Sadness vs Depression | What's the Difference for Teens!?

If you’ve ever wondered what the difference between sadness and depression is for teen

I’ve got you covered in this video!

In this video, I’m sharing what the difference is between sadness and depression for teens.

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Nowadays it’s really easy to hear people talking about how depressed they feel and how they deal with their depression.

Though unless you’ve been appropriately assessed and diagnosed by a mental health professional, please be careful with how you talk about your mental health.

So what IS the difference between sadness and depression for teens?

Keep reading…

Sadness is an emotional experience of unhappiness, and it’s usually caused by a situation that it makes sense for someone to feel unhappy.

If you get a bad grade on a test, go through a break-up, or find out they just ran out of pumpkin spice at Starbucks, it totally makes sense you’d feel sad. Usually doing something enjoyable, or fun is enough to change your mood.

Depression isn’t necessarily caused by an event. Sometimes it just happens.

Now there may be some apparently irrelevant behaviors (or AIBs) that may impact the intensity of someone’s depression, but the actual depression itself doesn’t always “make sense.” It’s not always explainable.

A common AIB I see in the teens happens when they prioritize their schoolwork over their sleep. It starts this really unhealthy cycle of being overtired the next day, so then they stay up later to do their work, and so on. Ultimately, making their depression worse. So what do they do? They start drinking coffee so they can stay alert to do their homework. But coffee has a really long half-life, so drinking coffee at nighttime is definitely going to impact your sleep. One small tweak is to switch to decaf coffee, or not drink any past 3pm (or even earlier- but we’re working on small habit shifts, here). Seeing a therapist can help you identify your AIBs and make healthy lifestyle changes.

Sadness and Depression can both make you feel really lousy.

It’s probably safe to assume that you don’t enjoy feeling sad or depressed- both belong in the “unpleasant” category. You know that we love to avoid or ignore unpleasant emotions. You don’t want to keep experiencing them.

When you feel sad, you feel motivated to engage in activities that make you feel happy. When you feel depressed, that motivation just isn’t there. You feel empty and there’s often a physical heaviness that keeps you stuck. You just don’t feel interested in anything and can’t find the joy.

Sadness is short-term…

and while it may last a few minutes, hours, or even days- it usually clears up in a week or two.

Depression lasts for at least two weeks…

and if it’s coupled with other symptoms like a change to your appetite, concentration or sleep- it’s time to reach out to a professional for mental health support and treatment.

With children and teens, it’s important to know that depression doesn’t always look like sadness.

Instead, it looks a lot like irritability and anger!

After all, anger is an emotion that helps protect us from identifying and recognizing deeper hurt and painful experiences.

As a teenager, you are still developing your ability to tolerate difficult emotional experiences, which is why you may look angry- not sad or depressed. Doesn’t mean it’s not there, though.

Please understand that I am NOT saying it’s OK to use this to excuse poor behaviors like yelling at your parents, teachers or friends.

It’s OK to feel angry, it’s not OK to express it hurtful ways. Seeing a therapist can totally help teenagers with this.

When Depression is long-lasting, it’s common for teenagers to start thinking about hurting or killing themselves.

If you are a depressed teen, or know one, make sure you watch this video next: Dear Suicidal Teens…

And if you’re ready to start seeing a therapist, make sure you reach out to someone local to you. If you happen to live in the Woodbridge, CT area, we’d love to connect with you here:


If you are concerned that you, or someone you know, may be considering killing themselves, please connect them with help.



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Mallory Grimste, LCSW - Teen Therapist

Mental Health Counseling for Anxious Tweens, Teens, and Young Adults | Woodbridge, CT