Depression: the ambivalence of diagnosis

Gillian Bendelow, Renata Kokanovic, Brigid Philip

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The diagnosis of depression in the clinical context is extremely controversial and is subject to criticism of over-medicalisation and pharmaceuticalisation. Depression can be conceptualised across the entire spectrum of lay and medical belief, from the 'normal' highs and lows of the human condition to its inclusion in the dominant Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classificatory system, as a form of serious mental illness. In this context, a better understanding of how people describe, experience, negotiate and participate in the process of diagnosis is needed. This article draws on qualitative interviews to explore lay accounts of being diagnosed with depression. The findings reveal that lay accounts of depression vacillate in and out of the medicalised discourse of depression, highlighting the limitations of the biomedical approach to diagnosis and treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-390
Number of pages14
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2013


  • depression
  • diagnosis
  • lay accounts


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