Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
We all feel down or upset at times. But sadness is typically a response to something — an event such as a loved one passing away, disappointment from not getting a job or discouragement. But when there’s no clear cause or if we’re suddenly down and upset, we may find ourselves searching “Why do I get sad for no reason?”
While sadness is one of life’s normal reactions, getting sad for no reason could mean several things.
Let’s look at the possible reasons why you’re suddenly feeling sad and ways to feel better.
Fortunately, there are answers to the question: “Why do I randomly get sad for no reason?”
The cause of seemingly random sadness could be an unseen factor, such as certain mental disorders or adjustment disorders.
Below are several possible reasons that could be causing your sudden, unexplained sadness so you can stop asking, “Why do I get sad for no reason?” We’ll also share ways to make yourself feel better or how to cope with your seemingly unexplained sadness.
Of course, you should always talk with a healthcare professional first to get more insight on why you’re feeling sad for no clear reason.
When you suddenly feel sad for no reason, you may be experiencing a depressive episode. During depressive episodes, people tend to experience a depressed mood of feeling sad or empty and a loss of interest or pleasure in their normal activities — a common symptom of a depressive disorder.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, roughly one out of every six people will experience depression at some point in their life.
Unlike sadness — which is a temporary feeling — depression is a longer-term mental health condition that if left untreated can negatively affect your health.
Depression can happen to anyone of any age or background. There are, however, different factors, from genetics and biology to environmental factors such as a major or stressful life change, that can increase the risk of developing depression.
Different types of depression could be causing you to feel sad for no clear reason.
Referred to as depression or major depression, MDD is a mood disorder that negatively impacts your daily life, including eating, sleeping and work. Depression is typically marked by a persistent feeling of sadness nearly every day and symptoms of depression typically last for at least two weeks.
Besides feeling sad or down, signs of depression can also include fatigue, trouble with sleep, loss of interest in hobbies, irritability, weight loss or gain and more.
Seasonal affective disorder — or seasonal depression — is a mood disorder that occurs only during certain seasons, typically in the fall and winter months. People with seasonal affective disorder may develop depression symptoms on a recurring seasonal basis but feel fine when spring and summer come around.
People with bipolar disorder experience manic episodes of high or euphoric moods as well as depressive episodes. Bipolar disorder was previously referred to as manic depression.
Also known as dysthymia, persistent depressive disorder is a chronic form of depression that lasts two years or longer. People with dysthymia often experience milder symptoms of depression.
People with atypical depression experience common depression symptoms, but may experience an improved mood after certain positive events. Atypical depression has unique symptoms, from feeling tired or an extra heaviness in the arms and legs to increased hunger.
Another possible reason for your unexplained sadness could be walking depression. This is a depressive illness that involves many of the classic symptoms of depression but is often unseen by other people, allowing you to continue your normal life even when you’re feeling down.
If you’re suddenly sad and have to ask yourself “Why do I get sad for no reason?” stop to think about what’s been going on in your life at the moment. If you’ve been going through a stressful life event, you may be dealing with an adjustment disorder.
Adjustment disorders are unhealthy or excessive emotional or behavioral reactions to a major or difficult change in someone’s life in recent months.
Stressful events could be relationship problems, death of a loved one, illness, moving, financial trouble or general life changes.
Different types of adjustment disorders are based on the major symptoms someone is experiencing.
Some subsets of adjustment disorders and their symptoms can include:
Adjustment disorder with a depressed mood. Symptoms include low or depressed mood, feeling hopeless and feeling like you’re about to cry.
Adjustment disorder with anxiety. An adjustment disorder with anxiety includes symptoms of nervousness, a fear of being separated from someone important and excessive worry.
Adjustment disorder with depressed mood and anxiety. Experiencing symptoms of both anxiety and a depressed mood.
Adjustment disorders are typically severe enough that they can interfere with work, social life and other activities.
While the exact cause of PMS is unclear, researchers believe a sudden drop in the hormones estrogen and progesterone may be a cause.
Some of the emotional symptoms include:
Anxiety or tension
Feelings of sadness
Over 90 percent of women say they experience moodiness as a result of premenstrual syndrome.
