Major Depression vs The Blues: How to Recognize the Difference

Jun 20, 2024
Major Depression vs The Blues: How to Recognize the Difference
Everyone goes through phases of feeling bummed out or down in the dumps — it’s called the blues. So, how do you know if you’ve crossed a line into the realm of clinical depression? Here are the signs and what you can do about it.

Human emotions have many names. Sadness alone has several descriptive monikers — bummed out, down in the dumps, in a funk, or having the blues. However, when sadness becomes chronic, the name changes to major depressive disorder (MDD).

While both conditions involve feelings of sadness, they differ significantly in terms of symptoms, duration, severity, and treatment. 

Drew Pittman, PMHNP, our experienced provider at Sound Psychiatry and Wellness, serving adults in Colorado, Ohio, Florida, and Massachussets, understands the subtle and not-so-subtle differences between the blues and MDD and explains them here. 


Tragedy, loss, pain, and stress can cause sadness, among other emotions. However, feeling blue due to an event or situation differs from the mental health condition MDD. Here’s how.

The blues

The blues are a temporary state of sadness triggered by life events. Common symptoms include:

  • Mild sadness or melancholy
  • Fatigue
  • Slight changes in sleep patterns
  • Temporary loss of interest in activities

These symptoms are generally mild and do not severely impact daily functioning.

Major depressive disorder

Major depressive disorder, also known as clinical depression, is a more severe and persistent condition. Symptoms of MDD include:

  • Profound and persistent sadness
  • Significant changes in appetite and sleep patterns
  • Loss of interest in most activities
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

These symptoms are intense and can severely disrupt daily life and functioning.


How long have you been feeling sad? The duration of your mood matters when it comes to diagnosing MDD.

The blues

Typically, the blues are short-lived, lasting a few days to a few weeks. This condition often resolves on its own without the need for professional intervention.

Major depressive disorder

Major depression, on the other hand, persists for at least two weeks but often lasts much longer. Without appropriate treatment, the symptoms can continue for months or even years, leading to chronic impairment.


Are you just feeling a little down, or have you completely checked out? Drew looks at the severity of your symptoms as part of his diagnostic assessment. 

The blues

While the blues affect your mood, the severity is usually mild to moderate. You can still function relatively well, though you might feel less motivated or energetic.

Major depressive disorder

Major depression is much more profound — it wrecks your relationships, interferes with your job, and impacts every area of your life. You may struggle to perform even simple daily tasks and experience severe hopelessness.


Occasional blues don’t require medical treatment, but Drew can help you overcome them. MDD, on the other hand, calls for his professional help. 

The blues

Since the blues are typically short-lived, they often resolve without formal treatment. A little self-care goes a long way. To alleviate your symptoms, try exercise, time outdoors, a balanced diet, and good sleep.

Major depressive disorder

Treating major depression requires a more structured approach, including these evidence-based treatments:

  1. Sticking to a sleep schedule: A regular sleep routine is essential for mood regulation and overall mental health.
  2. Managing stress with relaxation techniques: Doing yoga or deep breathing exercises can reduce stress and improve mental well-being.
  3. Avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and other substances: These substances can worsen your MDD symptoms.
  4. Exercising regularly: Physical activity boosts your mood and reduces symptoms of depression.
  5. Addressing underlying medical conditions: Treating medical issues can improve mental health.
  6. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): This structured form of psychotherapy changes negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with depression.
  7. Talk therapy (psychotherapy): Conversations with a trained therapist like Drew provides emotional support, coping strategies, and insight into depression.
  8. Medication management with antidepressants: Prescribed medications correct chemical imbalances in the brain, alleviating depressive symptoms.

At Sound Psychiatry and Wellness, Drew offers comprehensive telehealth services tailored to treating major depressive disorder.

Understanding telehealth psychiatry services

Telehealth psychiatry, also known as telepsychiatry, is a modern approach to mental health treatment that uses technology to provide psychiatric care remotely. 

How telehealth psychiatry works

Telehealth psychiatry uses secure video conferencing platforms to conduct consultations, therapy sessions, and follow-up appointments. You connect with Drew from the comfort of your own home for privacy and convenience. You schedule an appointment online and receive a link to join a secure video call at the designated time.

Benefits of telehealth psychiatry

Telehealth psychiatry offers several advantages, including:

  • Accessibility
  • Convenience
  • Continuity of care
  • Reduced stigma
  • Privacy and discretion
  • Safety

If you suspect you have more than the blues, call us to schedule a telehealth appointment using our online form.