What is depression?
How to deal with depression, the leading cause of disability in the world? Since it is a mental illness it can be much harder to understand than a physiological illness like obesity.
One of the major areas of confusion in most people is the difference between having depression and feeling sad. Life is a roller coaster of external circumstances.
Sometimes they are good, sometimes not so good. Thus a person might be happy one moment and sad the next. Sometimes you feel gloomy for no reason whatsoever. However, over time that sadness goes away.
That is not the case with depression. A person suffering from depression cannot get rid of that feeling of sadness. It interferes with the person’s ability to live.
“That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end.”― Elizabeth Wurtzel
Deal with depression, Difference between depression and sadness
The one major difference between sad and depressed people is that a sad person can usually tell us what they are sad about. A depressed person cannot do that.
They cannot point out the reason why they feel depressed day after day. The inability to point out to the reason they feel depressed might result in the people around them calling them a sympathy seeker or someone who simply likes to exaggerate their problems.
Thus even the people close to them such as their friends or relatives that are genuinely trying to help might end up being frustrated with little to no progress and push them away.
A depressed person ends up being sad about otherwise true things that we can all distract ourselves from such as life lacks all meaning or we are just a speck of dust in the wide universe, there is no point in life if eventually, we are all going to die anyway.
Another major difference between sadness and depression is that sad people are most times sad about something out there in the world.
Thus, most times the cause of sadness is something external.
Their own sense of self is not affected by the sadness they experience. Depressed people, however, are sad about internal factors. They feel distraught about their own sense of self.
As you read above depressed people are often undergoing feelings of guilt, shame, worthlessness. This is what escalates in suicidal tendencies since people depressed feel as if they are not worthy of self-love and deserving of self-loathing.
“There are times when explanations, no matter how reasonable, just don’t seem to help.”―Fred Rogers
Is depression just behavioral?
Depression is more than a behavioral change. The brain chemistry of a depressed person is different from others. Shrinking frontal lobe and Hippocampus are some of those changes.
Depression causes abnormal volumes of neurotransmitters in the brain such as Serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in the body.
It can also lead to an imbalance in hormone secretions of cortisol and thyroid hormones.
The symptoms of depression are not tangible; it is possible many people suffering from depression will look fine on the surface.
Studies show that almost half the population struggles from depression at some point in their life and yet it takes an average person almost 10 years to ask for help.
Deal with depression, what are the causes?
Well, we do not know yet. Clinical depression can be very different between patients. Researchers believe that the causes of clinical depression might be a combination of various factors including
If we look in terms of Genetics, people that have family members suffering from depression are much more likely to get clinically depressed themselves.
Biologically the study completely focusses on the neurotransmitters talked about above.
Antidepressants are the medications that increase volumes of Serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine between neurons. Increasing volumes of dopamine are widely known to cause an increase in pleasure and motivation.
Norepinephrine, when increased, gives more focus and attention to the subject and helps lowering levels of anxiety. Scientists believe that Serotonin might be responsible in regulating the other two neurotransmitters.
Environmental circumstances such as the loss of a loved one or a dysfunctional relationship might cause depression as well.
Psychological issues such as stress or anxiety over a sustained period are one of the major causes of depression.
You can read much more in-depth on stress and anxiety on our blog that talks about 5 ways about how can you deal with stress here.
How to know if someone is suffering from depression
Clinical depression or in other words known as Major Depressive disorder is the most common form of depression. If you suffer from 5 of the following 9 symptoms for 2 weeks or longer then according to the American Psychiatric Association, you are eligible for a diagnosis for clinical depression. Symptoms are as follows-
- 1) Feeling of sadness
- 2) Agitation or impairment, feeling sluggish mentally or physically
- 3) Feelings of Fatigue, loss of energy
- 4) Feelings of worthlessness and/or guilt
- 5) Changes in appetite and weight
- 6) Loss of interest in otherwise enjoyable activities
- 7) Drastic changes in sleep habits
- 8) Loss in concentration
- 9) Thoughts of suicide
“Depression lies. It tells you you’ve always felt this way, and you always will. But you haven’t, and you won’t. “― Halley Cornell
Deal with depression, Treatment
For mild cases
In mild cases, it is recommended that people experiencing depression try exercising. Regular physical activity up to at least 3 times a week helps to alleviate depression due to the increase in the body temperature and relaxation of muscles while you exercise.
