What do you think about when you hear the word “depression”?
Many people resonate with this term. Having a bad day is a common experience—whether it’s triggered by an argument, loss of a job, or simply a product of a rainy day. For many people, such experiences leave them saying things like, “I feel depressed.” But in fact, not many people are aware that there is a major difference between feeling depressed and having depression.
Feeling depressed vs clinical depression
The difference is important because depression is a major mental illness. It’s not just a normal temporary feeling of sadness. That’s something we all experience by virtue of the fact that we are human. Clinical depression is different. It accounts for the leading cause of disability…in the world! It’s that significant. It causes that level of impairment.
And most importantly, depression won’t go away, just because you want it to.
Of the 10% of Americans who struggle with depression, many will go untreated and suffer in silence. It’s possible to suffer in silence because depression, like many mental illnesses, is a master at disguise.
“What is depression?” video
Partnering with TED-Ed on the animated short-film, “What is depression?” has allowed this once stigmatized and daunting concept to be better understood on the world stage. And it’s a good thing, too, because depression is very treatable!
The overwhelming number of views the film received, shortly after its launch, is a testament to the fact that people are curious about depression. And despite many public campaigns aimed to increase awareness and reduce suicide, people are still confused over what depression really means.
Few sufferers look like tattered souls—homeless, loitering on the streets, and incessantly talking to themselves. In fact, they look like you and me.
There might not be specific blood work or a biomarker (yet) that can definitively diagnose depression, but the symptoms tend to manifest in a number of different ways. Frequent crying spells or fluctuations to one’s mood that oscillate between sadness to extreme irritability are tell-tale signs, for example. Loss of interest in former hobbies, decreasing energy, and trouble sleeping or concentrating are also warning signs. Many people experience depression as having low self-esteem. Others will notice changes in their appetite or feeling restless or slowed down. In extreme cases, depression can lead to the most dangerous of symptoms: suicidal thoughts.
But just like hypertension or diabetes, depression is a chronic condition that can be treated. There might be flare-ups over time but it is possible for symptoms to subside. For example, healthy diets, regular exercise, and open communication are all vital to success. In some cases, talk therapy with a professional is beneficial along with medication management. And in extreme cases, people can go to the hospital for more intense treatments that run the gamut from enhanced supports to electroconvulsive therapy.
Depression is not a weakness or a personality trait. It is a disorder and should be treated as such openly without fear of stigma. Caring communities have the power to transform stigma into hope and acceptance. What works for one individual might be different for the next, but the point is that there is always hope!