Depression Community
10.5k Members
498132 tn?1217465082

DEBATE: depression as a symptom vs. depression as a disorder

I'm trying to find an answer to the question: is depression a symptom of something else, or is it an actual disorder in it's own right?
The reason for this comes basically from frustration with my own personal experience. Over 3 years ago, my doctor diagnosed with depression. I have low self esteem, felt sad and had no interest for anything, so these symptoms fitted the diagnosis for depression. However, as time progressed, fatigue and brain fog have began to become a big problem in my life. I've been to several g.p.s round my g.p. practice and as soon as I mention fatigue, regardless of the brain fog they fob me off with "depression can be so exhausting" and this makes me mad because the more fatigued and the more I experience brain fog, the more it affects my life, so this then makes me feel depressed. I began looking into this on the net and found that appearently doctors will ask you 2 things: first how long the fatigue has been a problem for and then they will ask if there has been any weight loss. If there hasn't, they will automatically diagnosis this as psychological. Applying this to my situation, the site seems to be true about doctors. This makes me more mad because I think I may actually have CFS or adrenal burnout as of so many other symptoms point towards these and depression is actually listed as a symptom of these. To make matters worse, they ignore the fact that my diet could be causing this because I have told them about how lacking my diet is in many nutrients and minerals and I think that a nutritional plan etc would eliminate the depression, but do they help? no. Depression seems to be classed as a symptom to many other diseases or an unhealthy lifestyle or both and I believe that some doctors just wanna make it a disorder so they can fob you off with a bottle of pills or a waiting list, not really addressing the underlying causes. Has anyone else had any experience with this sort of situation, or have I just had bad experience? Does anyone agree or disagree? Please, I'd be interested to hear any feedback. p.s. I'm not trying to generalise all doctors here as I've heard about good doctors really caring about their patients. What I'm trying to point out that there are certain doctors who don't care so have made it out to always be a disorder so they don't have to spend more of their time or spend more money in treating this. Are there any completely pro disorder or pro symptom peep out there, and why is that?
7 Responses
Avatar universal
Hi there, I am not a doctor but I can give you my opinion based on my own experience and what I have learn about it.
First, I think there are two distinctive kind of depression one been a symptom of some dramatic expirence ( like the dead of some one realy close, etc ).
The second one ( the worst ) is a quimical unbalance in your brain, this kind you can also subdivide into two diferent once, bi-polar which basicly means that you have realy low depressive periods but you also have periods in which you are realy hipper, exited and can do any thing that you want.
The other one ( the one that is beating me up ) is sever depression.
I have been diagnost with this about three years ago. I do not question way anymore, at first it drove me crazy and I wanted gone yesterday but unfortunaly for me I haven yet foun a medication that works.
I have tried everything, some times it works for a month and then stops and I have to try another med.
I am a vegetarian ( for the last 30 years ), I am an alcoholic ( I quit drinking when this start 3 years ago ), I never give a deam about exersise or take care of my self.
It could be any of these things, I do not know but it does not matter for me anyway, what matters now is to find a med that give my life back.
There are periods that I can not move from my bed for a month, do not take a shower for weeks, it gets realy bad in my case.
I found out that alcohol is bad for depression so I quit, coffee (specially) whith sugar is also bad for depression ( I use to drink two pots a day ) I aslso quit that, nicotine is also bad for depression but I smoke since I was 8 years old, I do not have it in me to quit that.
I check out the natural stuff and after talking to my psycaystry ( regular doctors are not the best for this problems so make sure to see a phsycastry ) I am taking B12 vitamins, Fish oil capsuls, Gingko Bilova, and my prescription Zoloft.
For the last month or so I have been feeling better, as unbelibeble as it may soun what did the tric for me was to change my scheduld, I go to sleep at 3:00 pm and I wake up at midnigth, play in the compu until 7:00 am take a shower and go to work until 2:00 pm and at 3:00 pm I go to bed and start the cicle all over again.
There is a study that shows that sleep depravation makes yor brain produce serotin which happen to be what the meds try to do.
In respect to been tired and dizzy it may be that the medicine you take does not agree whit you, however it is true that depression can beat you up and make you realy tired.
It may also be your thyroid, have it check, it have similar symptoms.
Good luck, I hope you get something out of this.
Avatar universal
There is no doubt that there are physical abnormalities that can cause depression. For example: problems with a persons thyroid can mimic many of the symptoms of a clinical depression.

Depression can also be triggered by massive life trama as the brain can only handle so much repeated fear and danger before it starts to malfuction.

Lastly there is the kind of Severe depression and anxiety that is produced simply because of severe chemical abnormalities in the brain. This is the kind of depression that I suffer from. Some people call it "Non-Situational" Depression. I just call it a major pain in the *** because I have had to take medication all my life to control it's very powerful symptoms.

There are a lot of Depression sufferers like me that have never suffered a tramatic experience in their life or that have no physical illnesses, yet we still suffer from severe depression. This fact leads me to think that Depression can also be it's own disease which is simply caused by brain function abnormalities.

This is the most common theroy among Psychiatrist and It makes the most sence to me. The human brain is so infinitly complex that many of these questions have yet to be solved. Most of how our brains actually work is still just theroy and speculation. Some say that the human brain is as much of a mystery as the Universe we live in. Uncharted and undiscovered.

many years ago I asked my very brilliant Psychiatrist..... "Why exactly do I have this disease?" he said, "well..... this is not a question I can answer, simply because we don't now why some people have it."

Talk about taking the wind out of my sails! Nothing can be more disturbing than asking a Doctor why your sick and getting the answer, "we really don't know for sure."

No one really knows for sure and we many never know.

One day perhaps all of it's secrets will be reveald, but probably not in our lifetime.
Avatar universal
I just watched an interesting look at depression on PBS.  They said that there are two causes of depression -  and most with depression have some mix of these two factors.

1. Genetic predisposition

2. Environmental factors

In general, in a large sample, 1/3 of the component is often genetic with the rest being environmental factors.  But this usually changes when you get down to individuals.  With some people there may be no known family history of depression.  In that case, it may be ALL down to environmental factors.  (But, as the discussion group host, Jane Pauley said - depression is also often a family secret.)  On the other hand, if mother and father both suffered depression, then genetics may be more like 2/3rds of the cause of depression in that person.

Here is an excerpt from the program:

What causes depression?

DR. MYRNA WEISSMAN: Now, depression is a biological disorder. It's not all in your head. But the triggers of depression, and whether you have an episode and when you have an episode or an onset are probably related to environmental factors. And those are loss of attachments and stress and loss in your life.

You might think about depression a little bit like you think about diabetes, which is a genetic disorder. Late-onset diabetes is a complex genetic disorder. However, if you eat right and exercise, you may never get diabetes. But if you don't, you may get late-onset diabetes in adolescence. And that's what we're seeing now. Depression might be just like that.

Here is another excerpt:

Is depression treatable?

DR. THOMAS INSEL: Getting there early's important. And in this case, it's important because we can treat this illness. This is an illness in which we have both medications and targeted psychotherapies that really work. Now, they don't work in everybody, but they work in most people. And they don't work necessarily quickly. But if someone can get the appropriate treatment and stay with it, the prognosis is actually very, very good. So there's every reason to start early and to continue treatment, to make sure that you get the best outcome.

For more, go to http://www.pbs.org/ and click on

        "Depression:  Out of the Shadows"

(It happens to be in the center of the screen at the moment.)

If you can't find the link, try going to the following -


Avatar universal
In brief, it can be either, and if a disorder, may be either situational or genetically based or a combination of the two.   Based on my experiences, I strongly urge you to put the hammer down with your M.D.s and demand some physical testing to rule out possible underlying physical problems that could be the cause of your depression, which could indeed be a symptom.  I have suffered all my life from genetically based depression, complicated by various life events that have triggered episodes of major depression; otherwise I have had long periods of good control and high quality of life with maintenance doses of antidepressants.  However, the last time I was diagnosed with major depression, it was due to a sudden radical change in my mental state.  The psychiatrist-- who was new because I had changed HMO's--  said, "Obviously your medication has quit working for you in a long term high stress situation."  No physical testing was done to rule out any other possible causes.  To  make a long story short, after nearly 5 years of meds, meds, and more meds, a brain scan done at my request when another possible medical problem was being investigated revealed that I had a stroke at some point-- I strongly believe it caused the sudden radical change noted above.  The meds created serious side effects that were piled on top of the consequences of the undiagnosed brain injury.  So, ALWAYS INSIST on physical testing to rule out other possible causes.  Be very cautious about taking any meds that have not been on the market for some time and even then read the complete drug packaging information insert, available on fda.gov, so you are forewarned about possible side effects-- often the patient information sheets on meds that doctors hand out are simplified and incomplete.  Best wishes for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.  Be an assertive health care consumer.
452439 tn?1217812316
Hi DizzyDolly,

I would recommend that you have complete hormone blood work done.  I couldn't tell your age, but for women, menopause can cause all the same symptoms as depression.  Many ignorant doctors hand out AD's like candy to women.  You won't believe how my friends suffered from brain fog, fatigue, couldn't work, were depressed, had memory loss and had insomnia.  It was all hormone related.  Normally it's estrogen replacement that is needed.  But thyroid also plays a part.  Testestosterone is mostly for sex drive, but they ALL do need to be balanced to feel our best.

So if there is a chance you are experiencing ovarian failure, perimenopausal, menopausal or surgical menopausal, I would recommend you see a doctor that specializes in hormones and/or menopause for a complete checkup and bloodwork.  

I think if you go to the menopause forum, you will read many posts from women with these symptoms.

Good luck, remember you are not alone and there are other options to investigate.

Take care,
476009 tn?1211470589
Here is my guess and it's only a guess on my part.  I think that depression is a symptom but that diagnosis at this point in time may or may not be available.  I think that some day medical science may be able to get to the root causes but for now they can only find some of the medical reasons.  I have found that once they rule out the most obvious they don't seem to look very hard.  

I've had doctor's tell me, and I do understand this, no matter what the cause if depression is causing problems in your life it should be treated. I just wish they would look harder to find out if there is a deeper medical problem.

Amen to the hormonal problems for women.  I have been perimenopausal for several years and for awhile became quite depressed (along with alot of other problems).  I've found that supplements, exercise and certain diet adjustments have been pretty effective. I gave AD's a try briefly but didn't do well with them.

I believe the first step in treating anything including depression should be a good check-up.

I'm waiting for the day doctor's will be able to wave a little device over us and figure out all our issues (think Star Trek).  Little by little they seem to be getting there.

Have an Answer?
Top Mood Disorders Answerers
Avatar universal
Arlington, VA
Learn About Top Answerers
Didn't find the answer you were looking for?
Ask a question
Popular Resources
15 signs that it’s more than just the blues
Discover the common symptoms of and treatment options for depression.
We've got five strategies to foster happiness in your everyday life.
Don’t let the winter chill send your smile into deep hibernation. Try these 10 mood-boosting tips to get your happy back
A list of national and international resources and hotlines to help connect you to needed health and medical services.
Here’s how your baby’s growing in your body each week.