Mental Illness: Is it physical or emotional?

There are times when depression and other emotional disorders are actually caused by a physical disease. Hypothyroidism is an example of that. When your body is not making enough thyroid hormone you can begin to feel very depressed. We wanted to clarify for our readers that our articles on depression are dealing with a diagnosis of clinical (or major) depression. This is a diagnosis given after all other medical causes, such as hypothyroidism, have been ruled out. There are no physical tests run for a diagnosis of clinical depression and we have never come in contact with anyone who has had a PET scan done to determine if they had OCD, depression, or any other mental illness.

There are illnesses that cause depression like symptoms, but as WebMD clarifies, these are symptoms of what they label "depression" but are not the actual condition itself. Here is what WebMD Says about it under the heading "How is major depression diagnosed."
"There is no blood test, X-ray, or other laboratory test that can be used to diagnose major depression. However, your doctor may run some blood tests to help detect any other medical problems that have symptoms similar to those of depression. For example, hypothyroidism can cause some of the same symptoms as depression. Alcohol use or abuse, some medications, stroke or the use of illegal drugs can also cause symptoms of depression."
Depression screening tests are simply a bunch of questions they ask you and your diagnosis is based upon your answers about your mood and behavior. No physical test is ever done

In our counseling we always recommend that everyone who feels they are depressed or shows any signs of other behavioral problems get a complete physical checkup where they are tested for things like their thyroid and blood sugar levels and other diseases that can cause these symptoms. Of course these physical diseases can be physically tested, diagnosed and treated in such a way that when the thyroid or blood sugar levels are adjusted appropriately, etc. the depression disappears. So yes, depression can sometimes be physical, but the depression is not what is treated in these cases, the physical disease that caused the symptom of depression is. There is no need for psychotropic medications in these cases.

When all physical causes of depression has been ruled out, we are left with the cause being emotional. While there have been studies that show there may be something going on in the brain when a person is a depressed, has OCD, etc., these scans are never done on patients to see if that is indeed what is going on in their brain. We had one lady ask her doctor for such a test and they would not give her one because they said it was too expensive. We do not deny that something physical may be happening to your body when your are depressed, but that is not proof that depression is what caused it. It is most likely that the depression caused the chemicals to change, rather than the other way around. Think about it, your heart beat increases when you are scared, you are not scared because your heart rate first increased. Your mood affected you physically. With depression it is most likely the same thing and you can adjust the condition by dealing with the actual emotional issues that caused the depression rather than trying to merely get rid of the symptoms of it. We believe the bible has the answers in how to deal with emotional issues for anyone who is willing to accept it's truth. For more help and resources on this topic please see our Psychology Links page.


Print Page