what a diagnosis means

Is Depression a Mental Illness?

Merely Me Health Guide September 21, 2010
  • Hi everybody   It is Tuesday and that means it is time for a new question of the week.   There are many words which describe having depression.  Sometimes the word "depression" is used interchangeably with mood disorder.  Then there are other more subjective synonyms such as m...

15 Comments
  • stardust
    Sep. 22, 2010

    There have been so many insightful comments here about the mental illness issue.  It almost seems like two sides of the same coin - physical vs mental, yet nether the two shall meet in the quest for insurance coverage.  I think of the DSM IV Manual where a diagnosis code is assigned for every mental "disorder".  It's a thick manual...

    RHMLucky777

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    There have been so many insightful comments here about the mental illness issue.  It almost seems like two sides of the same coin - physical vs mental, yet nether the two shall meet in the quest for insurance coverage.  I think of the DSM IV Manual where a diagnosis code is assigned for every mental "disorder".  It's a thick manual and if you can't classify your patient's problems with a particular code, well, I guess the health insurance company doesn't consider you mentally ill, and won't cover your expenses.  That's harsh and heartless.

     

    I think of mind-body-spirit, and unlike the above, they are all interconnected, and I believe in these relationships.  As most of us know, the mind is so connected to the body, and that is why many of us need anti-depressants to provide a proper chemical balance.  That is one small example of the myriad of relationships where 'mental illness' and 'physical illness' overlap.

     

    I'm thinking of the word "spectrum".  There is an autism spectrum, a dissociative spectrum, a bipolar spectrum (?), so perhaps we should look at depression as a "Depression Spectrum"?  This would range from the blues on the one end to Major Depressive Disorder with Suicidal Tendencies on the other. Although I like the idea for people and patients to better understand the course of depression, I still think the reference of mental illness in people's perception would be very strong.  As has been mentioned numerous times here, does it matter?  Well, to me it does. For example, if I were working and my boss found out I was taking psych meds, in his own way he may have me pushed out the door.  Also, my goal isn't to see myself as a product of mental illness but rather of working toward wellness and stability, so, yes, the label bothers me.  Not necessarily a denial - I see a psychiatrist, therapist, etc.

    I'll end here.  It's a great topic for discussion, but don't want to let myself get carried away!

    Stardust

  • anne1123
    Sep. 22, 2010

    MM

    Yes I think it is a case of semantics and stigma.  There was a point in time when the phrase mental illness was more gracious than the terms crazy or insane.  But over time the line moved and now mental illness encompasses those terms in the public consciousness.  Maybe it is time for a new term.  However, the practicalities of insurance...

    RHMLucky777

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    MM

    Yes I think it is a case of semantics and stigma.  There was a point in time when the phrase mental illness was more gracious than the terms crazy or insane.  But over time the line moved and now mental illness encompasses those terms in the public consciousness.  Maybe it is time for a new term.  However, the practicalities of insurance coverage do make us submit to the term whether we like it or not.  I also think that the stigma/term Mental Illness keeps many people from seeking treatment as they just can't visualize themselves under that umbrella.  Even if we pick a new term without proper education the stigma will remain.  Communication and education that's the ticket!!!

  • CJinLV
    Sep. 22, 2010

    Hi M/M & all,

     

    I would give a rousing "yes" to this question.

     

    Unlike a case of 'the blues', being in a truly Depressive state signals the need for professional help & often the use of (often multiple) Rx. Is it any different than Diabetes? Cancer? Alcoholism? Fortunately all are covered in some manner under most respectable health plans....

    RHMLucky777

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    Hi M/M & all,

     

    I would give a rousing "yes" to this question.

     

    Unlike a case of 'the blues', being in a truly Depressive state signals the need for professional help & often the use of (often multiple) Rx. Is it any different than Diabetes? Cancer? Alcoholism? Fortunately all are covered in some manner under most respectable health plans. Do the aforementioned diseases often lead to attempted (sometimes successful) suicide? Not even close to Depression!

