What is Depression (and What is it Not?) 65

Image: Detail from the Women of Amphissa by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

Detail from The Women of Amphissa by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

“People who don’t know [what depression is], who say it’s self-indulgence, sound callous, but it’s not callousness born of indifference; I think it’s callousness born of ignorance. That kind of ignorance we’ve got to get rid of, and little by little I suppose, we will. You say to them, ‘It’s a pity you don’t know. I’m sure that if you knew, I’m sure that if you knew, not only wouldn’t you say that, you’d try to help in one way or another.”- Mike Wallace, On the Edge of Darkness

Note:I wrote this a few years ago, and it has made its way around the Net uncredited. If you want to reprint it, please make sure you credit Wing of Madness.

What Depression Is:

  • Depression is an illness, in the same way that diabetes or heart disease are illnesses.
  • Depression is an illness that affects the entire body, not just the mind.
  • Depression is an illness that one in five people will suffer during their lifetime.
  • Depression is the leading cause of alcoholism, drug abuse and other addictions.
  • Depression is an illness that can be successfully treated in more than eighty percent of the people who have it.
  • Depression is an equal-opportunity illness – it affects all ages, all races, all economic groups and both genders. Women, however, suffer from depression almost twice as much as men do.
  • At least half of the people suffering from depression do not get proper treatment.
  • Untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide.
  • Depression is second only to heart disease in causing lost work days in America.
  • Unipolar major depression is the leading cause of disability.

What Depression Is Not:

  • Depression is not something to be ashamed of.
  • Depression is not the same thing as feeling “blue” or “down.”
  • Depression is not a character flaw or the sign of a weak personality.
  • Depression is not a “mood” someone can “snap out of.” (Would you ask someone to “snap out of” diabetes or high blood pressure?)
  • Depression is not fully recognized as an illness by most health care insurance providers. Most will only pay 50% of treatment costs for out-patient care, as well as limiting the number of visits.

Also see What Does Depression Feel Like?

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65 thoughts on “What is Depression (and What is it Not?)

  • margaret

    All of the Loneliness and anguish that has been tormenting me and that was sitting at the back of my mind has hit me like a brick over the last two weeks. I now believe I suffer from depression but never really wanted to admit it. I left a temp job that had everything going for me to enter into a job i dont really like. I dont go out as I have no friends to do fun stuff with. Unlikely to ever find love and thats all i really want. I cant talk to my family as it will cause them too much worry if they knew how I felt..feels like i have no one to talk to and that I have nothing to live for or look forward to. Just want to feel contented again

  • Haley

    I’m a girl, 19 almost 20, and I’m not sure what’s wrong with me. There are times when I feel depressed and there are times when I’m really happy. I used to cut myself and it’s been months since I’ve done it last. I still have temptations of doing it. Every day I have insecure and suicidal/self-harm thoughts. I have Spina Bifida and I was bullied in second grade and I constantly get stared at everyday. I’ve always been an outcast. Lately I’ve been confused about how I feel emotionally. Does anyone have any thoughts/ideas/suggestions that could help me? Thanks.

    • emily

      try and talk to ur parents they might know what you mean they could of went through the same things as your or talk to a trusted friend.

  • Hopeful

    There are so many hurting people here. Through a few self-examinations I’ve found that it is very, very likely that I, too, have depression, but I only have those feelings when I’m in school. I am hopeful for my future and do not want to cause any self-harm, but I’m still battling the feeling of a dark hole inside me, ripping me apart. It’s good to know that there are others who can relate, and my heart goes out to all of you. Life will get better.

  • Silent Sadness

    For me it has become painfully obvious I have depression. It started in full swing maybe 4 years ago and has roots right back to my early teens.

    For me it feels like I have nothing, am nothing and I’m going nowhere. But when I think about what I would need to be happy… theirs nothing.

    I feel alone and I am alone. I have no family, none that’s close, and I have only one real friend, who has 4 kids and not much free time.
    Plus as blokes, we tent to talk about none consequential things mostly.

    I want help, I do, I would love to have someone to talk to about it all. But every time I get asked if i’m OK my answer is always the same.

    “I’m fine.” or “Yeah I’m good

    I used to believe heartache was just an expression of sadness, until that is, i experienced it first hand.

