What is it?
Most of the time, we feel sad in response to something in our lives that felt hurtful or like a loss. But not all of the time. We can be sad for what seems like no reason, and our friends can seem to be enjoying something, and we aren’t. It can make us feel like we are somehow different, but how you feel is not a choice. Sadness is a typical reaction—one we all experience at different times and in different ways.
Sometimes sadness can be more intense and last longer. You may notice your outlook changed and you feel more negative about the world, or yourself. It may even affect how much you sleep or eat, your motivation, or how much you enjoy things that you typically enjoy.
When sadness affects your life in these ways, it may be a sign you are experiencing something more than a fleeting feeling. Confronting sadness that overwhelms you or prevents you from living your life in the way you want is challenging, but understanding it, and even growing to appreciate it, is part of healing.
What's causing it?
In many ways, our understanding of exactly what causes sadness and how we react to it is still evolving. Like many feelings, it has origins in our biology and our social interactions.
It’s important to note that sadness (a feeling) is different from depression even if we use the words interchangeably sometimes. Depression is a mental health condition, and sadness is only one symptom of it. Often, sadness is temporary and can vary in intensity.
Sadness can be caused by many different situations, in different people. For example, you might feel sad because of a breakup, a bad grade, or an injury. How sad you feel can also be affected by stress or sleep.
Exploring how you’re feeling and why you’re feeling it is an important step to care for yourself mentally and physically. When you’re dealing with sadness that won’t back down, the most effective first step to take is to allow yourself to feel sad because of that situation, and then you can identify potential causes to begin addressing what is making you sad.
Related emotions, moods and life challenges
Sadness can occur by itself, or can be complicated by other emotions or challenges. It's important to understand all the emotions you could be experiencing to help deal with sadness effectively.
Sadness can be a symptom of many other mental health conditions that can be debilitating if left untreated.
How should I deal with it?
You’ve already taken an important step in dealing with your sadness by identifying that you’re feeling sad. Allow yourself time and space to feel. Pushing down and ignoring your emotions often causes more issues later, so cry if you need to cry.
Afterward, you can try to find ways to cope with it. What you do may depend on what you like, but there are many practical options to choose from.
Things to try
These are numerous approaches you can try to feel better if you’re experiencing sadness. The goal is not to ignore being sad or judge yourself for being sad, but to take time to process your feelings.
What can I do now?
Feelings of sadness can feel daunting, and it may seem like they stick around for too long. Instead of wishing them away, sometimes the best thing to do is to let yourself feel sad, and then try to understand the "why" later.
That being said, if your sadness lasts more than a few days, you can’t seem to shake it, and it’s getting in the way of your life, consider checking out these resources.
Helpline | Text line | Online Live ChatNAMI HelpLine | National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)During this difficult time, the NAMI HelpLine is here for you. HelpLine volunteers are working to answer questions, offer support and provide practical next steps. The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., ET. Call 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), text "HelpLine" to 62640 or email us at email@example.com.
Helpline | Text line998 Suicide & Crisis LifelineThe 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the United States. Available in English and Spanish.
Helpline | Text lineDisaster Distress Helpline (DDH)The Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH) is the first national hotline dedicated to providing year-round disaster crisis counseling. This toll-free, multilingual, crisis support service is available 24/7 to all residents in the U.S. and its territories who are experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters. DDH callers can connect with counselors in over 100 languages via 3rd-party interpretation services.