     

    After suffering through my seemingly endless barrage of 'meltdowns' until last July, I finally understood the physiological ramifications of not/taking a suitable Rx to treat my Depression... I get it! 

     

    The only real disadvantage to us is that our "mental" issues are still seen these days with less empathy & understanding & are still often colored by the whole "snake pit/shock therapy/strait jacket/happy pill" mentality that evoke needless, unfounded fear & prejudice.

     

    I've also noticed that we as a group exhibit great examples of self-expression & creativity in our writing, musical talents & no doubt the Arts as well. We are definitely amont the hard-working, dues-paying 'everyday working people' who struggle with this weight. Yet when we share our lives with many, they often look with a blank stare; more out of shock? Speechlessness? In my case, I wish I had a dollar for every time I was told "I never would have guessed...you seemed so happy", yet the stark reality leaves most speechless.

     

    And yes, I personally believe that life itself is a matter of "semantics" & judgements; unfortunately many of them not very attractive or appealing.

     

    Carl Cool

     

    PS: The generic version of Effexor is called "Venlafaxine".

  • zenhead
    Sep. 22, 2010

    i have always preferred "melancholic," since for me, depression just sounds so heavy, and carries so much baggage. i feel like menancholy is almost a costant state of mind for me, and feels like it describes the feeling much better.

     

    for some, yea, it is a mental illness. for me, it is just a state of mind, a different place from which to view the world....

    RHMLucky777

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    i have always preferred "melancholic," since for me, depression just sounds so heavy, and carries so much baggage. i feel like menancholy is almost a costant state of mind for me, and feels like it describes the feeling much better.

     

    for some, yea, it is a mental illness. for me, it is just a state of mind, a different place from which to view the world.

  • Judy
    Sep. 21, 2010

    I guess when I think of the term "mental illness," my first thought is that it refers to a break with reality, like psychosis.  Yet, even with mild depression, we aren't always thinking rationally, so where does the line get drawn?  If we don't call it mental illness, there's the risk that insurance won't cover treatment, yet no one wants the stigma...

    RHMLucky777

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    I guess when I think of the term "mental illness," my first thought is that it refers to a break with reality, like psychosis.  Yet, even with mild depression, we aren't always thinking rationally, so where does the line get drawn?  If we don't call it mental illness, there's the risk that insurance won't cover treatment, yet no one wants the stigma of being considered mentally ill.  Mental disorder seems more appropriate to me just because I think there's less negative reaction to that term and "disorder" is a good description because something is not functioning correctly.  There are physical conditions that are referred to as disorders - anorexia and bulimia are eating disorders, yet there is also something psychological going on there.  I don't like to be thought of as mentally ill.  Maybe it's a sensitivity thing, like people who were once called mentally retarded are more commonly referred to as developmentally disabled or mentally challenged.  The history of our language has "loaded" some terms in a negative way.

     

    I don't know if there is a right answer to this, but even if depression is considered mental illness, I don't like the term "mentally ill" just because of the connotations it has.  I'm more than my brain; I also have a soul that's been wounded beyond any dysfunction of my brain.   For many of us, I think, it was the wounding of our souls that started the depression.

  • gte
    gte
    Sep. 21, 2010

    It definitely is a mental illness. It doesn't matter how many degrees of depression there are, if you have it you are suffering and it is debilitating.

     

  • Rena
    Sep. 21, 2010

    Do you feel that depression is a mental illness? 

         I do feel that depression is a mental illness.  As mentioned above , there are multiple degrees of depression.  The problem is that everyone uses "I'm depressed" as such a common commen that people don't take it seriously.  The word depression has been desensitized. ...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    Do you feel that depression is a mental illness? 

