Particularly when used in a narrative piece, I often notice liberal use of the word "depression", which often seems to be used as a synonym for "sad." Can one be depressed for a few moments in time? Or is depression a long-term state of mind?

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    As is the case with many words depression covers a range of possible uses. It can be employed quite generally as a substitute for sad. At the other extreme it can have a very specific clinical use for describing a patient's mental state.
    – WS2
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 8:15
  • 1
    Depression and depressed have different ranges of meanings. If you keep mixing them up you won't get a clear understanding of how they are used. Please edit this question to keep them consistent. Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 14:53
  • @curiousdanii Not (in the human condition senses) according to AHDEL: depression n. 3. The condition of feeling sad or despondent. / 4. A mood disorder characterized usually by anhedonia, extreme sadness, poor concentration, sleep problems, loss of appetite, and feelings of guilt, helplessness, and hopelessness. Also called clinical depression. // depressed adj. 1.a. Low in spirits; dejected. / b. Suffering from clinical depression. Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 22:21
  • ... I've checked both the 'Google Dictionary' and the near-identical Oxford Dictionaries Online, Macmillan, and RHK Webster's. Each gives both the [in] a state of unhappiness or despondency and the [suffering from] a mental condition characterized by feelings of severe despondency and dejection (Psychiatry) senses. Dictionaries collect large samples of data and report on how terms are used across populations. Anyone can say how they feel the terms are usually used. Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 9:51

4 Answers 4


I have heard plenty of grousing from a) mental health professionals, b) sufferers from clinical depression and c) the nearest and dearest of the latter, about the "cheapening" of this word to mean, as you say, "sad". Having the blues, the megrims, being melancholy, down in the mouth or whatever is part of the human condition: clinical depression is a neurochemical disorder. If we stay with this usage, the answer to your first question has to be "no" -- being depressed for five minutes would be like having a transitory attack of lung cancer.

One might go further and say that our culture "medicalises" sadness where others do not. A well-educated Japanese gentleman wets his sleeves at the falling of the leaves, and a Nihonophone brother of a friend gave me this marvellous bon mot: "We see more clearly through tears". He says that the American pharmaceutical companies are busy redefining the culturally accepted or admired melancholy of Japan as a problem requiring the purchase of their products. Well, they would, wouldn't they?

From whence comes our notion that we have to be happy all the time? Perhaps the Reformation, after which being miserable raises doubts as to whether you are truly Saved.

  • Your answer causes me more questions than answers: I now have to search Nihonophone and bon mot.. the first I can't seem to immediately find on google Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 16:37

It is often a long time from wiktionary :

  1. In psychotherapy and psychiatry, a state of mind producing serious, long-term lowering of enjoyment of life or inability to visualize a happy future.
    I used to suffer from depression, but now I'm mostly content with my life.

  2. In psychotherapy and psychiatry, a period of unhappiness or low morale which lasts longer than several weeks and may include ideation of self-inflicted injury or suicide.

In french, it is a mind weakness state, not specified in time. It is often linked to the major depressive disorder.

  • @Kris I can only agree
    – Yohann V.
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 13:20
  • You've given a great example of how wiktionary is not the best reference. It doesn't cover the basic non-technical definition of 'depression' as simply 'sadness' (which the traditional dictionaries all have).
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 12:53
  • @Mitch Feel free to add it
    – Yohann V.
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 13:08

It refers to an emotional state or condition .One can be sad,hurt or disappointed momentarily,but when such negative feelings persist for a long period of time ,maybe days,weeks or months,they manifest into depression,a psychological condition requiring proper counselling.

  • The OP asks: 1. Can one be depressed for a few moments in time? Or 2. is depression a long-term state of mind? Could you please expand on your very concise answer.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 2, 2015 at 6:31
  • You need to edit that in the answer box. Comments cannot be accepted by the asker :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 2, 2015 at 6:46

The word 'depression' refers to a condition. It begins as an emotion of 'sadness and anger' leading to 'frustration' and then becomes a condition ' depression' Read here for more. information on depression

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