Pregnancy also brings hormonal changes that cause emotional symptoms, including periods of unexpected sadness.
It’s not uncommon to experience feelings of sadness or emptiness as soon as a few days after giving birth.
However, if these feelings of sadness last for more than two weeks — either before or after giving birth — they could indicate postpartum depression.
Symptoms of postpartum depression include:
Lack of connection with the baby
Persistent low mood
Lack of energy or motivation
Disinterest in the baby
Feeling hopeless and guilty
Burnout describes extreme physical and emotional exhaustion that you may experience after being exposed to prolonged stress.
Signs of burnout can include exhaustion, feeling apathetic about work, changes to diet or sleep and headaches among other symptoms.
Burnout can also have similar symptoms to mood disorders such as depression.
While worrying now and again is normal, an anxiety disorder is a mental health condition marked by excessive fear and worry that interferes with your daily life.
Anxiety disorders are incredibly common, affecting nearly 40 million American adults each year.
Similar to depression, several types of anxiety disorders could be causing your sadness.
Generalized anxiety disorder is one form of anxiety disorder characterized by a persistent feeling of worry and dread.
Signs of generalized anxiety disorder can include:
Trouble controlling worry
Everyone experiences grief differently but one reaction to grief is periods of sadness or crying. Some people experience complicated grief, or grief that doesn’t resolve over time or results in spontaneous crying or sadness.
Other signs of complicated grief could be emotional numbness, feelings of guilt, loss of identity, suicidal thoughts and more.
Someone who is sad for no reason may feel like they don’t deserve help because there’s no clear reason (i.e. a loved one recently passed away). But just because the cause of your sadness may not always be crystal clear doesn’t mean you can’t still get help.
Feeling sad for no reason can have many different causes. Whether you’re struggling with one of the above types of depression or dealing with grief, the cause may not be exactly known.
Fortunately, there are ways to treat unexplained sadness so you can stop asking, “Why do I randomly get sad for no reason?” and start feeling better.
A common treatment for depressive and anxiety disorders is psychotherapy, or talk therapy. You can work with a mental health professional to talk about what’s going on in your life, your emotions and what’s on your mind.
The benefits of therapy are vast and may help you:
Identify unhealthy thoughts and behaviors
Learn better life coping skills
Improve your relationships
Become more resilient
If you’re interested in working with a therapist, you can try online therapy to figure out what type of mental health treatment may work for you.
Another treatment option for depressive disorders as well as anxiety is an antidepressant medication.
Two common types of antidepressants prescribed to treat depression and sometimes anxiety are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These medications are thought to work by increasing certain brain chemicals that affect your mood and behaviors.
Your healthcare provider can determine if antidepressants are the right option for you and which one. You can also consult with a psychiatrist through our online mental health services to discuss your symptoms and learn more about anxiety or depression medication.
Sometimes when we’re overwhelmed with sadness, there are small changes we can make to lift our moods. Of course, if you’re dealing with a mental health condition like depression, lifestyle changes aren’t enough to fully treat these disorders. They can help boost your mood, manage your symptoms and, in combination with psychotherapy and medication, make real, noticeable progress.
You can make sure you’re getting at least seven hours of sleep each night, as recommended by the CDC.
Physical activity is one of the most effective natural treatments to improve your mood and provide sustained health benefits. Start small, with a 10 to 15-minute jog, bike ride or another moderately intense cardio session.
Feeling sad from time to time is a part of normal life. Typically, we know what is causing our sadness. But if you’re constantly wondering why you’re sad for seemingly no reason, there could be a bigger underlying issue.
There are a multitude of reasons you might be feeling sad for what feels like no reason — everything from depressive disorders like major depression and bipolar disorder, to hormonal fluctuations (like those experienced during your period) and even more lifestyle-oriented things like improper diet and sleep.
Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to help treat the symptoms of this unexplained sadness. Therapy, lifestyle changes and, in some cases, medication may help.
The most important and helpful step you can take is to talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms. They’ll be able to better determine what you’re dealing with and help you find the right treatment for you.
If you’re looking to start that journey today, you can start a consultation with a mental health professional now.
Start your mental wellness journey today.