Often times, society is perplexed about what depression is and ends up correlating it with sadness, which is not only incorrect, but also hinders understanding what depression truly is.
As with all things, we must define what it is before we can delve further into understanding it. According to Dictionary.com, depression is “a condition of general emotional dejection and withdrawal; sadness greater and more prolonged than that warranted by any objective reason”. Depression is a prolonged state of mind, whereas sadness is an emotion, which can (and usually does) accompany depression. The feeling of sadness is completely different when a depressed individual experiences the emotion. It is amplified tenfold, to the point where the individual feels hopeless, dejected or eternally unhappy.
Depression is unique in this regard. Because it is a state of mind, it takes time to onset, meaning the individual has to be exposed to certain external stimuli to invoke a certain thought pattern. Some of these external stimuli are: loss of a loved one, isolation from friends/family/activities you enjoy, a particular argument with a significant other or even constant exposure to stress. After prolonged exposure to a certain stimulus, an individual starts to develop negative thinking patterns, becoming hyper-critical of oneself, setting unrealistic expectations for them self, which eventually evolves into the individual feeling jealousy, sadness, anger, anxiousness, hopelessness, etc.
Not only does depression impact the mental aspect of an individual’s life, it impacts their social life and physical well-being. When depressed, an individual may experience lethargy beyond anything experienced before, causing them to not want to do anything but stay at home and lay in bed. This causes social withdrawal, leading to poor self-care, adding fuel to the depressive cycle. Individuals can therefore be depressed for months, or even years if they do not seek assistance, which may lead to suicidal ideation or even suicide attempts. With this information, we can therefore ascertain that depression is not sadness – it is something much more terrifying and disturbing.
Depression is not inevitable; there are preventative measures one can take. Some of them are, but are not limited to: eating healthy and exercising, getting a proper amount of sleep, taking time out of one’s day to relax and analyze what has happened (managing stress), and allocating time to recreational activities (video games, friend outings, date nights, etc.). If anyone feels that they’ve experienced a prolonged period of intense sadness that isn’t what they believe warranted, please seek medical assistance. Depression is treatable if help is sought. Nobody needs to suffer in silence when there are treatment options available.