Sadness is a natural emotion that everyone experiences at various times in their life. Feeling sad for no reason may be related to hormonal changes, lack of sleep, stress, or other factors.


Sadness can affect people in different ways. People may want to cry, spend time alone, or do other comfort-related activities until they feel happier.

Occasional sadness is normal. However, feeling sad for more than 2 weeks, or sadness affecting everyday functioning, may indicate a more serious underlying cause, such as depression.

This article explores why a person may feel sad for no apparent reason, tips for feeling happier, and when to speak with a doctor about feeling sad.

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Fluctuations in hormones can significantly affect a person’s mood and sometimes lead to unexplained sadness.

Hormonal changes in the menstrual cycle, including fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone, can affect someone’s mood each month. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is common and can make a person feel sad at the start of menstruation.

According to the Office on Women’s Health, feelings of sadness, known as the baby blues, typically last a few days after birth and occur due to hormonal fluctuations coupled with new challenges.

However, if sadness persists for longer than 2 weeks, the person may have postpartum depression. Depression after pregnancy affects 1 in 8 people that give birth.

People going through puberty also experience hormonal changes, which may cause them to feel sad. These hormone shifts are a natural part of adolescence and can vary in intensity from one person to another.

Symptoms

Hormonal changes can cause the following symptoms:

Treatment

Treatment options for sadness due to hormone fluctuations may involve talk therapy, support groups, and, in some people, medication.

Sleep is essential for emotional well-being. Lack of sleep can lead to feelings of worry, frustration, and anger, among other emotions.

Chronic sleep deprivation can alter brain activity and make it difficult to control emotions and cope with daily problems.

Symptoms

Signs that someone is not getting enough sleep may include the following:

Treatment

Establishing good sleep habits may help a person experiencing sadness and other mood changes due to lack of sleep. These may include:

  • going to bed and waking up at the same time each day
  • having an hour of quiet before bed
  • avoiding heavy meals or alcohol before bed
  • decreasing caffeine and nicotine intake
  • keeping the bedroom quiet, dark, and cool
  • limiting naps, especially later in the day

Life always has some level of stress, but sometimes, a person may experience events that cause higher levels of stress. Excessive stress can cause someone to feel unexplained sadness and other negative emotions.

Symptoms

Signs that someone might be feeling high levels of stress include the following:

  • feelings of anger, worry, numbness, or sadness
  • changes in appetite
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty sleeping or having nightmares
  • stomach problems or headaches

Treatment

The following lifestyle changes may help someone cope with stress:

Grief is a natural reaction to experiencing loss. The loss may be the death of a loved one, ending a close relationship, or going through a major life change.

Having a wide range of emotions, including sadness, during this time is common.

Symptoms

As well as feelings of sadness, signs of grief can include:

  • dramatic changes in mood
  • feeling tired or experiencing low energy
  • changes in sleep patterns
  • changes in appetite

Treatment

Grief may linger for a while. Here are some possible ways a person can work through grief:

  • allowing time to grieve
  • talking about feelings with trusted people
  • maintaining a daily routine
  • taking time to honor a lost loved one
  • getting help from a professional

As the days shorten and temperatures drop, some people may experience winter blues. The change in season may bring on feelings of sadness, shortened tempers, and feelings of lethargy.

While these feelings can be temporary, some people may experience extreme sadness to the point that it becomes disabling.

Experts call this seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that lasts during the winter season and goes away during the rest of the year.

Symptoms

Sadness due to seasonal changes may result in the following symptoms when winter arrives:

  • lethargy
  • sadness
  • craving and eating more sweets
  • trouble sleeping

Treatment

The American Psychological Association recommends the following tips to cope with seasonal sadness:

  • try to get as much exposure to daylight as possible
  • eat a balanced diet
  • get regular physical activity
  • connect with loved ones
  • seek professional help

Unexplained sadness that lasts more than 2 weeks may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Mental health conditions that may cause sadness include:

Mental illness can affect anyone at any age. These conditions can affect a person’s mood, thinking, and behaviors. They can also impact a person’s day-to-day living and personal relationships.

Symptoms

Each mental illness has unique symptoms, but here are some common generalized symptoms.

  • excessive fear or worrying
  • trouble concentrating or confusion
  • extreme mood changes
  • trouble relating to people
  • changes in sleep habits and energy levels
  • isolation

Treatment

Treating mental disorders may involve talking with a professional, taking medications, and participating in therapy.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NAMI), self-care can help a person improve their emotional and mental well-being. The following self-care tips may help someone feel happier:

  • getting regular exercise
  • participating in relaxing activities, such as meditation or breathing exercises
  • eating regular meals and following a balanced diet
  • prioritizing sleep
  • setting priorities and goals
  • practicing gratitude
  • staying connected with people

Feeling sad on occasion is a normal part of life. However, a person should not ignore sadness that is persistent and unexplainable.

If someone experiences prolonged or severe sadness, they should speak with a healthcare professional. People should contact a doctor if they are experiencing:

  • sadness lasting longer than 2 weeks
  • thoughts of self-inflicted injury or suicide
  • difficulty functioning in daily life

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects if it’s safe to do so.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Find more links and local resources.

Was this helpful?

Unexplained sadness can have a variety of causes, including hormonal changes, lack of sleep, stress, and other factors. Recognizing the symptoms and seeking appropriate treatment and support is essential for improving a person’s well-being.

By addressing the root causes and implementing healthy coping strategies, people can overcome unexplained sadness and lead happier lives.

A person should seek professional help if they are experiencing severe sadness or sadness lasting longer than 2 weeks.