Is Depression a Disease?


In the modern vernacular, “depression” is most often used to describe a temporary mood state in which feelings of sadness or despair. People are “depressed” that their favorite show was canceled or when a favorite restaurant goes out of business. Because of the preponderance of this usage, people often ask how depression can be “a disease.”

According to the World Health Organization, more than 350 million people on the planet live with depression. The symptoms of this depression can affect people far beyond simple mood changes. A depressed person can suffer physical pain, nausea. To things even more troubling, the medical community is still not certain what actually causes depression.

Yet, to dub depression a disease would be a misnomer. Depression is currently classified as a mental disorder, but for those dedicated to finding the best treatment for it even this name does not adequately describe the affliction.

Writing for Psychology Today, physician Stephen Diamond writes, “I submit that depression is not a disease that should be treated in the same way as diabetes (which itself is known in many cases to be stress-related). It is a biopsychosocial syndrome requiring far more than pharmacological intervention.”

Diamond states earlier in his essay that the pharmacological advances of late have been “revolutionary and life-saving.” Yet, depression is not something than can be “cured” by prescription. Things like smoking and drinking alcohol or using recreational drugs can sometimes make the symptoms of depression worse. Diet and lifestyle also play significant roles in how severe depressive episodes can be.

Thus anyone callous enough to say “depression is not a real disease” would, in a sense be correct but only by luck. Depression is a mental disorder that should always be taken seriously. Treatment is by no means perfect, but is leaps and bounds better than simply ignoring it. You should always seek help, because with treatment, it gets better.

Sources: WHO, CDC, Psychology Today
Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons


The information provided on the is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional. This information is solely for informational and educational purposes. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Neither the owners or employees of nor the author(s) of site content take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading this site. Always speak with your primary health care provider before engaging in any form of self treatment. Please see our Legal Statement for further information.

PsyWeb Poll

Are you currently taking or have you ever been prescribed anti-depressants?
Total votes: 3979