We Know How To Diagnose Depression. Why Don't We Know How To Talk About It?

The lack of a clear definition for depression leaves it largely misunderstood.

As society continues to fight the stigma of depression, it's important to define exactly what that word means. A panel of experts joined HuffPost Live to discuss why the clinical meaning of the illness doesn't translate so easily to the way we talk about depression in the culture.

"For a long time in the public mainstream, we've talked about depression through the symptoms we can see," said Jenny Chen, an independent journalist who recently wrote about the stigma of the word for The Atlantic, "and have turned it into something that pop culture has kind of blown up into something that means a lot of different things, from sadness to a real clinical illness."

While depression shouldn't be minimized to simply mean "sad," the definition remains unclear among professionals because of the multiplicity of manifestations the disorder has, according to Scott Stossel, author of My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind.

"Really what we're talking about is a form of emotional distress that can be felt as sadness or numbness or somaticized symptoms. And the existing definition of depression sometimes fails to capture that in an effective way that's useful clinically," Stossel said.

Watch experts discuss the status of depression across public and professional standards, and check out the full segment on redefining depression in America on HuffPost Live.

If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.

Also on HuffPost:

Christian Hopkins Depression Photo Series