Have you ever been diagnosed with depression or seriously suspected yourself of having it? Is there someone in your life struggling with it right now?
Even if you answered no to both of those questions, it’s still important that you educate yourself on matters of depression. There are a lot of harmful myths and misconceptions surrounding depression, but in learning more about it and making an effort to better understand it, you become more compassionate and better able to help those who may be suffering from it.
Depression is a mood disorder associated with persistently negative feelings that significantly affect our thoughts and behaviors. While it can happen to anyone at any age, it’s most common among teens and young adults, and women are at a higher risk for depression (APA, 2013).
With that said, here are 6 little-known facts that can help you better understand depression:
1. Depression is More Than Just Sadness
Sadness is a part of the natural spectrum of healthy human emotions that all of us experience at certain points in our lives. It’s natural to feel sad when we’re hurt, disappointed, or in distress, but the feeling often comes and goes. Everybody gets sad sometimes, but not everyone who does is necessarily depressed. Depression is far more chronic, persistent, and severe than your usual bout of sadness. A depressive episode can last up to months or even years at a time, especially if left untreated, and it needs to be treated with the help of a mental healthcare professional before it can get better.
2. Depression Can Be Sudden
Rarely ever does depression seem to have a “good reason” for it. A person can be wealthy, successful, smart, and attractive, but still suffer from this mental illness. To a lot of us, it can be hard to understand why someone with so much to be grateful for may suddenly fall victim to depression, but the terrifying truth is that it can happen to just about anyone. This is why depression is one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses out there, because even psychologists themselves have a hard time figuring out the reason behind it.
3. Depression Has A Lot of Causes
While there’s certainly no shortage on studies about depression in the field of psychology, researchers remain uncertain as to the true nature of depression and the causes behind it. Depression is believed to be caused by a combination of factors that range from biological (i.e. an imbalance in serotonin and dopamine), genetic (i.e. having a relative with depression), social (i.e. a lack of close interpersonal relationships), and environmental (i.e. being a victim of child abuse).
4. Depression Can Have Different Symptoms
Depression can manifest in a number of different ways in varying degrees among patients. While some people who are depressed lie in bed all day and sleep, there are those who suffer from insomnia and stay up all night. Some people lose their appetite and almost completely stop eating, while others start overeating and gain weight instead of losing it (like most patients with depression). There are times when physical symptoms (like fatigue, body aches, and migraines) become more prominent than emotional ones (like feelings of worthlessness, and loss of motivation and interest), or vice versa. In short, depression doesn’t always look the same way for everybody.
5. There Are Different Kinds of Depression
When people think of clinical depression, they often have a very simplistic view of it. They think that depression is all about feelings of sadness, lethargy, and hopelessness, and while that is true to some degree, there are actually many different kinds of depressive disorders. There’s major depressive disorder (the most severe kind of depression); persistent depressive disorder (the most chronic kind of depression); seasonal affective disorder (which only manifests for certain seasons every year), post-partum depression (which is common among new mothers), and disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (which is depression in children).
6. Depression is More Common Than You Think
Over 25% of people from all around the globe suffer from depression, making it the number one most prevalent mental illness in the world, so it should come as no surprise that depression is referred to as the “common cold of psychology”. A recent survey from the World Health Organization (2019) found that depression is actually the leading cause of disability worldwide, with majority of patients reporting that the mental illness is “the worst thing that’s ever happened to them.”
7. Depression is More Harmful Than You Think
Depression is a serious mental illness that can be just as dangerous and painful as any physical illness because it can negatively impact your life in a lot of ways. Depression drains your energy, destroys your self-esteem, and disrupts your normal eating and sleeping patterns. It can hurt your personal relationships, your work or academic performance, and both your physical and mental health most of all. This is why severe depression is so closely associated with self-harm and an increased risk of suicide. A good understanding of depression may help you save a life, be it your own or somebody else’s.
Depression is a very real and very serious illness, but it’s important to remember that no matter how bad it may get sometimes, there’s always hope that things will get better. So if you feel that you may be suffering from depression or know someone who is, don’t hesitate to reach out to a psychologist or a counselor to get the help you need.
- American Psychological Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th Ed. Washington, DC, USA: APA Publishing.
- National Alliance Against Mental Illness (2018). Mental Health by The Numbers. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers
- World Health Organization (2019). An Overview of Depression. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression
- National Institute of Mental Health Information (2018). Depression: Signs, Symptoms, Risk Factors, and Treatment. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml