During the average human life, sadness and stress are very typical emotions to experience. If anything, it’s more unusual not to experience them at some point. However, when the feelings of melancholy and worry start to linger and become a sense of internal dread or sentiments of constant fear, the situation needs to be treated.

Sadness and depression are difficult to differentiate between, as they have similar symptoms but need to be treated differently. While sadness is something healthy and vital to growing as a person, depression is a chemical imbalance in the human brain causing unnecessary feelings of worthlessness.

Depression is an uncontrollable reduction of certain neurotransmitters such as serotonin (the reward chemical). With a lack of chemicals that are supposed to increase happiness, joy, and feelings of accomplishment, a constant state of sadness and indifference will start to set in. Depression is a mental illness that affects perception, behavior, and thoughts persistently throughout long periods of time. Sadness is triggered by a life event, whereas depression doesn’t necessarily need a motivator. It more often occurs without any incentive, which leaves the individual bewildered as to why they can’t shake the black cloud hovering over their head.

Being sad is generally triggered by some sort of unfortunate event, as in the death of a loved one, not accomplishing a goal or a hurtful interaction with another person. However, when this situation is resolved or time goes on the feelings will fade away and be replaced by other emotions. Once adjustments have been made to alter the outcome normal sentiments resume and life goes on.

“Youth with depression are likely to suffer broad functional impairment across social, academic, family, and occupational domains. Adolescents with depression are at higher risk for substance abuse and other psychiatric comorbidities,” states a paper from the National Center for Biotechnology Information by Dr. Mary N. Cook, Dr. John Peterson and Dr. Christopher Sheldon.

If you experience any of the following for a period of more than two weeks then please contact a healthcare professional.

Depression has very obvious and consistent symptoms, such as:

  • Disturbance, lack or excessive sleep
  • Dramatic increase or loss of appetite
  • Loss of pleasure in daily activities
  • Low energy levels or feeling sluggish
  • Difficulty focusing, concentrating or making decisions
  • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt and hopelessness
  • Recurring thoughts about death and/or self-harm
  • Restlessness or inability to relax

Just as similar, depression’s cousin anxiety often goes hand in hand with depression. Anxiety is the feeling of irrational fear and apprehension, or more dramatically described as the overwhelming feeling of impending doom. Stress, like sadness, is a normal emotions that will fade as situations change. However, nervousness is a normal human emotion. Feeling stress is caused by pressure in day to day life, whether it be an important presentation, dealing with confrontation, or procrastinating to the point where there is insufficient time to complete a project.

Anxiety will cause a flood of cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol is designed to enhance your speed, reflexes, heart rate, and circulation which is very useful in threatening situations (also known as the “fight or flight” reaction). However, having a body constantly in flight or fight mode will cause issues.

“Anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive fear and subsequent avoidance, typically in response to a specified object or situation and in the absence of true danger,” states a paper at NCBI by Dr. Christian Otte.

These mental illnesses are very often linked, and it’s rarely found that someone is diagnosed with one without some variation of the other. As it is a common occurrence in teenagers, they will often believe that they may need to seek professional help. However, there are specific symptoms of both anxiety and depression.


  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Problems sleeping
  • Muscle tension
  • Restlessness and inability to remain calm
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Feeling panic, fear or uneasiness

If you do think that you have anxiety, depression, or any other mental illnesses, please talk to a trusted adult, seek out a healthcare professional or call one of these 24/7 crisis numbers.

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868

BC-Wide: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)

Greater Vancouver: 604-872-3311

Feature image painted by Edvard Munch

Feature image courtsey of Good Net