Why depression isn’t just a mental disorder.

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Let me start by stating I am by no means a medical practitioner, so please, no one take the following article as professional advice. You can however, take this as an account of someone who has used doctors and mental health workers to treat depression. Someone who, over the last 10 years, has had four recognizable ‘episodes’. Only one of which I believe to be the direct cause of emotional stress. So let me tell you what caused the other three ‘episodes’…

The purpose of this article is to share with you what I’ve discovered about depression. To share details of conversations had with fellow suffers and health professionals alike. This piece stems from a desire to see doctors and psychologists working together, to provide a more rounded approach for their patients. And I know I’m not the only one person to feel this way.

For me, the biggest breakthrough came three years ago. It was my third battle with this ‘disorder’, and I was at a stage where I would cry all the time, and for little to no reason. The most terrifying part was the moments in which I would question my sanity. And it wasn’t until I visited my doctor, that I found out what my REAL problem was.

Now you have to understand that when I walked into the doctors office, I expected she would refer me to a psychologist. I had no qualms about this. I’d had many friends whose initial visit to their doctor, for anxiety or depression, had involved a referral to a psychologist. So I figured this was standard practice. But it wasn’t. Not for me at least.

Instead my doctor referred me next door. To the pathology lab. To have full blood count taken.

So what do you know. A week later it turns out I’m near anaemic and my Vitamin D levels are bad. Furthermore, both conditions are heavily linked to anxiety and depression. For the next few months I take double doses of both nutrients, and my tears go away. I no longer feel I’m trapped inside my own head. The only problem is, I’m left with serious questions regarding my past episodes, and their treatment.

In the past I’d gone straight to a mental health worker. In every instance, none of these practitioners ever sought to rule out physical causes for my depression. I can only imagine had they referred me to a doctor, they would have had a clearer understanding of my issues.

But my story doesn’t end there.

Eight months ago I found myself in a similar predicament. I was crying again. Just listening to the radio, not even a sad song, would end in tears. I was always tired, and I had what I thought was butterflies in my tummy resulting from unexplained anxiety. This time my first course of action was a visit to my doctor.

It took months of tests and waiting for anyone to figure it out. In the meantime I had regular conversations with my partner where he’d reassure me I wasn’t going crazy. And this kept me going until doctors figured out I had a treatable stomach condition. This time they referred me to a specialist. Not to a psychologist.

This specialist gave me his professional opinion. And it was this – When a person suffers from depression, for no real reason, there is often a physical cause to their issue. My case seemed to mirror that logic. Since receiving treatment, my depression has disappeared. When it does flair up, it is at a time when my stomach related issues also flair up.

I want to be clear. I am in no way downplaying the role of psychology or psychiatry in our community. There are times in peoples lives when the help of a mental health professional is useful. In those times, they should get the help needed without judgment from anyone. But what I am saying, is that we should not rely on the one source to bring about our improvement.

This is my opinion, based on my experience, and based on advice I received over the years. I believe depression takes on many forms, to the point where one field may not have all the resources to cover all the bases. My case is an example of how medical intervention was able to rid me of my depression. In one of my four cases, I did need the help of a mental health professional. Life had thrown a curve ball, and a doctor was not going to help in that instance.

So with all that said my question is this – Why aren’t mental workers ruling out physical causes as part of their standard practice, and why aren’t Doctor referrals a regular occurrence in the mental health field? I’m not suggesting patients stop seeing their mental health workers, but I am asking why the two professions don’t work more often together.

I would like to mention that I am writing this article from Australia, so maybe this isn’t the case in other countries. Either way, I would love to hear your opinions, experiences and ideas.


Hope you enjoyed today’s post. I love reading and responding to everyone’s comments, so feel free to leave a comment of your own.

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Image Credit: Hey Paul Studios


  • saralitchfield
    February 23, 2014 - 4:23 pm · Reply

    A vey powerful and valuable question here. I’ve not suffered myself, but know people who have/do. It’s always confusing knowing what to do about it, but in some cases the pill has been to blame, in others physical causes, in others psychological. It seems to me conversation/referrals between professions could save time and suffering…

    • Katerina Simms
      February 23, 2014 - 4:36 pm · Reply

      Thanks Sara.

      I think the biggest thing I’d like people to get is that we really need to look at depression from multiple angles. And for suffers to improve we must throw everything we have at it!

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