How do I know if I’m depressed or just sad?

It can be difficult to tell if this intense sadness you’re feeling is just that, sadness, or if it is something bigger and you should look into support for depression.

A way to look at it is, if sadness is a cold, depression is a serious flu. They might look similar from a distance, but they’re actually quite different up close[1]. Sadness is a response to a particular situation but depression throws itself over every situation.

Mild and moderate depression are the most common types of depression. More than simply feeling blue, the symptoms of mild depression can interfere with your daily life, robbing you of joy and motivation. Those symptoms become amplified in moderate depression and can lead to a decline in confidence and self-esteem[2].

Depression can feel like your body is shutting down. It’s not just a low mood but being unable to enjoy almost anything in your life. You might lose or gain weight, have difficulty sleeping (or even over-sleeping), experience extreme fatigue and have difficulty concentrating or making decisions[3].

Another key difference is how depression turns you against yourself in a way that sadness doesn’t. Depression makes you become very self-critical, even convincing you that you’re worthless. The pain that comes with this, when combined with the belief that the future holds no hope for improvement, can lead to thoughts that life isn’t worth living[4].

The DSM-5, the manual used by psychologists to diagnose mental health and psychological problems, states that to be diagnosed with depression a person needs to feel 5 or more of the following symptoms continuously in the same 2-week period:

  1. A depressed or irritable mood most of the time.
  2. A loss or decrease of pleasure or interest in most activities, including ones that had been interesting or pleasurable previously.
  3. Significant changes in weight or appetite.
  4. Disturbances in falling asleep or sleeping too much.
  5. Feeling slowed down in your movements or restless most days.
  6. Feeling tired, sluggish, and having low energy most days.
  7. Having feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt most days.
  8. Experiencing problems with thinking, focus, concentration, creativity and the ability to make decisions most days.
  9. Having thoughts of dying or suicide[5].

Looking at those symptom may help to tell that the sadness you feel for 3 days following a fight with your best friend, is not to the same extent of clinically diagnosed depression.

Although, if you are feeling these symptoms do not disregard them or play them off as sadness. Seek some support and clarification to find your way through it.

So to sum up, if you are feeling a bit sad but you may know what triggered it and even though you are sad you can still get through your day, you are probably not suffering from a depression disorder. But if you have little to no motivation, the sadness is consuming everything and it is ongoing, there is a good chance you may be suffering from depression, in which case seeking support is invaluable.

If you would like to contact one of our Therapists to book in a chat, please call Mindwise on (02) 8733 3169 or 0477 118 184 for all bookings and enquiries. 







Does physical exercise actually have any psychological benefits?

We are constantly told that exercise is the solution to battle many psychological symptoms, but is that actually true?

The answer is a not surprising, YES! There is a whole range of psychological benefits linked to physical exercise as little as a 10 minute walk. Long term benefits are linked to 30 minute sessions, 3 times a week at moderate intensity. Regular physical exercise for periods of longer than 10 weeks work best for reducing symptoms of depression.

Benefits shown to be linked to exercise are:

  • Improved mood
  • Reduced stress as well as an improved ability to cope with stress
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Pride in physical accomplishments
  • Increased satisfaction with oneself
  • Improved body image
  • Increased feelings of energy
  • Improved in confidence in your physical abilities
  • Decreased symptoms associated with depression


Researchers have also explored exercise as a tool for treating — and perhaps preventing — anxiety. This is because regular workouts might help people prone to anxiety become less likely to panic when they experience those fight-or-flight sensations. After all, the body produces many of the same physical reactions — heavy breathing, sweating, increased heart rate — in response to exercise as it does to stress or fear. (

Some researchers think that physical activity helps the brain set up protective barriers that help to alleviate symptoms of chronic depression. The suspect that exercise does this by increasing growth of neurons and connections in the brain, or by increasing the production of serotonin. Serotonin is one of the hormones in the brain that is responsible for elevating a person’s mood and is often the focus of antidepressant medication. Another theory suggests exercise helps by regulating sleep, which is known to have protective effects on the brain by allowing it to recover and refresh. (

A researcher named James Blumenthal  and his colleagues explored the relationship between mood and exercise through a series of experiments. In one such study, he and his colleagues assigned sedentary adults with major depressive disorder to one of four groups: supervised exercise, home-based exercise, antidepressant therapy or a placebo pill. A placebo is a sugar pill that is often used in scientific experiments as a comparison as it does have any effects. After four months of treatment, they found that participants in the exercise and antidepressant groups had lower depression symptoms than those on the placebo. He concluded that exercise was generally comparable to antidepressants for people with major depressive disorder (Psychosomatic Medicine, 2007).

Research conducted on mice and humans indicate that physical exercise overall improves brain function and performance. Cardiovascular exercise helps create new brain cells in a process called neurogenesis, allowing the brain to generally function better and for our performance on a range of psychological tasks. In particular, physical exercise prevents cognitive decline and memory loss by strengthening the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning. Studies have also proven that physical activity helps to boost creativity and mental energy. (

If you need assistance in personal training, weight management, injury rehab, or high-performance/sports science please call Mindwise to book with one of our Exercise Physiologists, Physiotherapists, or Remedial Massage Therapists. Call us on (02) 8733 3169 or 0477 118 184 to discuss your service needs. 

How Does Body Image Affect Our Mental Health?