    • Frank

      Hi , your not alone I know how you feel and the pain.. Been going tree depression my whole life I’m 49 now. I just keep going and that’s all you can do I’ve tried Jesus but he never hears me and know one understands the pain people say I’m here for you but I know that’s a lie.. Contact me any time and remember I care cause I know the pain.. Your friend frank

  • Deanna

    I think I might have depression, but I just can’t get help, I can’t bring myself to want it. I just want to ignore it, but curiosity brings me places like this.
    It feels like I’ve lost my soul sometimes. Then everything feels so nonchalant and grey and slow. It’s like if ‘eeyore from winnie the pooh’ but in a ‘old mickey from disney’ way. Slow, cold, and monotone.
    I DO like music, but sometimes I hate music’s guts, but I force myself to take in the things I hate. I don’t want to hate something, then just let go. If I marry someone I once loved, now hate, so be it.
    I used to spill my life story out and my thoughts to a close friend, but after we got in a fight, when we got back together I stopped. I didn’t want to tie an anchor to him and drag him down with me. He has depression himself and hes already called me scenic, clingy, and told me to just be happy. So I know I need to stop.
    Well that’s what (possible) depression feels like to me.

  • Skinny

    i am 21 years old and i think i have depression. i don’t know when it started but i know i have been overly emotional for a long time. even in school and stuff i never really cared about anything. i remember in the fifth grade i used to be scared of going to some of my classes because i could never do well in them so i just wouldn’t go, after that all the way up to when i graduated high school i would find ways to skip school as much as i could. i didn’t really have any friends who i could talk to about these things. people would tease me about just about anything. they would make fun of me about crying so much, getting so angry. even before i had a boyfriend or kissed a guy they used to call me a slut and a whore and they still do. i have been told that even people who said they were my bestfriends have called me a whore behind my back and that was just last year. i cry all the time. just today i cried most of the afternoon and even during the evening. i have dropped out of college and now im working as a model but i hate working even with such an easy job. last month i went to work for about 10 days only. i feel like im getting worse. my mood swings are crazy. i feel cold all the time. theres so much i have to say, what i have written here is not even 2 % of how i feel. im only happy when im on something like MDMA or acid, if im smoking weed, or with people i know, getting drunk at some party. please help. i need someone to talk to.

  • danielle

    im only 14 but i have a bad past.. i do self harm i say im going to stop and i did for 3 months.. then things happened. i dont cut really deep but its cause im afraid. it went from my wrist to my thigh. i feel like if i tell anyone they think im syco and need to be put in a hospital. i think i have depression. i am always sad. sometimes for no reason. i just block everyone out. even the ones i love. i hold my feelings inside. anyone that trys to help me i push away and say im fine or nothings wrong. i walk around school like nothings wrong like i have a perfect life.reading this does make me feel ashamed like im different from everyone else. they have great parents that are still together and dont live with they’re grandparents. my grandmother knows that ive self harmed but i promised i wouldnt do it again but i lied and i did it. im too scared to admit it but i think i need help.

    • emily

      if you think you need help then please go get some im going through the same things as you and i haven’t said anything yet but i know your ashamed but people like your parents will understand you just need to tell someone befor things get worse.

    • Michael Raats

      It’s nothing shameful because you are depressed.I know it is difficult to get help but try talking to someone.You can talk to me if you need someone to talk to.I also have depression but I’ll be happy to help.

  • Tanya

    After reading what depression is, I feel I might be depressed and need to see a doctor. I can relate to a lot of what I’m reading… I feel like I’m not myself,a fake, I try to fit in and just feel overwhelmed and stupid. I can’t retain anything and don’t feel like I have anything to be happy about. But I have everything and don’t feel it!

  • Emma

    I feel like I have depression, but I don’t want to say I do because people will just say I’m sad or stressed or something. Or they’ll turn it into this big deal, which I don’t want. I just want to feel better. I can’t get out of bed easily. I’m really anxious all the time, and I get major mood swings. I think about life and the universe and realize how meaningless my life is. Nobody would care if I just died. I’m really scared and not sure what to do.

