Depression seems to be becoming an increasingly common problem. This may be partially due to the fact that people are talking about it more openly, but there’s little doubt that more and younger people are suffering from its effects. Even worse, According to data from the National Institute of Mental Health, the average person waits over 10 years before asking for help.
Despite all of this, depression is still poorly understood. It’s often seen as a failure or a weakness instead of a medical condition like any other. From the video above:
One major source of confusion is the difference between having depression and just feeling depressed. Almost everyone feels down from time to time. Getting a bad grade, losing a job, having an argument, even a rainy day can bring on feelings of sadness. Sometimes there’s no trigger at all. It just pops up out of the blue. Then circumstances change and those sad feelings disappear.
Clinical depression is different. It’s a medical disorder, and it won’t go away just because you want it to. It lingers for at least two consecutive weeks, and significantly interferes with one’s ability to work, play or love. Depression can have a lot of different symptoms. A low mood, loss of interest in things you’d normally enjoy, changes in appetite, feeling worthless or excessively guilty, sleeping either too much or too little, poor concentration, restlessness or slowness, loss of energy, or recurrent thoughts of suicide.
If you have at least five of those symptoms, according to psychiatric guidelines, you qualify for a diagnosis of depression.
Another great talk by Johann Hari on the value of approaches to treating anxiety and depression that don’t focus exclusively on
He tells the story of a Cambodian farmer who, after losing a leg to a US mind while working in the rice fields, was too traumatised to go back to work there. He would cry all day, he refused to get out of bed, isn short, he developed all of the classical symptoms of depression. But the doctors in his community didn’t turn to drugs:
One of the doctors working in the community figured “You know, if we bought this guy a cow, he could become a dairy farmer, he wouldn’t be in this position that was screwing him up so much. He wouldn’t have to go and work in the rice fields.” So they bought him a cow. Within a couple of weeks his crying stopped, within a month his depression was gone.
They said to Dr. Sommerferld, “So you see doctor, that cow, that was an anti-depressant. That’s what you mean, right?
Mild depression is quite common. We all have periods in our lives when we feel sad, and have trouble shaking it off. It may not seem like a big deal, but if we let mild depression fester, then it can diminish our health and quality of life.
With everything that’s going on at the moment, our mental health is under greater threat than ever before. Lifehack.org offers an interesting look at why we sometimes feel mildly depressed for no apparent reason, as well as some tips for dealing with the blues when they arise.