         I do feel that depression is a mental illness.  As mentioned above , there are multiple degrees of depression.  The problem is that everyone uses "I'm depressed" as such a common commen that people don't take it seriously.  The word depression has been desensitized.  Everyone suffers from depression to some extent.  But, to what extent, is the important question.

    Do you regard suffering from depression to mean that you are mentally ill?

         I hate the term "mentally ill".  It immediately makes people think of the word,...Crazy.  It reminds people of all those movies depicting patients wondering around the psychatric hospitals/wards mumbling aimlessly, pulling out their hair, drawing with their own feces, banging their heads against the walls or screaming uncontrolably until they are administered a shot of something.

         This was all done in the movies to scare people and it worked.  Just like Jaws!

  • patsyg
    Sep. 21, 2010

    Merely Me, I'm not crazy about the term mental illness, but I do believe that depression needs to be taken seriously and much more research needs to be done.  Although theories abound about how the brain is involved in depression, there is no clear answer/treatment for each of us.  For me depression has involved chemical changes in my brain and body,...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    Merely Me, I'm not crazy about the term mental illness, but I do believe that depression needs to be taken seriously and much more research needs to be done.  Although theories abound about how the brain is involved in depression, there is no clear answer/treatment for each of us.  For me depression has involved chemical changes in my brain and body, as well as emotional factors; so it is both a medical and a mental illness.

     

    The two main mental illnesses that more commonly involve psychosis--being out of touch with reality--are schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.  Although I never have had a psychotic break with my depression, some people do.

     

    When I was younger I remember hearing the term "escaping" into mental illness.  However, when things were really bad for me and I wanted to make that "escape"--to be out of touch with reality--I couldn't.  Yes, I was very depressed, but I was still very aware of all the emotional pain and the situations that caused it. 

     

    When I applied for disability, although I listed all the medical conditions I have, including depression, my psychiatrist at the time knew the psychiatrist at the disability determination agency in my state; he accepted her judgment that I was disabled due to  depression, and I was approved for SSDI within a few months.  I was very fortunate.

     

    Because it does affect my life so negatively, I want depression to be taken seriously, no matter what term is used to categorize it.

    patsy

  • Donna-1
    Sep. 21, 2010

    There are also degrees of depression.  Ranging from the "blues" to suicide attempts.  Are they all mental illness?

    • CJinLV
      Sep. 22, 2010

      You're on a roll...go with it!

  • Donna-1
    Sep. 21, 2010

    To me, I'm not so sure mental and physical illnesses should be in different categories.  Stress can bring on a heart attack and/or depression.  Being wounded in Iraq can cause physical illness and/or depression and PTSD.  Rabies can effect one physically and mentally.  And the list goes on.  I guess they do have to be grouped, but in...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    To me, I'm not so sure mental and physical illnesses should be in different categories.  Stress can bring on a heart attack and/or depression.  Being wounded in Iraq can cause physical illness and/or depression and PTSD.  Rabies can effect one physically and mentally.  And the list goes on.  I guess they do have to be grouped, but in some cases it is hard to separate one from the other.  Depression can be caused by a chemical imbalance.  Hypothyriodism can be caused by a chemical (hormone) imbalance.  The brain controls much of what happens to our bodies.  Schizophrenia has a genetic and a chemical component.  Libido can be increased with testosterone.  Is libido physical or mental?  It is both.

     

    I'm not sure what I am trying to say.  I just wish that those of us with anything categorized as mental illness (depression included) would have the same access to medical care, an increase in grant money for research to match that of cancer and heart disease.  And I wish there were enough hospital beds for the mentally ill.  Several times when I went to the hospital during a psychotic break, the psych ward was already full because there were only 20-30 rooms allocated to mental illness.  We should have equal footing.  There should also be an emphasis on the need for psychiatrists in medical school.  In my area, at least, it can be a long wait before you can get in to see one for an evaluation and initial visit.  But there are whole wings of hospitals and office buildings full of cardiac specialists and family practice and rehab for traumatic physical illness.

