Is Depression A Disability? The Relationship Between Your Physical And Mental Health

Updated September 6, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

Depression may not be something that most people like to talk about, but it is, in fact, one of the most common illnesses affecting people across the U.S. today. It is estimated that 17 million Americans experience some form of depression each year and that 12 percent of men and 20 percent of women will experience depression at least once during their lifetimes. People with underlying problems such as chronic illness or disability are 2 to 10 times more likely to experience depression. But at what point does depression become a disability, are those affected by it entitled to disability benefits, and how can you find a listing for depression therapists?

What Causes Depression?

Getty/Vadym Pastuk
Gain A Better Understanding Of The Symptoms Of Depression

At its core, depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, but there is no single reason for this imbalance. It can come about as a result of many different aspects of a person’s life. It can be caused by:

  • Hereditary Factors

Depression is a disease that can run in families, which means that if any of your immediate families once had or are currently struggling with depression, you are at a higher risk of developing depression as well.

  • Some Personality Traits

People who have low self-esteem or believe that they have little or no control over their lives are at an increased risk of developing depression symptoms. There is some debate within the medical community about whether or not these issues cause depression or if depression causes them. Still, research shows that they consistently go hand-in-hand.

  • Negative Life Experiences

From losing a job, experiencing violence, or dealing with a loved one's death, many different negative life experiences can lead to depression. While some emotions associated with depression are often normal responses to the stress of these events, when they become more intense and include a feeling of hopelessness or affect your ability to live your normal daily life, they transform from a grieving process to a more serious depression issue.

The Types Of Depression & Their Symptoms

Contrary to what some people may believe, being depressed is more than just feeling sad or discouraged. Those who experience a depressive disorder experience symptoms that alter just about everything in their lives, including their behavior, feelings, thoughts, and physical health. Even those with mild symptoms can find that their depression affects their ability to enjoy their lives to the fullest. People with a more serious depressive disorder often find doing the most basic tasks, like getting out of bed or eating, impossible at times. There are several different types of clinical depression, including the following:

  • Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder can seem different from depression because it also includes periods of mania. A manic episode is characterized by elevated mood, hyperactivity, irritation, insomnia, and, in extreme cases, even hallucinations. But at the other end of bipolar disorder are episodes of major depression—people with bipolar disorder cycle between these two mood extremes, with periods of normalcy in between.

  • Recurrent Depressive Disorder

This depressive disorder involves repeated episodes of depression, during which a person experiences a depressed mood, a loss of interest or enjoyment in their lives, and lethargy. These symptoms must persist for at least two weeks to be considered a recurrent depressive disorder. People with this disorder can also experience anxiety, disruption of their sleep schedules, low self-esteem, depressed appetite, and difficulty concentrating. These episodes of depression can be mild, moderate, or severe, with mild episodes causing some difficulty in living your normal life and severe ones, making it feel impossible to complete even the most basic tasks.

  • Persistent Depressive Disorder

While persistent depressive disorder symptoms are the same as recurrent depressive disorder, its symptoms last for at least two years. People that experience persistent depressive disorder may have periods of severe episodes that cycle with periods of mild episodes, but to be considered persistent, the symptoms must last for two or more years and never go entirely away.

  • Postpartum Depression

Many women experience a period of sadness or anxiety after giving birth, often called the “baby blues.” But these symptoms usually go away within two to four weeks after delivery. When these issues persist past this time, it is considered postpartum depression. This disorder includes feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion. It can make it difficult for women affected by it to complete normal daily activities, and they may sometimes feel overwhelmed caring for their new baby.

  • Psychotic Depression

Psychotic depression is a type of depressive disorder that includes both severe depression and some form of psychosis. This can include delusions, which are false beliefs or intense feelings of worthlessness or failure, hallucinations, hearing or seeing upsetting or disturbing things that aren’t there. Typically, the psychotic symptoms of people experiencing this disorder relate to their depression, fixating negative feelings associated with depression such as anxiety, worthlessness, illness, or failure.

  • Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder is a different kind of depressive disorder. It affects people during winter due to being exposed to less natural sunlight. During this winter period, depression is often accompanied by weight gain and avoidance of social situations and increased sleep. While it typically fades away during spring and summer, a person with seasonal affective disorder will experience depressed moods every winter.

How Depression Is Diagnosed & Treated

Getty/Xavier Lorenzo

The first step in having your severe depression diagnosed is to visit your regular doctor. After discussing your symptoms, your doctor can diagnose which type of depression is affecting you. They may recommend that you seek the help of a mental health professional, and looking up listings for depression therapists is an easy way to find someone to treat you. Scan through the listings for depression therapists, look for one you believe you will be comfortable with, and check their credentials. Next, set up your initial appointment to begin treatment. From here, your therapist can confirm your doctor’s diagnosis, devise a treatment plan, and even help determine if you are eligible for benefits based on depression.

The earlier your treatment begins, the more successful it can be. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to depression treatment, and the benefits are based on depression type and severity. Your therapist will help you decide how often you should see them discuss and work through your issues and decide if a prescription antidepressant can help lessen your symptoms. For those experiencing childhood depression, treatments are typically more therapy-based.

How Can Depression Affect Your Work?

Depression is significantly different from mere sadness; it is a medical condition that can totally take over your life. People with depression find that it disrupts their daily routines and takes away the enjoyment that they used to have in their lives. Feelings of extreme fatigue and apathy, a lack of or too much sleep, trouble with concentrating, constant sadness, irritability, feelings of worthlessness, or even thoughts of suicide, are things that can affect people with clinical depression. And these issues can get so bad that a person can’t get out of bed or manage to leave the house. When your symptoms are this severe, you probably cannot manage to concentrate at work, perform any required physical duties, or might not even be able to make it to your workplace. For people struggling with suicidal thoughts, it can even be a safety concern for them to continue going to work.

This is why the Americans with Disabilities Act does have provisions that make it possible for some people who experience severe depression to be eligible for benefits for depression. To qualify for benefits for depression, your symptoms must be severe enough that they substantially interfere with your daily life, as well as your ability to perform tasks related to your job. This doesn’t mean you have to be able not to perform them at all; instead, your ability must be substantially limited compared to the general population's ability to be eligible for benefits based on depression.

Finding A Listing For Depression Treatment

Gain A Better Understanding Of The Symptoms Of Depression

Finding a therapist with treatment for depression is simple: begin with an online search to see therapy for depression listings in your area. From there, you can take a look at nearby therapists with training to help address your depression issues. Choose someone you think you will be comfortable with, and give them a call to set up your initial appointment. Being at ease with your therapist is one of the most important parts of successfully treating your depression symptoms.

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression but aren’t sure you can deal with in-person therapy, Regain offers convenient online sessions that can be done from your computer, tablet, or phone, whenever it best suits your schedule. This means that you can still get help without having to worry about missing appointments on days that you’re too overwhelmed to leave home and still be able to determine if you are eligible for disability benefits. A person with depression needs to know that, no matter how mild or severe your symptoms are, there are many different treatment options available. The first step in overcoming your severe depression is to get help to one day lead the same happy and healthy life you used to.

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