Many people imagine they are merely feeling sad or blue when actually they are in a depressed state. Others imagine they are depressed when they are merely feeling sad. It will help to know the difference between feeling blue and depressed.
Sadness is a natural emotion. We have experienced sadness since we were in our baby strollers shedding tears of sadness over some hurt, disappointment or merely not getting what we wanted. But as soon as we got what we wanted our feeling changed to some pleasant emotion.
Definition of Depression
Depression is a lingering, invasive and heavy state. If it hangs on for weeks or months, it can become clinical depression. Depression changes our brain chemistry and prevents us from effectively functioning at work and home.
- Approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.
- About 1% of Canadians will experience bipolar disorder (or manic-depression). Canadian Mental Health Association
Meridian-Webster Dictionary defines depression as
- a state of feeling sad and dejected.
- a psycho-neurotic or psychotic disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies.
Number 1 definition above describes a common garden variety of feeling depressed. Most of us have felt blue or sad for longer than usual. Most of us have felt low. Most of us have felt depressed. Most of us have gone back to bed and pulled the sheets over our head while whispering (or yelling) “Leave me alone.” Yes, I’m describing some of my own moments. Haven’t you been there, metaphorically sucking your thumb?
Number 2 definition above describes severe, debilitating and clinical depression; meaning it needs intervention, often from others acknowledging the need to get help. If you have friends, co-workers or family members who are struggling from severe depression, there are ways to bounce back. Sometimes it requires effective therapy, sometimes medication and sometimes a combination of both.
Depression Perspectives from Dr. Myrian Mongrain
Dr. Myriam Mongrain, a professor of psychology, York University studies depression. In a recent webinar Mongrain described two personality traits that pre-dispose people to depression—self-criticism and neediness.
Those with a tendency for self-criticism:
- have poor self-concepts
- have unrealistic expectations of themselves
- strive to achieve to the point of always succeeding
- often feel hopeless and unworthy
Those with a tendency to feel needy:
- have insecure self-concepts
- question their inherent value and lovableness
- have a fear of abandonment
- often feel helpless
- are overly dependent on others
The brain needs exercise. So, get active regardless practicing yoga or getting on the treadmill. Nature itself can be healing so go for a walk, take a bike ride or going hiking.
Positive Psychology Exercises
Mongrain’s most recent research focuses on how Positive Psychology exercises can help build people’s resilience to depression. Preliminary conclusions suggest that exercises such as practicing gratitude and optimism are helpful to those who depress themselves with self-critical thoughts.
Those who were described as needy, who have a dependency on others, and struggle to see themselves functioning outside of a relationship, were found to have no or negative effects from Positive Psychology exercises. They are probably better off engaging in counselling. According to Mongrain, “They haven’t internalized a positive figure and probably need individual therapy where they are positively mirrored.”
I am not sure where I heard these wise words but they fit perfectly to end this post:
There’s nothing, repeat, nothing to be ashamed of when you’re going through depression. If you get help, the chances of kicking it are really good. But, you have to get yourself onto a safe path.”
Note: If you believe you are struggling with severe or clinical depression please call your local Distress Line.