Is It REALLY Depression?

Is this really depression?  Conditions that look like depression.“If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck.”  Or so the saying goes.

With symptoms of depression, it is not quite so clear.

Years ago, I had a client in my office who had been working to resolve her depression for years.  Medicine after medicine, doctor after doctor, therapist after therapist, all tried to resolve her depression.

There was little to no improvement.  In fact, it just seemed to be getting worse.

I asked a simple question:  “Have you had your bloodwork done?”

I sent her back to her doctor, and had her request one specific blood test.   My guess was right.  Her thyroid was not working correctly.  Many mental health professionals were so fixated on her depression that they missed the fact that it was an easily treated medical condition.

In this week’s podcast, I cover 8 other issues, medical and psychological, that look like depression — but are not depression and do not need to be treated like depression.

Here is why this is important:  before you treat “depression,” you want to make sure it is depression.  Medicine and psychotherapy do no good, if you are aiming at the wrong target.

Listen in as I discuss some “look alikes” that appear to be depression, but are not.

Other Podcasts in the Dealing With Depression Series:
Truths and Myths About DepressionWhat IS Depression?


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Anthony

    Hey Lee — I love your work and listen often. Wanted to clarify something.. you mention in the pod cast that “cortisol is the same thing as adrenaline”. While they are both part of the Stress Response system, they are certainly not “the same thing”. Two seperate chemicals that interact with the brain in unique ways. See:

    As someone who healed myself from a “Bipolar 1” diagnosis a couple years ago – without medication (by a path of Gratitude & Intimacy), it’s important to me that folks are clear on all the aspects that are going on inside of them.

    Keep up the good work and just wanted to make that clarification / distinction.

  • Anthony

    Also – I think the frame of “bipolar as a broken brain” is limiting and can do a lot of harm. Dr. Paris Williams does a great job of presenting a frame that explains the process and what is going on in Rethinking Madness. From my experience, depression & mania were a result of not allowing myself to fully feel certain emotions — they were strategies I was using to escape into a story of depression or fantasy of mania. When I made a conscious decision to start going into the most intense and painful emotions with gratitude, and to trust that all of my experience was valid — I began to heal. I am no longer diagnosable according to my team, despite what Western Psychiatry said was possible. Interestingly the World Health Organization completed a recent study on outcomes for folks with Schizophrenia / Psychosis and found that outcomes are inversely correlated with access to Western Psychiatry — that in the East, after an integration period of about 40 days, people returned stronger, more focused, with increased love, compassion and a message / mission they felt they needed to share with their tribe. This is the Christ / Shaman Motif that our wisdom traditions have taught for thousands of years, based on the observation of our actual behavior.

  • Lee H. Baucom, Ph.D.

    Anthony, thank you for that clarification. When I was addressing that, I clearly over-simplified the hormonal response to stress. Both cortisol AND adrenaline are stress hormones. Both have a necessary function in the body, and both can run rampant in our body, when we are exposed to a constant level of stress. We basically get frozen in fight-or-flight, until our system finally overwhelms and crashes.

    Thank you for the clarification.

  • Lee H. Baucom, Ph.D.

    Anthony, first, so glad to hear you were able to move beyond Bipolar.

    I must admit, I struggle with Bipolar. My real goal was to set depression aside as more treatable, and a different “beast” than Bipolar. While there has been success, in many (but not all) cases of Bipolar, for pharmaceutical intervention, this is less so with depression. I do think there is a difference between the two.

    In my career, I have watched a number of people move from a diagnosis of Bipolar to “no longer diagnosable.” Many times, the doctors assume it was a mis-diagnosis. But I think something else is happening. For you, you found a way through it. That takes conviction and clarity.

    My hope is that people suffering from depression find an easier path through.

    I will discuss a protocol for moving through depression (not Bipolar) next week.

  • Stacey Siedlecki Krajci

    I’ve listened to your Save The Marriage podcast for well over a year and just discovered Thriveology a couple of weeks ago. I was particularly interested in this set of podcasts about depression. First off, I am a pharmacist of 22 years, so obviously I see patients every day dealing with it. I am also someone who suffers from it and have been treated (in my opinion) successfully with medication. I initially was a bit defensive when I started to listen to you talk about how medication really doesn’t work…however…the more I listened the more I realized how correct you are in saying that there is more to it than just a supposed chemical imbalance. You see, my husband has been struggling with what has been diagnosed as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. This has affected his work and home life for several years (hence my interest in the Save The Marriage podcast). He’d been treated with 2 different anti-depressants over the past 7-8 years with little success. This got me thinking about your statement about differential diagnoses for depression. So…my question to you is this: do you think depression is the RESULT of the fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome…or is it the CAUSE?

  • Lee H. Baucom, Ph.D.

    Hi Stacey,
    Glad you found me here!
    I understand your initial reaction. For a short while, I worked in a psychiatrist’s office. I had drug reps talking to me every day. It all sounded so good. . . until I was working with clients on med after med, with no change. Then, I started digging. The results just were not encouraging.
    Like you, some people do find relief through meds. The drug studies do show that for a certain percentage, they will improve. For most meds, the results, though, are not much better than the placebos. I am glad you found relief.
    I really have 2 parallel concerns. First is our tendency to jump to medication. I see it in healthcare. Diabetes and high blood pressure are two examples. Lifestyle changes could make huge difference. But often, the prescription is the first line of defense. And with it, many side-effects.
    My second concern is there are many people who take the meds, get no improvement, try another, and repeat for months — all without any relief. Yet there are some pretty clear, clinically proven, ways to cope with and move beyond depression. My next podcast has the protocol I have seen to be effective.
    As to your question about fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and depression: I think we are going to discover that depression is not a single issue. I believe we will find many different causes: broken thought processes, infections, inflammation, and several other contributing factors. So, in some ways, it becomes a chicken or egg argument. I think it is both/and.
    Thank you for commenting!