is it sadness?

  • Tied to something:
    • Sadness often comes following an event like the loss of a loved one, a disappointing experience, or in response to a serious health issue.  
  • Can be mild or intense, but fades with time
    • When experiencing sadness, the weight of the emotion can vary widely by situation and time.  There may be moments in which the sadness is forgotten and moments where it falls heavily upon us. 
    • Typically, sadness fades with time – and usually isn’t too disruptive to our lives in the long-term.

Feeling sad is a natural part of being human. We all experience emotions like sadness. 

When is it depression?

Depression consists of many symptoms, only one of which is sadness. The sadness that accompanies depression differs from our typical experience of sadness as it:

  • Doesn’t always have an evident cause. 
    • The sadness that comes with depression can appear without any precipitating event or change in circumstances. It can be triggered by hard times, but it can also appear without a clear source.
  • Lasts longer than 2 weeks
    • When sadness hangs over you for long periods of time (more than 2 weeks) and feels difficult to evade, it may be indicative of depression. 
  • Impacts your ability to function
    • When feelings of sadness linger heavily almost all the time, and impact your ability to function in the way you normally would, it is a sign that you may be experiencing depression.

Other symptoms that differentiate depression from sadness include:

  • Irritability 
  • Decreased interest or pleasure 
  • Significant change in weight or appetite 
  • Sleeping more or less than usual 
  • Change in activity levels 
  • Fatigue
  • Guilt or worthlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Thinking about suicide

When experiencing depression, men are often confronted with other symptoms, like:

  • Physical aches and pains
  • Increased anger 
  • Feeling less concerned about their own health and engaging in more reckless behaviour (e.g. drunk driving, extreme sports, unsafe sex)

More info on all of these symptoms and how they may apply to you can be found on our symptoms page

Tips for dealing with sadness

If you’re experiencing a bout of sadness, here are some useful tips you can use to help lighten its emotional load in the short term: 

  • Talk with friends or family about what you are feeling in relation to the event that prompted your sadness. Just sharing what’s going on can be a huge relief. 
  • Get out in nature.  Being in nature helps us feel grounded and offers us an opportunity to find peace.
  • Activate your body and mind through physical activity. 
  • Reframe your emotions in a constructive way to help bring a new perspective on what you are feeling and why.
  • Do something you usually find engaging (e.g. watch a favourite funny movie, engage in a hobby).  We all need and deserve joy in our lives, even if we’ve experienced something that brought us sadness. 
  • Acknowledge and accept the sadness that you feel. Sadness is a natural human emotion, try not to become stressed or angry about it. Instead, accept sadness as a temporary state. 

Tips for dealing with depression

If your feelings of intense sadness persist and begin to affect your ability to live your day-to-day life, our Self Check is a great place to start. 

The Self Check consists of nine questions related to your mood, body, behaviour, how you’re thinking, and what you’re thinking about. Completing a Self Check can help you evaluate your own mental health and signal whether depression is something you might be dealing with.

If your Self Check indicates that it’s time to take action, reaching out to a doctor is a safe and constructive first step. You can also consult our Therapist Directory to find available professionals to work with in your area. 

Battling depression alone is an incredibly difficult task. Don’t hesitate to take action early and seek the care you need. Professional support is critical for helping you out of a dark place and becoming the best version of yourself, so you can lead a healthy and happy life. 

Approved by the HeadsUpGuys Team - Combining lived experience, clinical practice, and research expertise. Medically reviewed by Dr. John Ogrodniczuk.
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