The Science of Depression

The mind is an incredibly powerful tool. Thoughts and beliefs can formulate individual actions, which can motivate people to make significant changes in society and the world. But what happens when peoples’ beliefs, crafted by very powerful minds, are the exact things holding them back? Although help exists for those experiencing clinical depression, a third of people with depression, of which self-medicating and suicide are symptoms, will never seek help, and most who do will wait longer than they should. More than half of depressed people will wait over one year before seeking help even though they are experiencing a lower quality of life. Men are even less likely to seek help.

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Depression is a widespread issue which impacts approximately 15% of people at some point in their lives. It can cause problems at work or in one’s social life, and may lead to physical complications or death. Knowing this, it makes sense that depressed people would want some kind of treatment. However, studies have shown that people with depression may not think they need treatment, may not recognize their symptoms, prefer to manage it themselves, or feel belittled by getting treatment.

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Scientists in the United Kingdom decided to study depressed people to see what could be done to encourage them to get help. Survey participants were lured in with a “low mood” advertisement to attract individuals who might not recognize their symptoms of depression, or were in denial. In general, participants had three different ways of dealing with their symptoms: (1) Conflict. People became uncomfortable with their symptoms. (2) Avoidance. Some people convinced themselves they were fine. (3) Acceptance. People were ready to change so they could feel like themselves again. They realized that their symptoms were preventing them from reaching personal goals and had changed their identity. Those who chose acceptance then made decisions on whether they would seek treatment based on their beliefs, symptom severity, time and money, or other reasons.

“You think well, something’s not right here…and then you kind of turn and think, ‘Oh, it must be the course’, ‘It must be the group of people’, not, ‘Why do I feel like this? Let’s go find out’. It’s there’s something wrong with the situation as opposed to me.”

Farmer, Farrand, and O’Mahen (2012)

The study’s scientists realized that focusing on personal goals and identity was helping people find their way out of depression. Yes, Freud’s “ego”, and what some believe to be to root of all evil, helped people to get help when needed! Communicating with trusted friends about depression can also improve feelings of loneliness for young adults, who are likely to feel loneliness due to social isolation in childhood, or whose feelings of loneliness are exacerbated by the pressure to appear connected on social media. (Or due to the fact that the times were are in are lonelier than ever).

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I hope these tips give you hope and encouragement to seek help for yourself or provide guidance on how to help someone else. Thank you for reading.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Chat: 1-800-273-8255

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