A healthy diet is essential for people suffering from mild cases of depression. Ideally, one that contains green vegetables as well as fruits.
Hot water showers are proven to reduce stress and anxiety and might be helpful sometimes.
A way of treatment that is of great appeal to the pharmaceutical industry. Since the people, suffering from depression cannot point to a certain specific psychological cause the problem must be primarily related to brain chemistry that can be treated with pills.
To deal with depression, these pills can be taken temporarily. This provides a person relief from the symptoms of depression and helps them get better over time to the point where they do not need the pills as crutches for their illness.
The field of psychotherapy has been able to understand depression much more clearly. The premise behind is that the person that is suffering from depression though might believe that they are struggling from it without any cause.
However, they are not consciously aware of a deep-rooted cause. For the subject dealing with depression the cause might be so overwhelming to deal with that, they choose to be sad about everything rather than being extremely distraught about the deep-rooted cause.
Thus, depression is willing to stay depressed rather than having a realization, be it consciously or subconsciously. A depressed person, however, will not feel as if they lack any insight.
Thus, to deal with depression, it is important that the psychotherapist and the patient have a close bond they share with each other. For that, the person treating the subject has to be someone that they trust.
Other treatments to deal with depression
Often times a combination of psychotherapy and medication is useful in balancing brain chemistry and helping a patient out of depression however in severe cases might prove ineffective.
In those cases with written consent, Electro-convulsive therapy, which is effective in 50% of the patients, is used.
There are even newer treatments such as Transcranial magnetic stimulation presently under research and testing.
Helping people suffering from depression
A person that is depressed usually suffers from feelings of resentment and anger that should have been targeted on someone else.
The lack of realization of the cause of depression directs those feelings that should have been targeted towards an abusive parent or partner which is directed back at himself or herself.
Instead of realizing that someone else disappointed them, they begin to feel they lack self-worth. What people in depression need is people surrounding them that are empathetic and patient listeners.
That helps to reduce the stigma that surrounds asking for help and encourages them to seek treatment. By being empathetic, patient and accommodating to people that suffer from different forms of depression you build on trust.
“Depression is a medical condition. We need to create a world where people are as comfortable seeking care for their minds as they are for their bodies.”― Adam Grant
You might even help them find the therapists around you or even help them make a list of questions they can ask their doctor.
These small things might be what is holding them back. If they feel ashamed about their struggles, point out, gently that depression is a medical condition.
It is not something they can just will themselves out of just as they cannot will themselves out of a fever or stomach-ache.
These steps might help them seek help and over time come to terms with the underlying trauma that they cannot come to terms with.
This week try to help people that you know are struggling with depression. Have an open mind and do not undermine the issues that people suffering from depression feel.
When you try to compare times, you felt sad and overcame a period of grief with a person that is actually suffering from depression that can lead to feelings of guilt and shame in them on their inability to do so.
Instead, try to have genuine conversations with them about how they feel and be a good listener. The more we can openly talk about mental health and suicidal thoughts the more we reduce stigma on asking for help with depression.
As and when more people seek help, the more therapists will understand depression and come up with improved cures. I will end with a beautiful quote of Jean Paul.
“Life begins on the other side of despair.”― Jean-Paul Sartre
If you found value in the post above, we recommend that you share it with someone who is either himself or knows someone suffering from symptoms of depression.
We urge you to find more about what true callings are, you can read our free guide called The Perfect Beginning to find them.
I hope you have a good day and a good life.