What is Depression?
Depression can be defined as feelings of severe despondency, dejection, and inadequacy. However, depression is a multi-faceted mental health condition. That is, there are many different types of depressive disorders. The most common ‘type’ of depression is known as major depressive disorder. Depression is more than just a low mood, it is a serious mental health condition that affects an individuals physical and mental well-being. Symptoms of depression include, but are not limited to:
• Things seeming ‘off’
• Not feeling hopeful or happy at anything, even big milestones
• Crying for no apparent reason/for an insignificant reason
• Feeling as though you are moving in slow motion
• Finding it difficult to maintain a ‘normal’ conversation
• Having difficulty making simple decisions
• Feeling ‘out of love’ with a spouse or partner
• Becoming forgetful
• You have recurring thoughts of death or suicidal ideations
• You feel as though you are suffocating.
• Your senses seem dulled
• Feelings of anxiety
Although mental health disorders have become increasingly accepted, there still exists stigma surrounding ‘depression;’ specifically in men. The following article will address five commonly told myths about depression.
1. Depressed people are miserable and alone.
Although it is true that people with depression might lack an extensive support network, people with depression are not necessarily alone. Many people who have been experiencing depression are surrounded by friends and family. Sadly, family members of those who have ended their lives due to depression, can be completely unaware that their loved one had been suffering.
2. People who are depressed, look depressed.
Unfortunately, people living with depression will likely become victims of the stigma and stereotypes that exist in today’s society. People with depression are often referred to, or thought of as having poor hygiene, wearing dirty clothes, having un kept hair, or always looked ‘tired.’ These stereotypes, are in fact just that: stereotypes. Assuming that all people with depression will look a certain way, is like assuming that all ‘cancer patients’ look a certain way, all ‘women’ will look the same, or all ‘teachers’ will look the same. As is the case with any disorder, profession, gender, race, or illness, each presentation will be different.
3. Depression is something everyone feels.
Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. In a single year, approximately one million Australian adults will experience depression. Furthermore, depression affects roughly 14.8 million American adults in any given year, which amounts to 6.7% of the American population. These statistics are extremely concerning and highlight the further need for positive psychological well-being. However, regardless, these statistics do not suggest that everyone experiences depression. In fact, ‘I am so depressed’ is one of the most commonly used phrases to date by individuals who are not experiencing a mental illness. It is our relaxed approach to this terminology that softens the severity of what people who are actually experiencing depression, are going through. Everyone might feel ‘sad’ or ‘down’ at times, however not everyone feels depression. Moreover, depression is not actually a feeling, it is a psychological condition that effects your daily functioning, and creates a complete sense of hopelessness and despair.
4. Being depressed just means you’re in a bad mood.
As previously stated, everyone will feel ‘down’ or ‘sad’ on occasion, especially when things are not going as planned. But, depression is more than a bad mood or sadness; depression is a serious psychological illness. An episode of depression can last over two weeks, during which an individual feels miserable most of the day, nearly everyday. People with severe depression often find it extremely difficult to cope with daily tasks, and if left untreated, these feelings can last for months. Contrastingly, a bad mood is a sensation that lasts a few hours. This difference in itself highlights the substantial difference between depression and a ‘bad mood.’
5. There is always reason behind why someone is depressed.
There is not simple answer to ‘what causes depression.’ Often, it is a combination of events or triggers that a person experiences. Research has indicated that ongoing difficulties, such as long term unemployment, substance use, chronic illness, or poverty, increase the likelihood of depression. Furthermore, there exists research which suggests a genetic contribution to depression. However, there is often no obvious reason for the onset of depression. It might be a small trigger that results in a snowball effect of emotions.
While we do not currently know what the reason behind depression is, a number of factors are often linked to its development. Depression usually results from a combination of recent events and other longer-term or personal factors, rather than one immediate trigger. These factors include: a family history of depression, family conflict, past trauma, death, relationship break down, unemployment, financial stress, childbirth, substance use, lack of social support, and increased stress.