Reviewed by Dawn Brown, LPC, NCC
Depression is a common mental health condition that affects numerous people globally,—the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that "more than 264 million people of all ages" experience depression. Even though depression is very serious and can become severe if not treated, some people are still of the view that "depression is a choice", that is, depression is nothing but just an ordinary mental disturbance that you can stop feeling if you want to.
It should be emphasized that depression is not a joke, but a mental health diagnosis that you can't just choose to get over instantly. It may be dangerous if you are holding the standpoint that depression is just a choice. This may stop you from getting help which may consequently make depression negatively affect your day-to-day activities. You are at risk to experience some common physical symptoms when suffering from depression. These may include gastrointestinal problems, aches and pains, and headaches. Ensure that you see your doctor or mental health professional the moment you start to sense depression or take this quick depression test for potential insight into depressive symptoms. This quiz can give you some clarity on whether or not you want to explore professional mental health resources.
What are the 5 Things to Know about Depression?
There are some specific things characterizing depression. You are supposed to know these before believing if depression is a choice or not. These are:
- Depression is common: According to the estimate given by WHO, depression will be next to HIV/AIDS as the highest medical cause of disability after a decade.
- Depression may not have a cause: It should be believed that depression may occur without a trigger at any time and anywhere.
- Depression can affect anyone: It should be known that anyone can experience depression irrespective of age, social position, or race.
- Depression is treatable: There have been reported cases of nearly 80% of those that experienced depression that clinical treatment such as the combination of therapy, medication, and other coping strategies helped them feel better.
What are the Common Causes of Depression?
You should know that choice is not one of the reasons why you have depression. You can't just decide to feel depressed. In fact, it doesn't show up unless some situations or events can trigger it. Clinically, you're expected to find help on time before it begins to affect your relationships or life in general.
Depression can affect anybody irrespective of race, age, sex, or status. Also, there is a clear difference between a more severe case of depression and feeling down just for a day. There are different occurrences such as disappointments and changes in the weather (a cold day) can make you feel gloomy for a day; however, if the low mood persists for a couple of weeks interfering with your quality of diet, sleep, think, and even your daily routine, you may be suffering from a more severe depressive state. The following are the most common causes of depression:
- Genetics: You are at a higher risk of experiencing depression if it runs in the family. But that doesn't necessarily indicate that you must develop it when there are people who have experienced it in the family.
- Medications: Certain medications can trigger depression. Some of these medications are used for the treatment of anxiety, high blood pressure, acne, cholesterol, and insomnia. Sometimes, birth control can cause depression. You are advised to notify your doctor before you take any medication. The side effects of some of the medications you take can affect your mental health especially if you have depression in the genetic profile or you had once experienced it.
- Abuse: This is one of the common ways that make people predisposed to depression. You can easily be prone to depression if you experience traumatic events and abuse (sexual, mental, or physical). Being abused physically, sexually, or mentally can leave you with low self-esteem, hurt, and anger. It can lead to trust issues which may result in loneliness and isolation. Sometimes, abuse of drugs or substances such as alcohol can affect your mood and make you fall into depression.
- Death of a Loved One: Depression is characterized by feelings of sadness. There are different events that can make you feel sad. One of these events is when you lose someone you really love such as your spouse, parent, close friend, or a family member. This loss can easily make you fall into a deep depression.
- Life-Changing Events: Life is not stable; it's dynamic. This is a fact that involves situations that can affect your emotions. Several individuals may find it difficult to handle some life-changing events; whether good or bad. They may tend to feel "blue" when they experience events such as divorce, retirement, financial change, menopause, and even postnatal. You may need to see your therapist because sometimes you may find it difficult to deal with the situation by yourself.
- Lack of Socialization: One of the common symptoms of depression is that you will lose interest in the activities that you once enjoyed. These activities may include going to the movies, to the gym, or meeting with your friends or family members during the weekends to merry. Socialization is an effective way to protect your mind from intrusive, negative thoughts— it helps you stay relaxed and keep your mind busy. However, if you don't socialize with friends and family, there is a higher tendency that you may fall into depression. Always encourage yourself to have face-to-face fun with tour loved ones rather than sending them text messages.
- Chronic Illness: A chronic illness is a long time health problem that can only improve and not completely curer. When you experience this kind of illness, you can easily fall into depression. This is because a chronic illness can affect the way you think, feel, and think. For instance, it can make you feel helpless and hopeless.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder: As a matter of fact, a specific season of the year can interfere with your mental well-being. It can cause changes in mood or make you feel different about yourself. The seasonal affective disorder is experienced during September or October until the onset of spring. This type of depressive disorder reoccurs during this specific season of the year but have similar symptoms to other types of depression
What are the 5 Myths about Depression?
A myth refers to a common misconception or a false belief that is commonly-held. There are different things several individuals believe about depression which may be untrue. Some of these include:
- Men do not deal with depression: It's a known fact that more women are affected by depression than men and there are some symptoms that women will experience that men will not and vice versa. However, it's a myth that men are not expected to show emotion or look belittling when they try to seek help for depression.
- Depression is just feeling sad: It's a false belief that depression is just feeling sad. Actually, depression is far more than that. Yes, you may feel sad but it will be accompanied by other feelings such as loneliness, emptiness, worthlessness, anxiety, anger, and irritability. You should know that the way you will treat ordinary sadness is not the same way you will deal with depression. Depression is a mental health disorder.
- Depression is a sign of weakness: Several people think that you're weak when you're depressed. As an illness like cancer, depression doesn't indicate weakness. The only difference between depression and cancer is that the former affects your mental health and the latter affects your physical health.
- Depression looks the same in everyone: It's a misconception to believe that people experience depression in the same way. From studies, it's been established that even the symptoms experienced by people with respect to their ages, sexes, or personalities are different. Some may feel worthless or lonely; some irritable and angrier; some sleeping and eating problems; and some may feel anxious
- Depression will just go away: Several individuals believe that depression should not be taken seriously and in fact, shouldn't be treated at all. This is a very dangerous misconception. Depression will not just go away. Rather than going away, it can become debilitating and overwhelming.
What are the ways to Avoid Depression?
Even if it's a myth to believe that depression is a choice, there are things you can do to spend your time more mindfully. The following are some ways to get it done:
- Try to exercise regularly
- Try to cut back on social media time
- Ensure that you build strong relationships
- Try to minimize your daily choices
- Endeavor to reduce stress
- Maintain your treatment plan
- Try to get enough sleep
- Ensure that you stay away from toxic people
- Try to eat well
- Try to maintain a healthy weight
- Ensure that you manage chronic conditions
- Ensure that you read prescription medication side effects carefully
- Try to limit the intake of alcohol and drug
- Ensure that you get off nicotine
- Endeavor to plan for unavoidable known triggers