There is a thin line between depression and feeling depressed: Study

New Delhi: These days everywhere you look, you spot people talking about things not going right or how they feel stressed and “depressed”. Depression has hit society in the worst way ever – right from adults to kids being impacted by it at different intensities. Research shows that 1 in every 5 people goes through depression or mental health issues in any given year.

Before we understand what depression is, let’s clarify at the outset what it isn’t. Depression is not feeling sad or feeling depressed momentarily. Unknowingly, we stereotypically portray depression as sadness with the extensive usage of the word.

Dr. Chandni Tugnait, a psychotherapist, life and business coach, and founder-director of Gateway of Healing says, depression is not being unhappy; it is not anger, fear or loneliness – it is none of these individually and yet it is all of these and much more.

Depression is being numb. It is nothingness. It is exhausting. It takes away all motivation and leaves a feeling of hopelessness. There is a lack of energy – it’s more like a void where nothing grows or changes, where time does not exist, where there is nothing and no one. Of course, it is difficult for the person trying to cope with it as well as for the people around them.

Sometimes depression is chronic and evident but a lot of times one isn’t aware of it and sometimes one is even able to camouflage it in the garb of routine & forced positivity – this last type, by the way, is the worst as sometimes we lose them to suicide – just like that – no warning, no sign, as per Dr. Tugnait.

The line between clinical depression and feeling depressed is quite fragile and often we find inappropriate self-diagnosis in this regard. Clinical depression is accompanied by a feeling of impending doom without any reason, every day, for over two weeks continuously along with fatigue, loss of interest, insomnia, etc. However, one may feel depressed for a while due to a difficult event like losing a job/loved one, etc. and may confuse it for depression and begin to pop pills. It’s important to be aware of the difference – the ability to get up and fight back against these feelings, instead of accepting them or thinking that they will simply go away on their own or never go away.

The deeper the roots of depression, the more time it takes for a person to heal. It keeps a person in the loop of �being low’ and makes them self-damaging. The symptoms could range from crying all day to being unable to get up from the bed to work, bathe, or even eat.

Then there are the happy and high functioning depressed people who have smiling depression. A high functioning depressed person appears energetic, carefree and cheery on the outside, most of the time and people close to them never get to know that on the inside they are being sucked into a black hole. Strangely, they would go out of their way to keep others happy, masking their own sadness.

When alone, they cry, contemplate suicide and feel exhausted from all the pretending. Why do they pretend? Well, it’s funny that each time we ask someone, “How are you?”, we are looking at “I am fine, thank you” as the response because if someone starts sharing how they really are, we are quick to tell them not to sulk or look at the bright side. Sharing and sulking are two different things. The fear of being judged is deeply ingrained in our beings and hence it seems like a better proposition to endure the depression in silence than to voice it out.

Contrary to what most people feel, you can’t lose depression simply by ‘looking at the bright side’. You may be able to camouflage your feelings to save others from getting bothered (or to save yourself from the guilt of it all) but this is plain masking and not copying or healing. People suffering from depression can’t “cheer up” and that adds to more frustration.

With every depressed person (and even those suffering from anxiety or other mental health issues) there is a constant ‘need’ to be themselves or be how they were earlier or be how their friends and family would like them to be. This chase to “be that person” is precisely why most people, despite all the efforts and therapy, are unable to snap out of it.

Dr. Tugnait lists some ways to deal with depression –

ACCEPTANCE – Accept self and others (with or without depression) without asking for a change. This is the first step in healing. You can’t change something if you resist it as the resistance keeps the energy flowing in that same direction that you wish to alter. Haven’t you fought enough already? Let’s change the dynamics and accept it, to release it.

COMPASSION – Choose compassion. Choose the wholeness of being instead of viewing yourself as someone who needs ‘fixing’.

ROUTINE – Fix a morning routine to take time to feel gratitude, meditate, read a few pages of a book while sipping tea, exercise, write a journal, sleep for 7-8 hours daily and take a cold shower.

SEEK SUPPORT – Ask for help and seek professional support from a therapist in case the situation is extreme despite the self-help, positive lifestyles changes and support from family and friends. There’s no shame in seeking help to be healthy!

Everyone should be more accepting of mental health issues without any judgments. Take the leap of faith when you feel ready. Until then, just breathe! You are doing fine. Depression is real but so is hope and recovery.

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