Am I Depressed or Just Sad?

In my practice I have many clients suffering from depression thought that they are merely feeling sad. Sometimes is hard to differentiate because sadness is one the of the symptoms of depression, but with depression you have more than just sadness. Sadness is only a small part of depression. Some people with depression may not feel sadness at all. Depression has many other symptoms, including physical ones.

Sadness is a human emotion that all people feel at certain times during their lives. Feeling sad is a natural reaction to a loss, disappointment, problems, or other difficult situations. Someone who is feeling sad might cry for a while, spend some time alone, then get back to their normal lives within a short span of time. In these cases, feelings of sadness go away quickly and you can go about your daily life. In this way, sadness differs from depression.

Depression affect all aspects of your life. It may be hard or even impossible to find enjoyment in anything, including activities and people you used to enjoy. A person with clinical depression will have symptoms like loss of interest in activities, withdrawal from others, sleep problem or a drastic change in appetite that last for two weeks or more. Serious cases may even have thoughts of death or suicide.

And this is a serious issue. Because of the confusion, and unawareness people tend to take depression lightly. Where depression is a serious condition that requires treatment soonest possible. It has huge implication to our health.

In my practice, I will usually give a pre-therapy self-administered tool “Burns Depression Checklist” to my clients to track their depression symptoms. This test is a quick and reliable option in the first step of depression assessment or as a treatment monitor. Screening tools like this, give me a quick indication of whether further assessment is warranted. In severe cases, I will refer my client to see a psychiatrist for further assessment or medication.

I would like to invite you to do the test yourself, even you are not depressed. By taking the test, you will have a clearer picture and learn what is the symptoms of depression. Most importantly, you will be able to spot the signs of depression when your friends or loved ones suffer a depression. You will be able to direct them to seek early help before it is too late. You never know when you might be able to save a life.

To begin, you need to download the The Burns Depression Checklist

To complete the Checklist, please rate each item on a scale from 0 to 4 – where 0 means you didn’t experience the symptom that day and 4 means it was “extremely” present that day. You will find tracking your symptoms daily to be helpful because it’s hard enough to remember everything you felt, experienced, and did in one day – you may want to do it for a whole week and get a weekly record of you progress. Record your answers on the separate “Answer Sheet” instead of filling in the spaces to the right.  You will add up your ratings on all 25 items to determine your score, a numerical representation of how depressed you was that day.

This simple checklist aims to measure whether you or your loved ones may have been affected by depression. The higher your or your loved ones’ score, the more likely you or your loved ones are to be experiencing depression. If you have been experiencing any of the signs and symptoms in the checklist for at least 2 weeks, you may be suffering from depression:

Look at the action column, if you or your loved ones score 11 and above for more than two weeks, “treatment is usually recommended”, score 26 and beyond for more than two weeks, “treatment is almost always needed”, do not hesitate to seek professional help.

Self-Assessment – Burns Depression Checklist Score

Total Score Degree of Depression Action
0 ­– 5 happy, with no depression No treatment is needed
6 – 10 normal, but unhappy No treatment unusually needed
11 – 25 borderline to mild depression Treatment is usually recommended
26 – 50 moderate depression Treatment is almost always needed
51 – 75 severe depression Treatment is always needed
76 – 100 extreme depression Treatment is urgently needed

Depression is hard to recognize and often poorly managed. Screening tools can help to ensure early referral. Even the most severe cases of depression, can be treated. The earlier treatment begins, the more effective it is. Most adults see an improvement in their symptoms when treated with antidepressant drugs, counseling (psychotherapy), or a combination of both.

Quick Tips for Talking to Someone Depressed:

  • Offer emotional support, understanding, patience, and encouragement.
  • Talk to them and listen carefully.
  • Never discount the feelings they share, but point out realities and offer hope.
  • Never ignore comments about suicide.
  • Remind them that with time and treatment, the depression will lift.

When to seek professional help? If support from family and friends and positive lifestyle changes aren’t enough it may be time to seek help from a mental health professional. There are many effective treatments for depression, including:

Finding a counelor  who can help you. Effective treatment for depression often includes consulting a counselor who can provide you tools to treat depression from a variety of angles and motivate you to take the action necessary. Counselor can also offer you the skills and insight to prevent depression from coming back.

If you are, or someone you know is, in immediate danger, please call a local emergency telephone number or go immediately to the nearest emergency room. You are not alone. There is always someone to hear your pain and problems, and to help you keep safe. Help is available!

Emergency services call:

  1. Emergency Malaysia – 999
  2. Befrienders KL – Emotional support (24 hours, everyday) – 603-79568145

*If you need to book and appointment and speak to me, please proceed to my contact page.


Please note: The Burns Depression Checklist are only for adults. By taking the test, you acknowledge that the test is not a diagnostic instrument and is only to be used by you if you are 18 years or older. You are encouraged to share your results with a physician or healthcare provider.


  1. (2010, June 27). Differences between screening and – diagnostic tests, case finding. Retrieved February 12, 2018, from


© Faith Foo,  [2018]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Faith Foo and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.