Depression is one of the most commonly experienced mental health issues, yet remains one of the most misunderstood. Despite what some people tend to believe, depression is a very real mental health condition that can have significant effects on not just those who suffer from it, but those in their support network, as well. Here are 10 vital facts everyone should know about the condition:
1. Depression Doesn’t Discriminate
And what is meant by this is that it doesn’t matter where you are or who you are in life. It doesn’t matter about your ethnicity, your success, or your location. The dark cloud of depression can come for anyone at any time. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 264 million suffer from depression worldwide. That’s around 15% of all people on the planet who are currently afflicted. To help put this into perspective, imagine walking down a busy high street. Around 15% of those people will most likely be suffered from depression. So, the next time, you get impatient with someone in public, whether it’s in traffic or in the supermarket, remember you don’t know what they might be going through.
2. Depression Doesn’t Have a Single Cause
It’s still not fully understood exactly why people get depressed. In terms of its causative factors, it can be quite a tricky condition to attribute to a specific cause or set of variables. At present, there is a general consensus that it’s caused by genetic hereditary deposition towards developing the condition, as well as environmental factors that can act as triggers.
Some of the main factors that can cause depression include:
- Brain Chemistry Imbalances
- Seasonal Changes
- Stress and Trauma
Depression has long been linked with an imbalance in neurotransmitters that impact mood regulation, which includes dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. All of these are held in fine balance. And when one is either greater or less than another it can throw our whole system out of alignment. Hormones can also be a big contributing factor especially during restoration, pregnancy and menopausal women. Seasonal changes refer to the lack of sunlight we receive in winter which is a chief cause of season affective disorder (SAD). And, of course, stress and trauma are fairly self-explanatory in how might contribute to depression.
3. Depression Isn’t Sadness
This is a really unhelpful misconception that has created a ton of stigma. As many people associate depression with being sadness – since it looks the same to the untrained eye – it causes many to dismiss people’s troubles as attention-seeking. We will all inevitably experience sadness at some point in our lives, but depression is far more complex and can result in:
- Changes in appetite, weight and sleep patterns
- Decreased sex drive
- Accompanying feeling of anxiety or tension
- Feeling moody, temperamental or restless
- Chronic feelings of emptiness and apathy
- Headaches, digestive issues, aches and pains
- Rejecting your passions
- Low energy and chronic fatigue
- Issues with concentration, memory and decision-making
4. Children Aren’t Immune From Depression
This is another myth that continues to persist. Even though there are numerous cases of child depression recorded every year. In the UK alone, up to 3% of children and 8% of adolescents suffer from the condition. It tends to be far more common in boys under the age of 10, but by age 16 the pendulum swings the other way with girls making up the larger majority of cases. And although children may appear to live relatively stress-free lives, they can still be subjected to significant trauma such as bullying, suffering from a parents divorce as well as the usual brain imbalances. And unfortunately, many children just don’t have the coping skills to weather the storm.
5. Untreated Depression is a Common Cause of Suicide
This represents the more tragic side of the condition because in many cases, these deaths could be averted if there was more support and less stigma surrounding depression in general. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 45% of those who commit suicide are suffering from some form of mental health condition. And this, of course, includes people with depression. But also those who were undiagnosed, untreated or under-diagnosed. This illustrates just how important it is to treat everyone with compassion and empathy. Just by being kinder to each other, we can help form a true community support network.
6. Women Have a Higher Rate of Depression Than Men
Which we touched on when talking about depression in children. But let’s flesh it out a bit more with some figures… Studies have shown that around 8.7% of women suffer from depression compared with only 5.3% of men. On the face of it, that does look quite significant. However, what stats such as these don’t always take into account is how honest people are being with themselves and others about their mental health. There is far less stigma for a woman to admit depression than a man. As we live in a patriarchal society where any sign of weakness can be seized on by our peers and/or rivals. Again, this show just how much work still needs to be done to normalise talking about our mental health.
7. Depression Can Co-Occur with Many Physical Conditions
You may already know that depression and anxiety can co-occur with one another. But depression has far more bedfellows. They can actually co-occur with many chronic medical illnesses, as it’s not uncommon for people to become clinically depressed as a psychological reaction to hearing about their diagnosis. Depression has been found to co-occur with:
- Heart disease
- Eating Disorders
- Substance Abuse
If we look at some of the figures involved. Depression occurs in 40-65% of people who’ve had a heart and in 18-20% of those with coronary heart disease but who haven’t had a heart attack. It can occur in around 10-27% of stroke survivors and last for about a year. 1 in 4 people with cancer suffers from clinical depression. Those with adults onset diabetes have a 25% chance of becoming depressed. Research has shown that are massive links between depression and anorexia and bulimia nervosa in women. And 1 in 3 people who’re depressed also suffers from substance abuse issues.
8. Depressed People Don’t Always Look Depressed
Again, this comes back full circle to the stigmatisation of depression. Within psychology, there are what you call high-functioning people who may suffer from any number of mental health conditions. What this means is that although the person has been diagnosed with let’s say depression, keeping with the theme, here… They’re able to carry on with most of their daily activities like going to work or school. They might be very successful at what they do, but you’d never know they were depressed. Remember that crowd of people walking down the busy high street? Chances are a significant portion of those in that crowd might be classed as suffering from high-functioning depression.
9. Curing Depression Doesn’t Mean Choosing to be Happy
If it were as simple as making the choice not to be depressed, then depression wouldn’t be such an issue. And that’s because again, people associate depression so strongly with sadness. When you’re feeling down, you can usually cheer yourself up with a movie, eating something you enjoy and spending time with people who make you feel good. The problem is when you’re depressed, you simply don’t care about any of these things. You’re so absorbed in the narrative that you’ve created for yourself, or been so overcome by the dysregulation of your neurotransmitters that you simply can’t make that conscious choice. However, choice can factor into the recovery process. And that’s by making the choice that you’re going to seek help. That is a choice that can be made and one must be made to return to full health.
10. Depression is Treatable
There is a way out for you if you’re feeling depressed. It might feel like you’re stuck in a prison, but it’s not a life sentence. There is help out there if you’re willing to ask, and it’s precisely because people believe that depression is terminal that they resign themselves to just accepting their lot in life. Some of the therapies you might consider exploring are:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- Social Skills Training
- Supportive Counselling
- Behavioural Activation
- Problem-Solving Therapy
- Family or Couples Therapy