Is depression a mental illness?

"You don't even know what it’s like to live with a mental illness the way I do—depression is a very real thing!” 


Depression is nothing to scoff at. However, in this day and age of political correctness, fear of unintentionally offending someone, and overall awareness of a widespread amount of topics, the aforementioned statement certainly begs the question: Is depression a "mental illness"? 


According to The Mental Health Foundation, “Depression is a common mental disorder that causes people to experience depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration.” 


So clearly not a mental illness, correct? Well, then what makes this so? What differentiates the two? 


As Psych Central puts it, “A disorder simply means something that is out of the ordinary, which depression and other mental disorders are. They are more specifically a cluster of symptoms that research has shown to correlate highly with a specific emotional state.” 


Thus, “mental disorders” or “emotional irregularities," if we follow Psych Central's logic, and other commonly thought of "mental illnesses" in popular culture are actually disorders in reality, including bipolar disorder (yes, it's in the name, but it's still often mistaken for an illness!) and anxiety. 


So what marks the difference between a disease and a disorder, mental or not?  


As Psych Central puts it, "Diseases are manifestations of a problem with some physical organ or component within the body. And while the brain is also an organ, it is one of the least understood and easily the most complex organ in the body. Researchers and doctors refer to a diseased organ when something is wrong with it (via a CAT scan or X-ray or laboratory test). But with our brains, we have no test to say, "Hey, there's something clearly wrong here!" 


So, even though depression is a horrible reality that often feels like its own disease, it is but a disorder, and we should let the world know this, especially when Tumblr tries to pull the “mental illness” card. Mental conditions such as Alzheimer’s are formally recognized as mental illnesses, and Alzheimer’s is certainly something that should not be romanticized, or used to portray heroism of sorts. 


Either way, both mental disorders, and diseases are very real realities, but we shouldn't let them stop us. We can only get through life as we usually do: one day at a time. 


Check out more information on the topic here and here

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