In this brief post, we provide a guide on how to explain depression in a comprehensive way to anyone that may want to know about it.
How to explain depression
You may be wondering how to explain depression to someone you love, a friend or someone you know. If you are depressed, people around you may start asking questions such as “what is wrong with you?”, “What happened to the person I fell in love with?”, “Why are you behaving like this?” and many other questions that are hard to hear and even harder to explain.
These are very personal questions with sensitive answers. “Depression affects many individuals and families in debilitating and sometimes even devastating ways, but one of the most difficult things about it is that it is so highly personal to each person who suffers from it — and such a mystery to many of the people who do not (thepoenixrc.com).”
To describe depression on a personal level, to someone you love, start by telling them exactly what is on your mind, explain how you sometimes feel tired, don’t have any motivation and whatever else you are experiencing. Share your irrational thoughts, even if it means speaking about your fears and insecurities and make you feel vulnerable. Remember this is someone that cares about you and wants to know all about your illnesses so that you can get help.
Explaining what depression means or how you experience depression on that personal level can be frustrating and you can have mixed emotions between frustration, failure, and embarrassment. Sometimes, you don’t even know how to explain it since there are no words to describe it, it needs to be felt to understand.
For some people, there is no single perfect method or instructions step by step on how to explain depression to someone. Moreover, some may prefer a face-to-face conversation, a voice note or a vide, and others feel better explaining themselves in an email or letter. The most important thing to remember is that trying to explain how you feel, to someone else, can actually give you some insight and help you understand a bit more about depression.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the main cause of disability worldwide and it can affect adults, adolescents and children alike. In addition, according to Medical News Today, “Symptoms and causes of depression can vary widely from person to person. Gender may also play an important role in why a person is affected by depression, and what it feels like to them.”
What is depression?
We advise to start off with answering this question. This gives the person a broad concept of what depression means. Then, you can add the difference between feeling depressed and feeling sad since most people tend to think it is the same thing when it is actually not.
When you are experiencing a bad day you can feel sad, so it is a situational type of feeling that tends to fade over time and fluctuates depending on the context. However, depression is considered a mood disorder that involves persistent sadness and feelings of hopelessness, with a loss of interest in activities that you once enjoyed.
According to Medical News Today, “Major life events, such as bereavement or the loss of a job, can lead to depression. However, doctors only consider feelings of grief to be part of depression if they persist.”
In addition, depression is a persistent problem, not temporary as it is the case of sadness, consisting of episodes during which the symptoms last for at least 2 weeks. Depression can last for several weeks, months, or years.
How does it feel like?
For most people, as we have discussed, depression is a synonym of “feeling sad” or down. In contrast, depression may feel like there is no actual pleasure or interest in life, concentrating or focusing becomes very challenging, feeling of hopelessness, low/absent self-esteem, difficulties going to sleep or too much sleeping, food is not appetizing anymore or food may be used to comfort or as a coping tool and perceived ache and pain may be present.
Signs and symptoms
Some of the most common signs and symptoms of depression include:
- A depressed mood
- Anhedonia or a loss of interest/pleasure in activities that you used to enjoy
- Loss of libido
- Changes in your appetite (weight loss or gain)
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Agitation and restlessness
- Slow movement and speech perceived generally by others
- Fatigue or feeling drained
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Difficulties concentrating or making decisions
- Suicidal thoughts or behavior
It is believed depression seems to be manifested more frequently in women than men according to the CDC or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some of the most common symptoms in women are related to being irritable, feeling anxious, mood swings, feeling fatigues and ruminating on negative thoughts. In addition, some of the types of depression unique to women are postpartum depression and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
In males, it is believed that they are more prone to alcohol intake in excess, angry outbursts and engage in risky behaviors. They tend to avoid social situations or isolate themselves, working non-stop (without a break), difficulties with keeping up with work or responsibilities at home can be challenging and they may manifest controlling or abusive behavior towards their partners.
Causes of depression
There is still an ongoing debate about the causes of depression. However, there are plenty of potential causes identified and many factors associated such as:
- Genetic features: it is said that depression and other mood disorders can run in families.
- Neurotransmitter imbalance (serotonin)
- Environmental triggers: these are usually life events or major changes that are perceived as stressful such as a divorce, death of someone close, losing your job or having financial problems.
- Psychological (personality traits, temperament) and social factors
- Having bipolar disorder
- Hormonal changes: low mood and depression are often associated with pregnancy, menopause and premenstrual disorders.
- Certain medical conditions such as diabetes, anxiety, long-term pain, and heart disease, can make someone more vulnerable to developing depression.
- Some medications: There are some known medicines that can increase your risk for depression, such as high blood pressure medications, steroids, and some cancer drugs.
Common myths of depression
For some people, depression is not considered a mental disease since the individual has the possibility of just feeling happy all of a sudden and that’s it, depression is gone. But this is very far away from the truth, let’s analyze some of them:
“Depressed people just need to snap out of it”
Many people with depression consider this very annoying and frustrating because the person thinking and saying this is someone that really does not understand how someone with depression is feeling.
“You can’t just snap out of depression – it’s impossible. I’d describe depression as feeling like drowning – no matter how hard you try to fight back it overpowers you and there’s nothing you can do about it. Depression feels like a constant battle and it’s exhausting (young.scot).”
“There is always a reason to be depressed”
Many people suffering from depression, “don’t always have a reason as to why someone is depressed”. People always tend to expect a reason as to why someone is depressed such as certain life events like losing your job or the death of someone close to you, but it is not always related to a specific reason or life event.
“You are just being selfish and it is hurting us”
Friends and family worry about the wellbeing of the depression sufferer and they in some cases get really frustrated because they don’t really know what to do and how to help. Depression is considered a selfish illness and their sufferers tend to push people away to avoid hurting them.
“It can be hard to love and care for someone with depression but standing by someone and showing them unconditional love and care is one of the best things you can ever do for us (young.scot).”
“You chose to be depressed”
Depression sufferers do not choose to be depressed, it is not a life choice and it is something they can’t really control or do anything to stop it on their own. Depression can creep in and slowly affect every aspect of your life, which isn’t intentional or a personal choice.
“We don’t choose to be depressed. It can affect various things in your life such as relationships, work, and education. We don’t choose to have a low mood all the time and find everything an effort. Depression is out of our control we can’t do anything to stop it from happening to us. We aren’t weak because we have depression (young.scot).”
“Being depressed is the same thing as being sad”
As we discussed, depression and sadness are two different things. Feeling sad is a normal emotion and it goes away after a few days.
“However, depression is a persistent sadness – it can last for weeks, months or even years. It can affect you in various ways such as changing your personality, interests and the way you see the future (young.scot).”
“There are always bad days for depressed people”
Depressed people can also experience good days when they actually feel OK and are able to do certain things. The mood can fluctuate a lot on those good days when they feel they are in control and can actually achieve something.
Depression is a combination of both, good and bad days.
Why is this blog about “How to explain depression” important?
Depression, as we have seen, is not easy to explain or understand. Many people have misconceptions about depression where they even believe depressed people “chose” to be depressed and they can “snap out of it” if they want to. Also, the most common misconception is believing depression is the same thing as being sad when we now understand sadness is temporary while depression is persistent.
Depression doesn’t have to be a mystery or something imagined, and we need to consider that it can affect you in a different way as to someone else, at different levels of intensity. It is normal to feel frustrated or disappointed if someone (different from a mental health professional) does not understand how you are feeling. You decide who you share your feelings with and the role they have in your life.
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