Difference Between Hopelessness and Depression

Key Difference – Hopelessness vs Depression

Hopelessness and depression are deeply interrelated although there is a key difference between the two. Hopelessness is when the individual feels no hope and develops a pessimistic outlook on life. Depression, on the other hand, is a psychological illness. Hopelessness is a specific symptom that one identifies in depression. This is the key difference between the two. Through this article let us examine the difference in detail.

What is Hopelessness?

Hopelessness is a state where the individual feels no hope or feels that all his hopes have become shattered. In life, we all feel hopeless at some point or the other when we encounter difficult situations where there seems to be no solution at all. In such a scenario the individual feels trapped. He loses all faith and belief in the future and develops a negative outlook to life.

Hopelessness has the power to shatter a person’s confidence and also make the individual feel that he has no control over life. This can affect the psychological, emotional and physical well-being of the individual. For example, an individual who is suffering from a terminal disease can easily become hopeless leading him to lose his energy, courage and optimism towards life. This can create a condition where the individual feels so hopeless that it affects his health directly even at such a level that it increases the deterioration of the human body.

People can also become hopeless when they feel abandoned, alienated and helpless. For example, a person works very hard to achieve a particular goal that will change the course of his entire life. When the individual fails to achieve this, it creates a sense of hopelessness in the individual. Psychologists believe that people who feel hopeless are more prone to hasten death through acts such as suicides as the motivation to live and the positive attitude towards life is lost.

Hopelessness vs Depression

What is Depression?

Now let us look at depression. Depression, unlike hopelessness, is not merely a state, but a psychological illness that disrupts the daily routine of the individual. Some people equate the feelings of sadness with depression. This is a wrong assumption because we all feel sad when things don’t go our way. This is quite natural, but this is only a temporary feeling that fades away. Depression, however, should not be discarded so lightly.

There are many factors that cause depression. It can be genetics, stress, difficulties in life, grief, medical conditions, etc. which create a chemical imbalance in the individual. Depression is not specific to a particular group of people or an age limit. It can range from children to senior citizens, from men to women. However, the key characteristic of depression is that it creates a barrier where the individual fails to live his life or go about his daily chores.

Symptoms of depression vary from emotions to behavior. The individual feels sad, moody, can have emotional outbursts, sudden anger, loss of interest in activities that he liked and also feel hopeless. This highlights that feelings of hopelessness is a symptom of depression. Other than these the individual can have difficulty in concentrating, sleeping, remembering and also can make attempts to harm himself (suicide). The individual also feels tired all the time, lacks energy and can experience either weight loss or weight gain. It is vital to treat depression before it becomes severe through psychotherapy and medication.

Difference Between Hopelessness and Depression

What is the Difference Between Hopelessness and Depression?

Definitions of Hopelessness and Depression:

Hopelessness: Hopelessness is a state where the individual feels no hope or feels that all his hopes have become shattered.

Depression: Depression is a psychological illness that disrupts the daily routine of the individual.

Characteristics of Hopelessness and Depression:


Hopelessness: Hopelessness is a state.

Depression: Depression is an illness.


Hopelessness: Hopelessness is considered as a symptom of depression or else a risk factor that contributes to depression.

Depression: Depression is a mental illness that is composed of many symptoms of which hopelessness is also a single symptom.


Image Courtesy:
1. Depression-loss of loved one By Baker131313 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
2. “Vincent Willem van Gogh 002” by Vincent van Gogh – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.. [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons