Depression is NOT a mental illness

woman depressed
It’s physical.

This is a short article that I wish to get out there because it constantly irritates me about the many misconceptions regarding depression, what it is and who gets it. I want to begin by asking a simple question.

What is the difference between depression and food poisoning?

I’ll tell you.

With food poisoning you can phone in sick to work and your boss will allow you to have a day or two off with no questions asked. Have you ever tried to phone in sick with depression? I bet most of you haven’t, mainly because you just KNOW that your boss won’t believe you, let alone be ok with it.

So you make up a ‘real’ illness – you know, one that everyone can relate to.

How about when your friend asks you how you are feeling today? With food poisoning you can straight out tell them what is wrong and you will get sympathy in return. Tell them you are feeling down and all you’ll probably get is a ‘well cheer up, it can’t be that bad’.

It’s at this point you fantasise about punching them in the face.

The media, bless ’em, do their best to paint any form of mental illness in a positive light. Explaining that depression, anxiety, addiction and anything related to those three are now legitimate diseases that deserve the same respect and attention as anything physical.

Well thanks but the last I heard, the brain was a part of the body, and a damn important one at that.

As long as we treat an illness of the brain as something different from the rest of the body then it will never receive the same amount of attention.

I won’t go into the science of depression as the following video explains it in such a great way that I would only be doing the subject a disservice if I rambled on.

Unless you have experienced it, you can never truly understand

How many of you have a tail? You know, like a monkey. If you haven’t (which I hope is everyone), can you imagine what it is like to grip a branch or maybe just swing it back and forth? It’s impossible isn’t it?

We’ve never had one so that’s not surprising.

Depression is similar to that. If it’s something that you have never experienced then you can try as hard as you want, but you will never truly know what it feels like.

Are you having a bad day? Nope that’s not depression.

Are you bummed out because that girl/guy you like has just rejected your advances? Nope that’s not depression.

Have you spent all week in a foul mood because your favourite team has lost a cup final? Nope that’s not depression either.

It isn’t a change in mood related to a trivial life event. If your whole world is slowly being turned upside down because of what is happening inside your mind then you may well be depressed. If these thoughts have been present for several weeks or months then yes, you may be depressed.

There is a big difference between feeling down and having depression and this brings me to my next point.

You cannot just ‘snap out of it’ or ‘pull yourself together’

I like analogies so steady your hats because here comes another one.

Depression is like trying to run through water and being told to get over it is akin to suddenly being able to move like you can on dry land. It’s impossible. You can grit your teeth and attempt to get some momentum going but ultimately the density will prevent you from moving quickly.

When depression has its grip on you, life becomes water. The air around you becomes water, crushing you with its weight and even the simplest tasks become difficult. You feel sluggish, both mentally and physically and nothing can snap you out of it.

You have essentially become trapped inside your own prison and true access to your brain lies behind that locked door. Sometimes, briefly, you are allowed outside to stretch your legs but you know this is temporary. Eventually you will have to return to your cell and wait patiently for a time when you are given another opportunity to function like a normal member of society.

There is no choice in the matter. All we can do is take advantage of our good days and try to minimise the effect our bad days have on us.

Here is what I want you to do.

If you have ever experienced any form of depression, anxiety or addiction then please share this article via your social media. The more people that understand, the less stressful and easier our lives will become.


About Jamie

Jamie is a guitar teacher and writer who hates the typical 9-5 existence. After quitting his job to enter the world of guitar tuition, he created this blog to document his thoughts and struggles as he takes on societies norms armed with nothing more than his cheeky wit and undeniable charm - Give his Facebook page a like, add him on Twitter or follow his Google+ page and he will repay you with even more awesome words!


  1. Thank you SO much for this article. It’s rare to find someone who “gets it” with regard to depression (for me, at least).

  2. Depression is very real and common in the community, with 12% of Australians experiencing major depressive disorder in their lifetime. More than 650,000 Australians have this experience in any 12-month period.

    Motivational Speaker | Craig Harper recently posted..Melbourne Presentation: Renovate Your BodyMy Profile

    • Unfortunately it seems modern living is a major contributing factor in this. 12% is a crazy high figure too! Thanks for your comment!

  3. Stress is bad for health: it contributes to heart disease and hypertension and increases risk of stroke, obesity and diabetes. It doesn’t do very much for your well-being either, so prioritize, delegate and make the requisite changes in life to lower stress.

  4. So very true. I suffered from very bad anxiety for a number of years and unless you have really gone through it yourself, it is really difficult for anyone to truly relate to how you feel and what you are going through. With so many folks affected, you would think by now the public at large would have a greater understanding and compassion for those suffering, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. Thanks for posting and bringing awareness.
    Jessie recently posted..Social Anxiety DisorderMy Profile

    • Hey, it’s true, you would think more people would finally be able to understand this in 2013 but until it happens to you, it’s almost impossible to truly empathise.

  5. Jamie, I like your metaphor of trying to run through water, and in fact you express very well how it feels. I’ve suffered what was probably only mild depression – but it felt like trying to move through treacle. Or like having grey-tinted glasses, even on a sunny day everything seems grey. Choose your sensory system metaphor… but even so, it’s virtually impossible for someone who has never felt depressed to truly understand it. Thanks for sharing this, and I’ll pass it on.
    Vivienne recently posted..How to increase serotonin naturallyMy Profile

    • Thanks for your comment Vivienne. ‘having grey tinted glasses’ – I’ve never thought about it like that before. I suppose that is true. There are definitely days when I can’t seem to get any enjoyment out of supposedly fun situations and this is a good way of explaining it. Thanks for sharing too!

  6. Thank you so much for your thoughts on depression. I have been suffering from it for years now and I appreciate your take on it. It is so true what you have said. Reading your post I feel like you were talking directly to me. I hope someday that I will be able to say I am free of it but until then I will continue to fight against it. Some people seem to understand the sickness somewhat but it is true that unless you are suffering from it you will never truly understand it. Thank you once again for your post. I felt like I was talking to a friend.


  1. […] I wrote an article a while ago that suggested depression is NOT a mental illness. […]

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