Have you ever experienced a profound feeling of worthlessness and self-doubt?
Have you ever lost all interest in the activities that used to bring you joy and satisfaction?
Have you ever felt so demotivated that even taking a shower and putting on clean clothes seemed like a herculean task?
Have you ever been in a position where life seemed so painful and overwhelming that you could not find any reasons to keep on going?
This is just a glimpse of what people living with depression have to endure on an almost daily basis.
Considering that roughly 1 out of 20 people suffer from depression, the chances of meeting – if you haven’t already met – someone who’s dealing with this problem are pretty high.
Perhaps there’s already someone among your friends, family, or coworkers who are in a constant battle with this unpleasant and burdensome mood disorder.
Before you rush to provide support, there are a couple of things you need to understand about depression. Otherwise, you risk doing more harm than good.
Let’s start with what depression is and how it can ruin someone’s life.
What is Depression?
Depression is a psychological condition characterized by symptoms such as insomnia, sadness, apathy, lack of appetite, anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure in normally pleasurable activities), low motivation, and lack of focus.
Unfortunately, this condition often passes unnoticed and undiagnosed, either because symptoms are often hard to recognize or because depression sufferers avoid asking for help out of fear of being stigmatized or labeled as ‘crazy.’
Depression is among the most prevalent mental health disorders. For example, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 8% of American adults suffer from depression. That’s almost 1 in 12 Americans dealing with a problem that impacts their personal and professional life in a profoundly negative manner.
What’s even more troubling is that 37% of those living with depression do not receive any form of treatment.
Often, the first symptoms of depression manifest at a physiological level, with no apparent link to an underlying mental disorder. For example, you might begin to feel tired, ‘slow,’ perhaps a bit moody and before you know it, you can’t even muster up the energy and motivation to make your bed.
What People With Depression Really Want You to Understand
#1 Depression is not sadness
Let’s make one thing clear right from the start – DEPRESSION IS NOT SADNESS.
Sadly, the terms ‘depression’ and ‘sadness’ are used alternately, as if they were synonyms. Although sadness is one of the primary symptoms of depression, there’s a massive difference between feeling sad and being depressed.
We all feel sad sometimes; it’s part of our human nature. But when sadness stretches over several weeks (or months), then we can no longer talk about a passing ‘bad’ mood.
In other words, while sadness is an emotional state, depression is a mood disorder that includes a large variety of symptoms that affect our personal, social, and professional life.
Mistaking depression for sadness can have a profoundly negative impact on the sufferer. Not only that it minimizes the harmful effects of this condition but also reinforces the belief that people don’t generally understand what it’s like to suffer from depression.
#2 Depression is not a sign of weakness
When depression takes over every aspect of your life, routine tasks such as taking out the trash or washing the dishes begin to feel like major challenges.
From other people’s perspective, this may look a lot like laziness, lack of discipline, or proof of a weak character.
Because of this faulty interpretation, some people end up believing that depression is a sign of weakness; a problem that only affects people who aren’t ‘mature’ or ‘strong’ enough to stand tall in the face of adversity.
Truth be told, even the strongest and most resilient of us can quickly fall victim to this unforgiving and mental disorder.
People living with depression already struggle with low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness. Let’s not make things worse by labeling them as ‘weak.’People living with depression already struggle with low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness. Let’s not make things worse by labeling them as ‘weak.’ Click To Tweet
#3 ‘Get over it’ doesn’t rid you of depression
It’s easy to say ‘Get over it’ when we’re not the ones dealing with painful emotions and negative thoughts. When you are physically and mentally drained to the point where even routine tasks pose serious difficulties, overcoming depression begins to feel like a distant dream.
Depression is a serious mental disorder, affecting the very mechanisms that should, in theory, help you implement changes and build resilience. From self-esteem and self-respect to motivation and focus, this mood disorder can wreak havoc on your mental health, turning you into a powerless prisoner of your own mind.
To overcome this dreadful condition and regain control of their life, depression sufferers need the help of mental health professionals. A psychiatrist or psychotherapist can not only prescribe medication for depression but also provide counseling sessions where clients can develop effective coping mechanisms that will help them manage and prevent depression.
Depression doesn’t go away just because we want it to. It takes time, effort, and dedication to overcome this mood disorder and regain control of your life.Depression doesn’t go away just because we want it to. It takes time, effort, and dedication to overcome this mood disorder and regain control of your life. Click To Tweet
#4 An empathetic ear is more helpful than unwanted advice
One of the worst things you can do for someone with depression is – offer unsolicited advice.
In many cases, people who deal with depression already know the steps they need to take in order to keep their negative emotions and dysfunctional thoughts in check. They’re already familiar with all the strategies, techniques, and practical tips that may help them keep depression in check.
What they lack is the motivation, determination, and energy to get actively involved in their battle with depression. On top of that, they have to deal with other people’s ignorance and all those ridiculous misconceptions that many of us hold about depression.
This is where an empathetic ear can do much more than a piece of unwanted advice or a “motivational” push like Get over it!
Listen to their complaints. Feel their pain. Resonate with their suffering. Be patient. Let them tell you how they want to be helped.
#5 Having depression doesn’t mean you’re crazy
This one is probably the oldest and most popular misconception about mental disorders.
Whether someone’s dealing with manageable mood disorders like anxiety, depression, and stress or serious conditions such as schizophrenia, there will always be people who label them as ‘crazy’ or ‘psycho.’
In fact, a 2007 study revealed that there are over 100 derogatory terms used to describe a person with mental illness.
And the worst part is that some of us use these offensive words not out of reflex, but because we believe in them. Poor understanding of mental illness can lead you to believe that people who struggle with depression are somehow broken beyond repair.
Unfortunately, by using terms like ‘crazy’ or ‘mental’ you end up stigmatizing mental disorders, thus creating a toxic climate where depression sufferers (and people who suffer from other conditions) feel like outsiders who will never be “normal” enough to be accepted.
In broad lines, these are the things depressed people want you to understand about their condition.
By learning to avoid misconceptions and put aside prejudices we can create a climate where people with mental illness can have a chance to regain control of their life and become functional members of society.
If you want to do your part and provide support to someone who’s dealing with depression, make sure to:
- Be empathetic
- Be an active listener
- Be open to learning about their condition
- Be mindful of their emotional needs
Together, we can create a world where mental health is no longer a taboo, but something we accept as part of life’s hassles and strive to overcome.
So, what do you think about our post? Do you have any friends, coworkers, or family members who struggle with depression? Have you ever tried to assist them in any way?
Share your story by leaving a comment below!
Clinical Psychologist, Licensed CBT Therapist.
I’m a Clinical Psychologist and a licensed Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy practitioner. My work focuses mainly on strategies designed to manage and prevent the most common mental issues – anxiety, depression, and stress.
When I’m not busy with my therapeutic practice or other work-related activities, I enjoy going out for a jog or hit the nearby gym.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via LinkedIn (link below), or through the Contact Us page.