4 Reasons Why Depression DOESN’T Make You A Bad Person

Battling depression can get so exhausting and lonely. Dealing with stigma and stereotypes makes it even harder. Those who don’t understand depression sometimes say depressed people are lazy, boring, gloomy, unfriendly… and lots of other hurtful adjectives. Did you have to deal with this before? Do you believe those words to be true? 

Hopefully not, because according to research, depression does NOT make you a bad person! It doesn’t take away the good things about you! In some cases, your depression might make you stronger than ever. After all, you know what they say about life – “without pain and discomfort, we can’t grow.” 

So with this video, we want to fight the stigma! We want you to know that even in your darkest days, you are a wonderful, talented and valuable person. If you don’t believe us, keep watching and find out why that’s true!

DISCLAIMER: Please know that we are not trying to romanticize depression! It is a serious mental illness, and we are rooting for you to get better. The purpose of this video is to help fight the stereotypes about depression, and to make those who suffer from it feel better about themselves. Because everyone deserves to feel good about themselves, even if they’re fighting a mental illness. Information in this video is meant to inform and educate, and it doesn’t serve as a diagnostic or therapeutic tool. If you think you may have depression, please talk to a mental health professional to get the help you deserve.

1. A helping hand

Experiencing depression can make you a great listener and a supportive friend. Because you’ve been dealing with the pain for so long, you get familiar with it. So when somebody opens up to you, you’re able to understand them. You know how hard life gets sometimes, and it makes you warm and empathetic when someone else is struggling. 

Research in psychology confirmed that depressed people can show greater empathy for others. A 2017 study published in journal Frontiers in Psychology showed that the more depressed people are, the more intensely they react when seeing people in distress. Seeing other people’s pain makes them feel pain as well.

This empathy can sometimes push you into helping others or volunteering. And if you decide to invest your time in volunteer work, you can feel a lot better! A 2013 study published in the Journal of Economic Psychology suggests that volunteers with low levels of happiness may feel happier after helping others. So, it’s a win-win situation!

Do people often come to you for advice? And do you feel closer to those who also struggle?

2. No rose-colored glasses

Do you consider yourself a pessimist? Or maybe you think you’re just being realistic?

Psychologists Lauren Alloy and Lyn Yvonne Abramson came up with an interesting hypothesis called depression realism. They think that a depressive mood can make your thoughts about the world and yourself more accurate and realistic. It could be that, because you don’t look at life through rose-colored glasses, you’re more likely to see both the positive and negative sides of a situation.

The theory of depression realism is still being researched, but some newer studies show that depressed individuals do have more realistic views. For example, a 2011 study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology showed that depressed people tend to make better, more rational choices. Another study published in the journal Psychological science suggests that depression makes you focus on the details of a situation, improving your analytical thinking skills. 

Do you think it’s possible that these results happened because of depression realism?

3. Judges of character

Struggling with a depressive mood can also help you read people’s intentions better. An interesting 2008 experiment published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology showed that depression makes you a great judge of character. Happy and sad participants were shown a videotape of an interrogation of a person accused of theft. They had to decide if the person was guilty or innocent. The results showed that those in a sad mood detected deception much better than happy participants. They were also better at recognizing fake facial expressions when the thief tried to lie their way out. The authors of the study believe that this happens because sad people hold negative experiences in their memory, so it’s easier for them to access them when they need to make a social judgment.

You may not be invited to participate in a jury, but judging others’ intentions is still important in everyday life. You might be able to avoid manipulative people, fake friends, or liars. 

Would you say you’re able to recognize when someone is lying to you? Also, could your depression make you more careful when starting an interaction with strangers?

4. Creative spirit

Do you sometimes turn to art when you’re depressed? Feeling such deep emotions, even if it’s sadness, can unleash your creative spirit. That’s when pieces of touching and beautiful art can be born out of depression. Writing poetry, singing or drawing may help you deal with your emotions. That’s probably why so many great artists suffered from depression as well.

A 2010 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders analyzed the writings of the German writer and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The authors of the study concluded that, if Goethe visited a therapist in today’s society, the elements of his writing wouldn’t be considered just a “poet’s melancholy”. The way he wrote showed he may have suffered from mood swings and depressive episodes.

A more common example of a famous depressed artist is Vincent van Gogh. It’s said that he painted The Starry Night while looking through the window in a mental hospital. While his mental illness eventually made him cut off his ear, it also made him leave an everlasting legacy for us to admire.

What do you think, why are depressed people usually highly creative? Do you think they see the world differently than others? We’d like to spark a discussion, so let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Closing thoughts

In the end, we need to answer a few questions. Does this mean you have to suffer from depression to have these qualities? Will you change after you recover and leave depression behind? Not at all! It’s not depression in itself that makes you empathetic, realistic, creative… It is the fact that you develop these skills in order to survive! And once you recover completely, you’ll still be the same amazing person, only much happier! We’re rooting for you!

References:

Alloy, L. B., & Abramson, L. Y. (1988). Depressive realism: Four theoretical perspectives. In L. B. Alloy (Ed.), Cognitive processes in depression (pp. 223–265). The Guilford Press.

Binder, M., & Freytag, A. (2013, February). Volunteering, subjective well-being and public policy. Journal of Economic Psychology, 34, 97–119. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joep.2012.11.008

Cao Y, Dingle G, Chan GCK, Cunnington R. Low Mood Leads to Increased Empathic Distress at Seeing Others’ Pain. Front Psychol. 2017 Nov 20;8:2024. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02024. PMID: 29209256; PMCID: PMC5702010.

Forgas, J. P., & East, R. (2008, September). On being happy and gullible: Mood effects on skepticism and the detection of deception. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44(5), 1362–1367. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2008.04.010

Gasper, K., & Clore, G. L. (2002, January). Attending to the Big Picture: Mood and Global Versus Local Processing of Visual Information. Psychological Science, 13(1), 34–40. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9280.00406

Holm-Hadulla, R. M., Roussel, M., & Hofmann, F. H. (2010, December). Depression and creativity — The case of the german poet, scientist and statesman J. W. v. Goethe. Journal of Affective Disorders, 127(1–3), 43–49. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2010.05.007

von Helversen, B., Wilke, A., Johnson, T., Schmid, G., & Klapp, B. (2011, November). Performance benefits of depression: Sequential decision making in a healthy sample and a clinically depressed sample. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 120(4), 962–968. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0023238

Cover photo by Tim Mossholder

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