How To Deal With Depression
And Conquer Negative Emotion
Depression is a destroyer.
And even though depression is usually only associated with feelings of sadness and feeling down, the reality is much more complicated. It is one of the most common, yet, sadly, one of the most misunderstood conditions.
As to just how prevalent the problem is, The WHO (World health Organization) estimates that a staggering 300 million people suffer from depression around the world.
Not only this this a huge number, but this means that around 15% of the adult population has to deal with a major depressive episode at least once in their lifetime. (source).
Yet to understand what depression is, first we must understand what it isn't.
We need to have a little talk about myths.
The misconception surrounding depression is still quite prevalent and can pose a huge challenge for people going through a depressive phase: their symptoms, more often than not, are disregarded as "feeling blue".
This lack of understanding has stigmatized this very real mental health issue which has provide quite detrimental to raising awareness and trying to cure the actual condition.
It is absolutely essential to be clear on the nature of depression, if we are to propose ways to cope with it.
Myths About Depression
Misconceptions surrounding depression is still quite prevalent and can pose a huge challenge for people going through a depressive phase as their symptoms, more often than not, are disregarded as ‘feeling blue’.
This lack of understanding has stigmatized this very real mental health issue which has proven quite detrimental to raising awareness and trying to cure the actual condition.
It is absolutely essential to be clear on the nature of depression if we are to propose ways to cope with it.
Misconceptions are important for people going through depression, and people who know someone going through depression, to understand.
If you are going through it, we have to ensure that you aren't falling prey to the cultural idea that you're just feeling down, or that something is wrong with you.
So here are some myths... and the truth.
The True Nature Of Depression
Once the myths are busted and one faces the reality of the issue, its breadth and depth, the urgency to cope with the disease comes into perspective.
In the developed world, where science has eliminated most viral diseases, such as polio and measles, or found cures for many others like tuberculosis, depression as a mental health issue still poses a serious challenge.
Depression is not simply an organ malfunctioning or a viral disease that can be combated using anti-biotics. It is more like a cancerous tumour, which is malignant and keeps coming back and which requires multiple techniques to cure or, at minimum, to cope with.
So how do we deal with this malignant black dog that gnaws at us every chance it gets? Since the nature of depression is quite complicated and multifaceted, the treatment must reflect this complexity.
Depression can be recurring. So one day an individual may feel fine, but the very next day the onset of depression may be so bad that they find it impossible to get out of bed. Also there are different kinds of depressions.
Aside from the major depression which is hard to ignore and quite obvious, a lot of people suffer from the persistent depressive disorder which is more hidden.
It can be a silent killer, sucking away the happiness in an individual’s life over extended periods of time. Sufferers can go through life without ever figuring out what is wrong with them. (source).
There are other kinds as well. Bipolar disorder is an affective disorder where the sufferer has episodes of deep depression intervened by episodes of extreme elation or mania.
In their manic state people feel they can conquer the world, but in their depressive state they feel like utterly useless and worthless. Winston Churchill is a famous example of a person with bipolar disorder.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is the kind of depression which is triggered by changes in the weather. Usually as winter approaches and the natural light of the sun is present for shorter periods of time, this can have an adverse effect on the mood and emotions of people.
Occasionally, there is a view that only women suffer from depression. This is totally wrong.
Yet there are types of depressions that are only experienced by women: these include peripartum depression, which is depression felt by women during or after pregnancy, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder, depression preceding a woman’s period.
Since women’s bodies go through major hormonal changes at certain periods of their life, the hormonal imbalance can result in mood swings and in some cases be magnified into full-blown episodes of depression.
Whatever the cause may be, we want to show you something:
There is hope.
The Light Before The End Of The Tunnel
It can feel like depression is all consuming and impossible to escape, but we have good news:
It can be beaten.
The good news is that although it is just as serious as one imagines it to be, depression is nonetheless curable. There is light before you get to the end of the tunnel, no matter how dark or how long that tunnel might seem.
The dark clouds of depression can eventually part and shine a ray of sun shine. Make no mistake though; it is not an easy road.
Extreme effort will need to be made at times when effort feels nearly impossible. For sufferers of depression, taking action can be especially difficult as they find doing daily task a huge burden.
But depression’s very own nature is a downward spiral and the only way to get out of it is to push oneself up. The road to full recovery consists of a number of different steps, including these:
The use of antidepressants has grown popular in recent years.
Antidepressants are medications used to alter the brain chemistry and alleviate the symptoms of depression and it's not hard to see why they're popular:
Research has shown that 70-90% of patients report alleviation of their depression with antidepressants. (source).
However, there are many different kinds of medications available and some are better suited than others for each individual. Also, in general, drugs should be used with caution.
Not only do they have side effects but they can also result dependency and addiction. Antidepressants in particular can have some negative side effects, including withdrawal problems, weight gain, sexual dysfunction, and "emotional numbness". (source).
So while antidepressants may help alleviate symptoms, the intake of antidepressants, especially in children, needs to be closely checked, specifically for suicidal tendencies. (source).
The bottom line is that drugs should be used with caution and their effects need to be monitored. In addition to this, many patients do not respond to medications alone. There is often a need for more than simply popping a pill. Other options include...
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive therapy is a type of psychotherapy that aims at improving the thinking of people suffering with depression.
Since negative thought processes and bad thoughts are common in depression, cognitive therapy is targeted towards changing those thoughts.
The patient works along with a therapist in identifying the negative thought processes and realizing how unrealistic they are. (source).
Apart from documenting negative feelings and false perceptions, patients are required to act out difficult situations. While this may sound strange, it is surprisingly useful.
The idea is to help the patients view difficult and depressive situations by simulating them and analysing them in the absence of the emotional stress involved the first time those emotional events occurred.
For example, a patient might be asked to re-enact an argument with their spouse which may have aggravated their depressive state.
Since the argument is now being acted out in a different setting, with different environmental and emotional cues, the level of stress felt may be lower.
The patient is able to achieve a greater level of clarity and understanding.
This reprocessing and reassessment ability enables a patient to change the way they think. Their fundamental beliefs, self-perceptions and the behaviors that stem from those negative thoughts need to be changed.
Once negative thoughts and self-deprecating beliefs are altered, the patient’s emotional state greatly improves. Self-inflictive behaviors, such as cutting, self-harm, etc, may also change as person realizes their own self-worth.
While CBT can be effective and involves little to no side effects, it is not always effective. CBT relies heavily upon a patient’s own willingness to co-operate and change.
As a result, motivated individuals do far better than those lacking in motivation, which is common in depression.
CBT is also a long-term process and results are not apparent overnight.
It is a slow (sometimes painful) process as the patient tries to delve through the layers of pessimism and self-hate and attempts to re-evaluate their basic beliefs about the world around them.
Other solutions may be needed.
Being active and getting a move on can do wonders for patients suffering from depression. Regular exercise not only helps maintain physical well-being by increasing stamina, toning the muscles and increasing flexibility, it also has positive effects on the emotions. When a person exercises the brain releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins improves the mood and gives a feeling of happiness. Exercising provides a kind of a high self esteem.
Aside from the neurochemical impact, regular exercise can lead a person to feel motivated about taking care of their body. Patients with depression tend to ignore their well-being and may not practice proper hygiene as they do not feel worthy. A simple thing like daily exercise can help change that self-perception and encourage the individual to focus on improving their health both physically and mentally.
People with depression tend to feel cut off and trapped. The poet Sylvia Plath described her episodes of depression as being held under a bell jar, which made her unable to communicate with people outside the bell jar (basically everyone else) and them being unable to understand her.
While it is true that depression is hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it and it can result in feelings of being misunderstood, isolation is not the answer.
Socializing and talking to people may seem like the most difficult thing to do. However, the things in life that seem most difficult are often the things that we need to do the most.
Socializing is so effective at eliminating depression that, while not being the only cure, Johann Hari's research in his book Lost Connections indicates that strengthening our social connections may be the strongest tool we have in the fight against depression.
Strengthening social connections works in several ways. Once we get to know more people, we can open up and see that we are not the only ones struggling with life. We can see that our hopelessness and feelings of helplessness are unrealistic. Once that realization is achieved, it is easier to take steps to change harmful attitudes.
Just talking about feelings and sharing our despair with loved ones can be a very positive thing. People with depression commonly feel embarrassed of their condition, as they believe they are somehow weak or abnormal. They try to hide the fact that they are dealing with crushing depression. Patients try to put on a brave face and act normal.
While "toughing it out" is a short-term solution, it can be very detrimental. As a person fakes happiness, the feelings of emptiness only grow. The hopelessness and helplessness only build up. That person will feel increasingly isolated and cut off from the world because they are withholding a storm within their mind.
In many ways, it is impossible for a person who is hiding their true emotions to make authentic friends: how can your friends love you for who you are if they don't know who you are?
For that reason, being expressive, crying, shouting, and letting it out is much better. Sure, you may lose a few friends. But any friends who leave you because of how you feel aren't truly friends anyways. Keeping emotions bottled up is not a healthy solution. Having just a single confidante that you can reach out to is enough.
The power of social connection is so powerful that the simple act of keeping a pet can impact a person’s life positively. Caring for a pet takes mind off harmful thoughts and helps form true loving relationships. And since animals are not judgmental, there isn't any reason to fear social isolation from them.
Connecting To Meaningful Work
Following ones’ passions and taking up a new hobby can have a positive effect on the mood of a depressed individual. Knitting, reading books, cooking, basically anything a person enjoys can give a feeling of happiness and fulfillment that can be extremely rewarding.
The act of doing something that one likes not only makes a person happy but also drives away the laziness commonly felt in a bout of depression. Traveling, picking flowers, watching birds, fishing, etc are all activities that connect us with the world, with nature and give a feeling of calmness.
The internal turmoil of a depressive mind can be pacified, it only requires a bit of effort and help.
The Bottom Line
What is extremely revealing about depression is its intensity and prevalence. The stigma attached to depression makes it hard for people to understand it and for the sufferers to accept it.
But the road to recovery only begins with the recognition of the problem.
Identifying one’s mental state as depressive is key. Once that step is taken, the path, in no time, becomes easier. In fact, it becomes extremely pleasing. Then, with the medication, emotional support, and self-motivation, it can be overcome.
But there is no silver bullet that can be used to counter depression; it is complex condition requiring a mixed set of complementary treatment techniques. Treatment must be consistent and, if the depression is recurring, constant.
But it is treatable. With the right tools and right tactics, depression can be defeated. The big, bad black dog can be tamed and chained.
Thanks for reading!
Depression is not an easy battle, and certainly not a fun one, but it is a struggle that can be conquered; it is a journey where, at the end, you will be much stronger.
If you'd like to read more on the topic, I recommend our post How To Be Happy With Your Life to bring a lot of these tactics to life and make them easy to follow (including tactics to make friends).
I also recommend Lost Connections by Johann Hari. In my opinion, it is the single greatest book for understanding, diagnosing, and overcoming depression.
Let me know in the comments: what have you found that helps your depression?
Stay awesome. Have a great day.
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