A Depression Therapist in Boulder, CO Explains The Difference Between Sadness & Depression


By Dr. Harry M. Chiang

What is the difference between sadness and depression?

This is one of the most asked questions that I get as a licensed psychologist. So, I’ll use this blog to help explain this common question. Sadness is a feeling that everyone experiences as one goes through everyday life. In the simplest terms, sadness is temporary and returns after the stimuli pass. To explain the difference between sadness and depression, let’s imagine a simple event everyone has experienced.
Pretend that one compresses his/her skin with ice. It will feel cold, and the area that encounters the ice feels very cold. Even without the ice pack, the cold feeling lingers. Yet, the cold feeling dissipates over time. In time, the person will no longer focus on once being cold. In fact, as more time that elapses from when the ice gets removed from the skin, they feel even more “back to normal.” Most important, intermittent and localized ice compression doesn’t change a person’s body temperature.

Furthering this analogy, clinical depression is like someone having a fever. A fever is not caused only by a certain stimulus. Instead, having a fever systemically affects both one’s mind and body. A fever cannot be cured by changing one’s environment (such as going into a cool room). It’s instead more global and long-lasting. Furthermore, if left untreated can have negative effects that can be long-lasting.

In this analogy:

Feeling cold by ice pack= sadness

Having a fever= depression

As depicted in this analogy, depression is a mental illness. It lasts longer than a couple of weeks and can involve having feelings/thoughts/behaviors of:
  • Hopelessness
  • Sadness
  • Low self-worth
  • Loneliness
  • Changing eating or sleeping patterns
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Negative effects on one’s work/school/personal life
Another common question is: what is the cause of depression? There are many causative factors associated with depression. For example, there is an area in the brain called the hippocampus which relates to depression. In addition, a neurotransmitter called serotonin has links to depression as well. These make psychologists believe depression is a psychological disorder with biological roots.

Depression’s Links Other Factors:

  • Age- more common in elderly
  • Life factors – changes in family dynamics, work-related stress, or family stress. This could include going to college, or being away from home
  • History of prior abuse
  • Relationship stress
  • Medical illness
  • Family history of depression
  • Drug/alcohol use and/or abuse

Related Reads
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Quick Guide for Managing Anxiety at Work
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Signs of Depression Test & Diagnostic Information for Patients
What Happens In Anxiety Treatment?
Comprehensive Guide to All Things Anxiety
Recognizing and Understanding Triggers
How Focusing on Your Faith Can Help with Depression & Anxiety
Why People Misunderstand Anxiety
4 Healthy Ways to Distract Yourself from Anxiety
How to Have a Better Panic Attack

What Can I Do If I have Sadness or Depression?

The good news is that there are many treatments for either depression or sadness. All have proven efficacy for improving both sadness and depression. In the end, your health care provider will work with you to best determine what is best for your specific case. This may include depression treatment or a combination of therapies. Below are some more common therapy types:

Cognitive Therapy

This involves helping people with regards to how one thinks. This therapy assumes that thoughts guide our behaviors. It also assumes one method to shape our feelings is to change our thinking patterns. Or, how we process events. One could argue that there is no reality; rather, everything we assume or think is a perception. With the help of a clinician, our minds are like thermostats in our homes. We have the power to set the temperature of our homes. Thus, cognitive therapy helps patients set temperatures more in line with their desires.

Behavioral Therapy

This entails helping clients to change behaviors. The assumption is that by changing one’s behaviors one’s thoughts would follow. Many times, cognitive and behavioral therapies are conjoined. So, this delivers a common treatment technique for sadness and depression. This is known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It follows the idea that behaviors lead to thoughts, and thoughts lead to behaviors. Teaching clients more appropriate behaviors are one method to decrease sadness or depression. In fact, many behaviors can release positive neurochemicals in the brain associated with positive well-being. This could include exercise, listening to music, being with friends, or meditating. Your depression therapist can help you create a personalized plan for you to overcome your troubles.


This type of therapy involves understanding unconscious thoughts and motivations. It explores how these might influence our daily interactions, thoughts, and feelings. Also, psychoanalysis may help a client to revisit some of one’s earliest experiences as a child. Specifically, how these experiences affect our current lives.

Humanistic Therapy

Focuses on reaching one’s full potential. This occurs through recognizing one’s unique strengths and creative domain. This is one of my favorite therapies! I often install Humanistic Therapy in whatever treatment method I use for the client. As a clinical core value, one of my favorite tasks is helping each client reach his/her clinical goals while also helping them find their true purpose and meaning in life.

 Medication is also sometimes useful if directed by your physician. But, lasting change is only realized by using psychotherapy from one of the above therapy types. Or, others determined by your provider’s expertise. In the end, you will work closely with your depression therapist to find the best fit for you and your goals. At North Boulder Counseling, we specialize in sadness and depression. We’re always here to support you and your family’s needs in difficult times of your life.

Begin Depression Treatment in Boulder, CO

Your mental health deserves just as much care as your physical health. If the fever of depression is overwhelming your life, a therapist or counselor can help. The clinicians at our Boulder, CO-based counseling practice would be honored to support you. Through therapy, you can treat your depression and begin to live your best life. To start your counseling journey, follow these simple steps:

  1. Contact our counseling practice 
  2. Request an appointment and meet with a caring therapist
  3. Start depression treatment, and receive the support you deserve!


About the Author 

Harry is a skilled, approachable licensed Psychologist. He takes the time to first know you as a person, earns your trust/respect, understands your difficulties, and collaborates with you to create a custom-made action plan(s) to reach our short-, mid-, and long-term goals.

Harry works with couples and families looking to diminish conflict and maximize their connection and fun together. Harry is helpful in ways that are quantifiable.

Dr. Harry M. Chiang

Licensed Psychologist

Doctor in Psychology



Other Services Offered at North Boulder Counseling

You’re a whole person and may not be experiencing depression in isolation.  The mental health professionals at our Boulder, CO-based counseling center understand this.  We treat you as a whole person and offer a wide range of mental health services including grief counselingparenting coachingpostpartum anxiety treatment, and intensive anxiety treatment. Our team also provides support for individuals of all ages and backgrounds. We offer counseling for womenteens, the LGBTQ community, and children with play therapy.

Because our team has been able to help so many people in our community, we often hear from other mental health professionals who want to provide similar support in their own communities. Therefore, our founder even offers support to newer clinicians through business coaching for therapists or professional supervision for counselors in Colorado.

If you can’t make it to our practice in person, we offer online therapy in Colorado to help you from the comfort of home. Contact us today start receiving mental health support today!