  • Nikki

    I don’t know if I’m depressed or if I’m just crazy I’ve been lightheaded and dizzy for four weeks now and the first two weeks I was lightheaded sometimes and the second two weeks I was lihgtheaded all day every day and now I’m starting to get sad,feeling hopelessness, Scared and i think im have anxity attcks because the doctors don’t know what’s wrong me and i just dont know if I’m depressed or if im going crazy because I feel like it won’t get better.

  • Amber G

    Reading these posts make me feel less irrational.
    At first I wanted to make everyone else disappear, but then I realized it would be easier and more relieving if I disappeared. May kill myself or run
    Off unannounced. Laying down gives me relief. Crying gives me relief. Pretending to be happy so people don’t make fun of my hopelessness is tiring. I just feel like I’m done with everything.

  • Chris

    Ive been depressed for 5 months now and just dont seem to be able to shift out of it. Im on my 2nd course of different anti depressants. Its scary every day is hard work, really struggling. It feels like there is no end to this!!

    • emily

      If you are suffering please go get professional help there is an end it just takes some time please hold on a little bit longer it will be over if you talk to someone fast.

  • lissa Cruise

    I feel lost at the moment i have one 12 yeaqrs of ivf got one beautiful daughter my husband left me 2 years ago and now have a new partner but his 16 year old daughte has no idea of life but he can not see that i want more in my life.

  • Deborah Finkenbinder

    i have been going through depression almost my hole life now it all started after i had my daughter she had open heart surgery at 6 weeks old and i had to take care of her all bymyself my husband worked swing shifts and my mom was taking care of my son so i had no one and at that time i didnt know what depression was until four years later when my brother passed away from cancer and then my grandmother passed away also from cancer and then my husbands grandmother she aslo died from cancer.. it was a tough of couple years for me. then i started to get help cuz i couldnt think straight i wanted to stay in bed all the time my house i cant keep up with it there are times i just want to give up and then maybe everyone around me will see that there was something wrong with me they always say aww just get over it how do u just get over depression i have a sleeping disorder, i have PTSD im on blood pressure pills for my sleep cuz i have really bad nightmares of my brother dying. i slao have anxitiy whitch is bad, i cant stand to be around people i hate big crowds i hate trying to talk to somebody cuz my words just dont come out right im always tired. i dont feel anything i just hate the world and everything on it i just want to dissipare sometime,… i need better help…

  • Anita

    It’s like no one cares about you anymore. I’m in depression and everything around just make it harder. I nearly got through it. But the thing that stoped me was love. I got heartbroken and it feels like SHIT.

  • Irene

    Ive stopped paying my bills and I don’t even care. I have stopped riding my beloved horse and I don’t care. My house looks like a bombstrike hit it and I don’t even care. I sit and think about my own funeral and wonder what everyone will think if I just killed myself. I cry constantly and over dumb Crap on TV. I’ve gained almost 80 pounds in the past year. Don’t care but I cry over not having clothes to wear. I’ve become cynical and hateful to my mom. Don’t care.

    • Michael Raats

      Don’t give up.I know it’s difficult. I also have depression.Medication helps or even talking to people.You can even talk to me if you want to.Ill be happy to help.

  • Englerchadwick

    I would like someone to explain to me what depression is scientificly. You say it’s not in any way sadness. It feels like it is tho. But illness feels like your sick, when depression (a illness) feels like something that has nothing to do with sickness, even tho it is. How is that?

  • Jacqueline

    I am not sure if I am depressed or what it is. After reading all the info on what is depression and what people think it is I just cry more and don’t want to be here. I really want to get it together, I am a big failure and a fake!

    • Ash

      I don’t even know if Im suffering from depression or not. Its been six to seven years since i wanted to run away from home but didn’t because i was scared of being on my own. Its been a few years since I wanted to commit suicide. But I am just too coward to do so. I don’t have a zero figure and my mother constantly tells me to lose the extra pound and her every word seems like an abuse. Though i am the most intelligent student in my school, my parents don’t even bother about that. All they want is a supermodel. I am 17, never had a boyfriend or a best friend. Food tastes like metal and all i want is to lose myself to drugs. I do have unexplainable pains and feel intense panic and anxiety. Can anyone tell me if I am having depression?

  • Jenn Baker

    * Depression IS NOT the opposite of happiness. (Sadness is the opposite of happiness. Sadness does not equal depression, but depression can cause sadness.)
    * Depression is an illness that can be aggravated by a simple cold, or change in weather.