Is Depression a Mental Illness or a Disease?
What is depression? Is it a disorder? An illness?
A disease? Some combination?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines disorder, illness and disease as follows:
- Disorder: An illness that disrupts normal physical or mental functions.
- Illness: A disease or period of sickness affecting the body or mind.
- Disease: A disorder of structure or function in a human, animal, or plant, especially one that produces specific symptoms or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury.
Those terms, by definition, are closely related—a disorder is an illness, and an illness is a disease or period of sickness, and a disease is a disorder of structure, and all three are recognized by symptoms and disruption of normal life functions.
Depression is diagnosed by its symptoms.
They can disrupt your life, affecting the way you think, feel and function.
If left untreated, depression can become a very serious condition, unrelenting and debilitating.
When you think of depression, the first symptom that comes to mind is sadness.
Depression is more than sadness in response to life’s hurts and heartaches which ease with time.
“Sadness is a warning signal,” says Dr. Karl Benzio, Co-Founder and Chancellor, Honey Lake Clinic and Director of Excellence in Christian Psychiatry, Honey Lake Clinic.
“We all experience it from time to time. It tells us something is wrong and calls us to process the hurt. If whatever has happened isn’t processed properly, you may begin to focus on the sadness. Things can accelerate to where the sadness causes distress or impairs life. When it crosses that threshold, it’s become clinical depression.”
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) diagnostic criteria for Major Depression reads as follows:
- Five (or more) of the following symptoms have been present during the same 2-week period and represent a change from previous functioning; at least one of the symptoms is either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure.
- Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (feels sad, empty, hopeless) or observation made by others (appears tearful). (Note: In children and adolescents, can be irritable mood.)
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day (as indicated by either subjective account or observation.)
- Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day. (Note: In children, consider failure to make expected weight gain.)
- Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day.
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
- Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt (which may be delusional) nearly every day (not merely self-reproach or guilt about being sick).
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day (either by subjective account or as observed by others).
- Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
- The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
- The episode is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance or to another medical condition.
Is depression a spiritual, psychological or physiological issue?
“Yes,” says Dr. Benzio. “Spiritual, psychological and biological are so intertwined, you must focus on all three to be curative.”
Do you recognize these signs and symptoms in your own life or in someone you love?
We understand. And we want to help.
The very good news is that depression can be successfully treated, and many who suffer are cured.
With proper care, symptoms of depression can be alleviated, allowing you to concentrate, think, and develop the spiritual and psychological skills which will renew and heal you.
A healthy mind, body and spirit defeats depression.
At Honey Lake Clinic, Dr. Benzio and our experienced doctors, therapists and staff are committed to providing faith-based treatment, encompassing spiritual, physical and mental health, to give you the long-lasting tools and knowledge you need to live beyond depression.
That future can start today with a simple phone call.
Individualized treatment, experienced staff, the tranquil lakeside environment—let us help you regain control of your life and find happiness and wholeness again.