This is the second part in a series on mental health.
Many of us have felt it: a state of loneliness accompanied by a lack of motivation to do anything other than feel sad; and usually it arises from the many hardships we endure in our lives. But this inhibiting feeling of sadness, or even despair, felt beyond the short-term, can be caused by chronic depression, a serious mental health concern that requires immediate attention.
Depression affects more than 300 million people worldwide, and with a suicide epidemic on the rise, there are a variety of contributing factors for us to consider and give our attention to in understanding what’s really going on.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), “people lose interest in things they used to enjoy and may withdraw from others. Depression can make it hard to focus on tasks and remember information. It can be hard to concentrate, learn new things, or make decisions. Depression can change the way people eat and sleep, and many people experience physical health problems.
So, how does depression arise?
According to several studies on depression and culture, the commonly rooted causes of depression include, but are not limited to: death, divorce (or separation), social isolation and or feelings of being deprived, conflicts in personal relationships, and physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
Evidently, such extreme experiences can lead to a very vulnerable emotional state, which only serves to separate an individual further from the world and, eventually, themselves.
And on a purely physiological level, these vulnerabilities may lead to hormonal disturbances, and we arrive at the commonly-accepted notion of “chemical” inductions.
But do these vulnerabilities and imbalances immediately entail depression?
In examining the true root causes, I believe the development of depression relies on two intertwined concepts: our capacity to deal with our circumstances, and a general belief that we’re helpless in attending to the problems that seem to “control us.” Further, I believe these notions can be demonstrated through examining our thought processes.
First, we see the importance of mindset with people who know the cause of their depression, and research has shown that, indeed, once individuals figure out how to solve their particular problems, their depression lifts.
But I would also argue we can see the importance of mindset even with those who can’t pinpoint the reason(s): because thoughts elicit feelings that build up over time, long after the thoughts themselves have faded.
In fact, some studies have suggested people on average think thousands of thoughts every day. How could one remember them all?
I believe these hormonal arousal concerns are more likely caused by particular thoughts that are simply forgotten—thoughts about how powerless we are in our predicament. Sometimes these thoughts aren’t exactly rendered, or even recognized in our minds.
Our problems may often be so traumatic or unbearable that we simply refuse to process them; and this I believe is directly linked to our capacity in dealing with extremities in our lives.
In his essay, “Problems of Psychotherapy,” Carl Jung discusses this very idea, where he adds: “Yet if we are conscious of what we conceal, the harm done is decidedly less than if we do not know what we are repressing—or even that we have repressesions at all.”
With this, I suggest a more meaningful approach in viewing our physiological reaction as mere influence—inhibiting our ability to believe we can tend to our wounds, but not entirely paralyzing it. What’s important here is that the varying capacities of people, and their consequent reactions to their many traumas are acknowledged. Additionally, it is unfair to assume these capacities define an individual as displaying “strong” or “weak” characteristics.
The reality is that we are all different. And to blame the self for life’s crises would also be unfair. But we also must not disregard our role in dealing with our problems.
Because knowing we can eventually win, even if it’s a difficult notion to believe, can help maintain the most valuable thing in times of great distress: hope.