Firstly, before we discuss how body image affects our mental health, we should define what body image is. Body image is the sum of how a person feels, thinks, behaves and views their body [1]. The way each person visualises and behaves towards their body is unique to everyone and manifests in a variety of ways. The reason for this huge variation of how we behave and think about our bodies is that we are different. We all come from different backgrounds and are influenced by society, which includes family, friends, and media, all of which contribute to how we think about ourselves and what is the ideal body.

We experience feelings of negative body image when the body that we want to have, does not match up with our actual body [2]. This mismatch which leads to negative body image is typically more prevalent and severe in women compared to men [3]. However, this is not to say that men do not also experience negative body image. Negative body image typically peaks in teenage years and is often rated as one of the top three concerns that young girls experience in Australia [4]. Having negative body image has been frequently found to be predictive of mental health problems such as eating disorders [5], depression [6], anxiety [7] and low self-esteem. These mental health problems can also lead to issues in other aspects of life such as a lack of confidence in asserting yourself, avoiding social interactions, struggling to achieve and perform to the best of your academic/occupational ability. It often also leads to very unhealthy eating habits that can cause physical illness.

On the other hand, positive body image is not simply the absence of negative body image. But rather, it is the active acceptance, care and love for our bodies [8]. Having active appreciation for our bodies can lead to important healthy physical changes in our lifestyle. For instance, positive body image is linked to being more physically active, less smoking, alcohol consumption and less negative eating habits [9]. Furthermore, positive body image is linked to higher self-esteem, resilience, overall better mood and greater life satisfaction. For people who are more confident in their bodies, this same confidence influences how they communicate with people and how they feel with social interactions, often feeling that it is easier to communicate with others and that others are more interested in what they have to say. Naturally this in turn further boosts your mood [10]. These elevated moods and confidence help to decrease symptoms of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. People with positive body image often also become more resilient to negative messages that are displayed in society and media that often lead to more negative feelings about their body e.g. unrealistic portrayals of ideal body shapes [11].

To summarise, body image goes far beyond simply whether we like our bodies or not. The way we view our body and how we feel towards it, can have significant impacts on our mental health, in both positive and negative ways. Therefore, it is important that we look after ourselves so we can try and live a life that is as healthy and fulfilled as possible.

If you or someone you know is experiencing issues with body image, please contact your GP or Psychologist.

You can also contact our friendly staff members if you would like to book in with one of our Psychologists, Counsellors, and Dietitians on (02) 8733 3169 or 0477 118 184. 

You may also visit or contact one of the services below for support:

  1. Butterfly Foundation- Focus on supporting those who suffer from eating disorders or body image issues and their families.
    Ph: 1800 33 4673
  2. ReachOut- Provide self-help tools and information for young people, adults and parents.
  3. Lifeline- Provides anonymous 24-hour counselling assistance for all ages. 131 114
  4. Kids Helpline- Provides 24-hour counselling for young people aged 5-25. Also provides information for parents. 1800 55 1800



[1] Tatangelo, G., McCabe, M., & Ricciardelli, L. (2015). Body image. In J. D. Wright (Ed. in Chief, International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2nd edition, Volume 2 (pp. 735-740). DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-08-097086-8.14062-0

[2] De Oliveira da Silva, P., Miguez Nery Guimaraes, J., Harter Griep, R., Caetano Prates Melo, E., Maria Alvim Matos, S., Del Carmem Molina, M., Maria Barreto, S., & De Jesus Mendes da Fonseca, M. (2018). Association between body image dissatisfaction and self-rated health, as mediated by physical activity and eating habits: Structural equation modelling in ELSA Brasil. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15, 1-14. DOI: 10.3390/ijerph15040790

[3] Butterfly Foundation. (2018). Insights in body esteem: A survey of Australians’ experience of body image and its impact on day to day life. Retrieved from

[4] Mission Australia. (2018). Youth Survey Report 2018. Retrieved from

[5] Smolak, L. (2004). Body image in children and adolescents: Where do we go from here? Body Image, 1, 15-28. DOI: 10.1016/S1740-1445(03)00008-1

[6] Brechan, I., & Kvalem, I. (2015). Relationship between body dissatisfaction and disordered eating: Mediating role of self-esteem and depression. Eating Behaviors, 17, 49-58. DOI: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2014.12.008

[7] Vannucci, A. & Ohannessian, C. (2018). Body image dissatisfaction and anxiety trajectories during adolescence. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 47, 785-795, DOI: 10.1080/15374416.2017.1390755

[8] Tylka, T. & Wood-Barcalow, N. (2015). What is and what is not positive body image? Conceptual foundations and construct definition. Body Image, 14, 118-129. DOI: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2015.04.001

[9] Andrew, R., Tiggemann, M., & Clark, L. (2016). Predictors and health-related outcomes of positive body image in adolescent girls: A prospective study. Developmental Psychology, 52, 463-474. DOI: 10.1037/dev0000095

[10] Fenton, C., Brooks, F., Spencer, N., & Morgan, A. (2010). Sustaining a positive body image in adolescence: An assets‐based analysis. Health & Social Care in the Community, 18, 189-198. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2524.2009.00888.x

[11] Andrew, R., Tiggemann, M., & Clark, L. (2015). The protective role of body appreciation against media-induced body dissatisfaction. Body Image, 15, 98-104. DOI: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2015.07.005


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