Human Emotions pp 285-328 | Cite as

Distress-Anguish, Grief, and Depression

  • Carroll E. Izard
Part of the Emotions, Personality, and Psychotherapy book series (EPPS)


Distress is a highly important fundamental emotion that has many functions. It played a role in the evolution of human beings and it continues to serve important biological and psychological functions. Distress and sadness are generally considered synonymous. Ekman and Friesen (1975), while conceiving sadness as a form of distress, however, draw some distinctions between the two. They see distress as more active, as a stronger motivation to protest as well as to cope. While considering sadness a form of distress is not substantially inconsistent with differential emotions theory, the latter holds that the underlying emotion experience is the same. The total subjective experience in a distress situation may vary as different affects and cognitions interact. Ekman and Friesen’s distinction between distress and sadness may be more a function of the cognition and imagery that interacts with distress than a result of differences in the experiential emotion (distress). For example, the protest and activity that Ekman and Friesen believe to be features that distinguish distress from sadness may result, in part, from a distress-anger interaction.


Negative Emotion Depressed Individual Discrete Emotion Distress Experience Distress Situation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carroll E. Izard
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.University of DelawareNewarkUSA
  2. 2.Vanderbilt UniversityUSA

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