     

    And as for me, my depression was very dark and ugly.  I truly suffered.  For decades.  It was definitely an illness to me.  It brought daily activities to a halt, cost me my job and my marriage and my independence.  Intense mental and emotional pain.  I wanted to sleep more, I lost weight, I had no joy, I cried a lot, etc. So my vote is yes, it led to mental as well as physical illness.

    • CJinLV
      Sep. 22, 2010

      Donna,

       

      For not knowing what you're trying to say, you've said it very well!

       

      Carl

    • Anonymous
      Marie
      Mar. 12, 2013

      Hello Donna, I'm Marie and I would like to say how sorry I am for all the loss in your life. My heart truly goes out to you. I have major depression and I have a very difficult time dealing with life and all that goes with it. I am under dr care and have been for 8 years now. I think I actually needed to be on meds a lot earlier in life. I tried to commit suicide...

      RHMLucky777

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      Hello Donna, I'm Marie and I would like to say how sorry I am for all the loss in your life. My heart truly goes out to you. I have major depression and I have a very difficult time dealing with life and all that goes with it. I am under dr care and have been for 8 years now. I think I actually needed to be on meds a lot earlier in life. I tried to commit suicide when I was 15, and never have been a social butterfly. Always stood off in the corner and didn't like myself. I'm trying to get on disability because I cannot hold down a job. My focus ability is notta. I like to sleep alot, my son jokes about me sleeping my 36 hours. I have so many things I would like to do but the depression gets ahold of me and its hard to think straight. I like many others have for so long downplayed the disease (illness) I guess because I didn't want to be labeled but I have been trying to provide for a 15 year old son and myself for quite sometime now, and I need my disability to help me. I feel worthless and not as important as women with stable careers. I always wanted to be educated and successful. Guess I need to change my definition of successful, huh? I want to do what I can to get me healthier and then try and help others. I so want to help those who are worse off than I am. I am right there with you girl and if you need to vent, I'm here. Will check back in later. Keep your chin up, I am. God has a plan for us in life we just don't know what it is yet. Have a grerat day!

    • Donna-1
      Mar. 12, 2013

      I'm sorry that you are suffering, Marie.  So you say you may have to change your definition of a successful life?  I don't think you should see yourself as less successful.  I do think society's definition of success and yours (and mine) might all be different but they are all valid.  If you are taking care of yourself and your son the best...

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      I'm sorry that you are suffering, Marie.  So you say you may have to change your definition of a successful life?  I don't think you should see yourself as less successful.  I do think society's definition of success and yours (and mine) might all be different but they are all valid.  If you are taking care of yourself and your son the best you can, that is success.

       

      I am nearing 55 now.  My ideas of "success" at this age are not what they were at 25.  Age, illness, circumstance, fortune, blessings, they all affect our lives.  But one of the biggest effects is derived from your own self-image.  If you do the best you can with the tools and information and mental wherewithal you have available, I would call that being successful.

    • Marie
      Mar. 14, 2013

      Thank you for your support and words of wisdom, I am 46, have my 15 year old son with me, and not a very supportive family. I love them but we really want to get things set differently with my finances and move away from the negativity from them. I don't think my family understands where I'm at when it comes to my depression. I forget things and am suicidal....

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      Thank you for your support and words of wisdom, I am 46, have my 15 year old son with me, and not a very supportive family. I love them but we really want to get things set differently with my finances and move away from the negativity from them. I don't think my family understands where I'm at when it comes to my depression. I forget things and am suicidal. I think my son and I are just happier on our own. I just now had my attorney file for my disability benefits and am not content at how long it takes to complete this process. I have trouble finding someone who wants to be in a relationship with THE DEPRESSION. You'ld think I wasn't even a person inside of this skin. I know its difficult to live with someone in my frame of mind but you would think out of all the men on earth I could find just one man that would really enjoy me.

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