If we listen to the people around us, it would seem that everybody has gone through it.
We all talk about it, but again who really knows what it is to go through a depression experience? Not to be down for a couple of days, not to feel sad, to actually have depression.
Everyone has and will experience tough times, sad thoughts or unhappiness. We will all lose people we love or have important relationships that will come to an end and make us very sad.
These moments can put you more at risk to Depression, but it doesn’t mean you will actually experience Depression.
Sometimes, Depression just appears, it arises suddenly and inexplicably, no matter how well your life seems to be going.
The stigma around Depression
Before anything, let’s begin with what matters the most here: Depression is a real mental illness experience.
People living with depression are not faking it, they are not lazy, and they are not asking for attention. Not only that Depression is a very difficult experience to live, it is one of the leading causes of disease all around the world and saying that it can lead to death is not a bad joke.
Depression can be the symptom of another illness experience, physical or mental, or it can be the main experience as people going through a major depressive disorder experience.
This is one of the most common mental illness experiences worldwide but it is still a very stigmatized one. Many people believe this is not real and will say things like “If you’d just smile when you wake up, you’d see life isn’t that bad”, “You have nothing to be sad about, just put things into perspective a bit!”, “What do you mean you can’t get out of bed? Just stop being so lazy!” and it could go on for pages.
Depression is not something you can control; it is not something you could just snap out of with a bit more of motivation. It is not something people choose, or that appears because you allowed yourself to be sad or to grief for example, and it is not something that is going to go away with positive thinking.
Depression is not a sign of the person being lazy, or just seeking attention, it is a medical condition where your brain’s chemistry, function, and/or structure are negatively affected by environmental or biological factors.
I don’t want to talk about whether you have to take an antidepressant or not, because this is different for each person. What is certain, is that sometimes you need an antidepressant to recover. Some people need other medical interventions, some even need brain surgery (yes, I did interview someone who has recovered after almost 30 years of depression with a brain surgery!), some will only need therapy. No matter what you need, there is help out there!
The last common mistake about Depression is to believe it only affects women. Nowadays women are more open about their feelings, but that doesn’t mean men don’t experience depression! They do and they are even more at risk than women because they are more likely to commit suicide.
I hope now, you understand that it is not because someone has Depression or had depression that they are a lesser friend, lover or person.
Depression is not contagious; you can talk about it without fear. Oh, and should I add here, that it’s not a demon that took possession of them or God punishing them because they did something wrong? No, it’s not (as it is not with any mental illness experience, by the way)!
To be diagnosed with Depression
Now, that I’ve put it all here, what is depression? The American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that depression (major depressive disorder) is “a common and serious medical illness” affecting how a person feels and behaves in society.
People experiencing depression may exhibit multiple symptoms such as:
- Sadness and frustration.
- Slow-moving and slow thinking or fast-moving and over-thinking.
- Extreme fatigue and loss of memory.
- Loss of interest in social activities.
- Weight loss or weight gain.
- Insomnia or oversleeping.
- Suicidal tendencies.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) also lists a number of depression disorders that develop under particular circumstances. Among them are:
- Persistent depressive disorder – Lasting at least two years. People with persistent depressive disorder often alternate major and minor episodes of depression.
- Peripartum depression – Before or after delivery (also known as postpartum depression). People going through peripartum depression experience extreme fatigue and deep sadness. Such symptoms often prevent new mothers to care for their newborn children.
- Seasonal depression – During the winter months. People experience seasonal depression when in need of natural sunlight. Seasonal depression often leads to social isolation and weight gain.
- Bipolar disorder – different from depression but included in the list because individuals with bipolar disorder also experience major depression–like episodes.
What Causes Depression?
Concerning the potential causes of depression, researchers have identified the following factors:
- Genetics. If one member of the family has experienced depression, other members of the family are more likely to experience it. (This doesn’t mean that because one of your parents or siblings has experienced it, you will automatically do too!)
- Brain malformation – i.e. neurotransmitter abnormalities.
- Socio-cultural environment. People exposed to violence, abandonment and economic distress are prone to develop depression.
- Personality traits. Lack of confidence and low self-esteem people are more at risk to experience depression.
- 4.4% of the population experiences depression worldwide.
- Yearly, 800 000 people with depression commit suicide.
- In the US over 7% of people have experienced depression at least once in a lifetime.
- The number of people with depression rose by 18% between 2005 and 2015.
- Women are more likely to experience depression than men are (5.1% vs 3.6%).