The Canadian Mental Health Association describes depression as: “A major depressive disorder…”
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines depression as: “A psychoneurotic or psychotic disorder…”
Depression is a disorder
Depression is defined as a disorder, NOT an emotion. There are a number of key words and phrases identified in the previous definitions that do not apply to what are natural human emotions:
Firstly, depression is a mental disorder whereas sadness is an emotion (a mental reaction to a perceived unfavourable outcome).
Secondly, depression is marked by inactivity, or a deficit in one’s ability to function normally on a daily basis. Feeling sad does not inhibit your ability to get out of bed in the morning, although you may feel like you don’t want to get up. But you can get up and carry on with your daily living despite feeling sad, and when a positive experience occurs, the emotion of sadness can generally be offset by a joyful experience. But with depression, it can be a struggle to physically get up, to push yourself to get out of bed because of the weight of its symptoms.
Thirdly, and perhaps the most distinctive factor, is the reference to time. In the Canadian Mental Health Association definition, it reads: “Someone experiencing depression is grappling with feelings of severe despair over an extended period of time.” We all experience natural human emotions throughout the day and these will change depending on the circumstances. But with depression, it is as though certain emotions like sadness, guilt and hopelessness are stuck in the “on” position regardless of the circumstances, and for a prolonged period of time.