In order to understand the difference between sadness and clinical depression, we must first understand that sadness is felt universally, while clinical depression may not be. The textbook definition of clinical depression is 'a change in mood along with a cluster of symptoms'. These symptoms are emotional, cognitive, somatic, and behavioral.
For example, we all will experience sadness when we loose a loved one, and we all have different ways of grieving, There is no set period of time when we will automatically stop being sad. If after a time, however, we do not experience some relief or our experience is becoming more uncomfortable, then we should seek professional help in determining a diagnosis of depression.
Although there is no clear-cut line drawn between sadness and depression, there are some important considerations to help us distinguish between the two. They are: The Intensity-this considers when the mood changes to impair social and occupational functions.
The Absence of Precipitance- this considers that the mood change may not come from a certain precipitant, or is grossly out of proportion to a precipitating factor. The Quality- the mood may change from previous and feels different from 'normal' sadness. The Associating Features- the change in mood may come with a cluster of symptoms, and History- the mood change may be preceded by a history of past hyperactivity and/or elation. Clinicians are able to follow these guidelines to help differentiate between sadness and clinical depression.