Click on almost any standard health site, such as Web-MD, and look up “depression” and it will report that depression is different than normal sadness. The site will normally proceed to proclaim that, unlike normal sadness, depression is a “treatable medical condition.” Unfortunately, differentiating depression from sadness by describing the former as “a treatable medical condition” does not really explain what depression is; it only tells you that you need to see a doctor. So, let’s be very clear about what depression is and then proceed to see why we can characterize depressive episodes in terms of depressive reactions, depressive disorders, and depressive diseases. To start, let’s follow the lead of Web-MD and other medical sites by acknowledging that it is absolutely the case that, although they are related, sadness and depression are very different entities. Let me give a personal example. When I was in graduate school, I foolishly left the back door of our apartment open before heading off to work the lunch shift at a local restaurant. When I returned home, I found one of my dogs, Priscilla, sitting strangely alone in the middle of the living room, anxiously looking up at me and not moving. I recall noting how odd she looked and how weird it was that… Read full this story
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