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What Is The Difference Between Mental Illness And Depression?

Question:

My husband’s diagnosis is Clinical Depression. Does this mean he is mentally ill or just interminably depressed? I go to NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) meetings, but still don’t understand stuff as much as I’d like to.

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Answer:

You are asking an excellent question that will not be answered at NAMI. The reason is that you are attending the wrong meeting. No harm done and you can learn a lot but not about your husband and his problem. You see, technically speaking Depression is a mental illness and can be very intense and even life threatening is a depressed person feels suicidal. However, NAMI deals with the more acute and chronic mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the other illnesses that are marked by visual and auditory hallucinations. In other words, these are the illnesses that totally prevent a person from functioning in society because they have lost touch with reality. Generally speaking, this does not happen with depression.

The term “clinical depression” does not mean much because there are many types of depression. The types of depression vary in intensity from mild to major and even with hallucinations. However, the depressions that include hallucinations are usually connected to psychotic illnesses. I doubt this is true of your husband.

My guess is that your husband is suffering either from Dysthymia  or Major depression. Major Depression is the more intense form of depression although either one of them can become dangerous if thinking and mood turn to suicide.

Whether its Dysthymic or Major Depression, symptoms are controlled with anti depressant medications or psychotherapy. Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapy (CBT) has been found to be as effective an medication. However, other types of psychotherapy are also effective and I recommend that your husband be in therapy and not rely solely on medication.

As for yourself, marriage counseling is a good way for a couple to handle depression. After all, your husband is depressed but that affects you as well. Lets just say that marriage therapy could not hurt and will probably help. In any case, I do not believe that NAMI will help you much.

There are lots of articles on this web site, Mental Help.Net, that can answer more of your questions about depression.

Best of Luck

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