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You’ve heard the commercials for antidepressants promising to help treat depression, but they never specify what type of depression. And the way that many people talk about depression, you would think it’s just one mental disorder that affects everyone at some point. Does this seem confusing? How can it affect everyone if it’s a disorder? You’re not alone, and there needs to be a reconceptualization of what depression really is because of this confusion.
Doug Haymaker, a clinical psychologist, said in an email that many of his patients seem to be misinformed about the true meaning of depression.
“One of the most common reasons people come to see me is because the ‘have’ depression,” Haymaker said. “Usually, what they mean is they have a vulnerability to depression -- not constantly depressed, but under the right (or wrong) circumstances, they can become depressed.”
Depression is currently used by many people to describe any state that has some depressive symptoms, although this is inaccurate.
“I agree that depression is overused, meaning anything from seriously disabling (can't get out of bed) to a personality that tends to be pessimistic and glum,” Haymaker said. “When I see people, I make a distinction between how they feel (sad) and how they function, among many other things.”
Rebecca Cagle, a certified advanced professional life coach, said in an email that she separates depression and sadness, which can sometimes be confused with each other.
“Sadness is usually attributed to specific events,” Cagle said. “In most cases of sadness, you do not lose hope all together. You may even feel immediate despair when a loved one dies but you eventually regain your hope ... Sadness generally does not require medication, except in short term cases such as the first few weeks following the death of a close loved one.”
Although she doesn’t differentiate between different types of depression, she said that depression should be separated from sadness in its definition.
“Depression is like a black hole that you are in and there seems to be no way out. You feel unfathomable despair,” Cagle said.