What do we call a person who is suffering from depression?

Usually I hear "X has depression" but can I say *"X is a 'depressive'"?

I have heard the word depressive used as a noun before; but I'm not sure if it is right.

We do use diabetic to describe someone who has diabetes, so is there a parallel word there?

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    I think the current preference is to avoid using any words of that form, and sticking to 'person with Y', because a person is still first and foremost a person.
    – Jessica B
    Dec 20, 2015 at 21:34
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    @JessicaB You are right, in fact I have depression. I was just curious and in certain conversations (like support groups) it becomes redundant to say "we people with depression " over and over agian
    – Bunny
    Dec 20, 2015 at 23:57
  • Should we avoid "parent" and say "person with children" for the same reason?
    – phoog
    Jun 18, 2016 at 4:25

2 Answers 2


I have heard the word depressive used as a noun before but I'm not sure it is right.

Yes, it is right (especially in the plural). For example:

Depressed mood is often associated with a variety of physiological maladies, and many depressives are burdened with an assortment of ailments ranging from migraine, colitis, and allergies, to endocrine disorders and menstrual disturbances. [link]

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    Link is to a book dating back over a quarter of a century, though; see my comment on Rathony's answer. Dec 20, 2015 at 20:13
  • @BrianDonovan: Yes -- nouns like "depressive" and "diabetic" have become less common in recent years. But since the OP is specifically holding up "diabetic" as an example, and seeking a parallel word, I don't see that as a problem.
    – ruakh
    Dec 20, 2015 at 20:20
  • FYI, you can specify POS in Ngram thus. Dec 20, 2015 at 20:26

Edit: as commented by Brian Donovan, the two words suggested below seem to be archaic. The best candidate could be a depressed person or depressed people in plural which are more broadly used nowadays.

Melancholiac is a person:

suffering from melancholia or depression: He argues that the melancholiac's self-loathing disguises a hostility towards the lost, beloved object, indicating an underlying ambivalence towards it.

Depressive could also be used:

A person suffering from or tending to suffer from depression: Phase-advancing sleep may be a useful treatment for depressives who eschew medication.

[Oxford Online Dictionary]


a mental condition and especially a manic-depressive condition characterized by extreme depression, bodily complaints, and often hallucinations and delusions


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    Harking back as it does to late classical, medieval, and Renaissance humoral psychology, melancholiac strikes me as archaic to a fault. I did use to hear and read patients with what we now call bipolar illness (bipolar for short) termed manic depressives, but that too seems dated. My sense is that the discourse of psychopathology has intentionally trended away from nominating persons according to their diagnoses. Dec 20, 2015 at 20:08
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    @BrianDonovan So is a diabetic clinic no longer kosher? Must we say diabetes clinic? How about amputees, paraplegics etc?
    – WS2
    Dec 20, 2015 at 21:51
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    My comment addresses neither terms for modifying nouns such as clinic, nor terms for sufferers from any but mental illnesses. Dec 20, 2015 at 22:02

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