This Could be why you're Depressed or Anxious

Many of us feel sad or even depressed at times and that's okay; it's totally natural to react to tough situations or life's' struggles that way. Unfortunately, with every year passing by, more and more people, especially from western countries, are affected by a constant feeling of intense sadness, worthlessness or even helplessness. This is when we usually consider a person as clinically depressed

Disclaimer: This post mentions some statements that are brought up in this TED-Talk by Johann Hari. I've included the video at the end of this post if you want to watch it.

First things first - depression is NOT a malfunction of your body

All over the world, depressed people are being treated like any other ill person at a doctor's office. They are given medication/antidepressants as if there were a disease to cure similar to any bacterial infection which would be treated with antibiotics. 

In fact, antidepressants almost never cure the depression itself. Instead they usually just suppress the persons' bad feelings to make life with depression more bearable. Many people who take antidepressants need to increase their dosages year after year until they reach the maximum legal dosage. What many people get wrong, is that depression is not a malfunction of your body, but a natural reaction/a signal of your body that you're lacking something. Therefore, using antidepressants can be seen as treating the symptoms of a disease instead of curing the disease itself.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not a doctor, these medications do work and you should, by all means, take them if they are prescribed to you. What I'm trying to make clear over the rest of this post is that depression has to be treated by eliminating the root cause, instead of just taking medication forever.

By the way: If you think you're suffering from depression, make sure to visit a doctor's office nearby. They can and will help you better than any blog post you find on the internet.

A list of causes and risk factors of depression

According to this article, there are many reasons why someone might get depressed. Some of the reasons are in fact genetic, such as a family history of depression or brain chemistry imbalances, but about 60% of the time, depression is determined by other factors.

These are some of the key factors that lead to depression:

  • Brain Chemistry Imbalances
  • Female Sex Hormones
  • Circadian Rhythm Disturbances (also known as "Winter-Depression")
  • Physical Health
  • Poor Nutrition
  • Stressful Situations
  • Grief and Loss
  • Alcohol / Drug use

As you can see, once you understand that most of these factors are determined in the way we live, you might agree with me and the TED-host that this opens up a very different set of solutions that should be offered to people alongside chemical antidepressants.

Johann Hari names a few other reasons why you might get depressed in life:

If you're lonely, you're more likely to become depressed. If when you go to work you don't have any control over your job [...], you're more likely to become depressed. If you very rarely get out into the natural world, you're more likely to become depressed.

How can you get out of depression

Basically what he claims, is that as well as we need to fulfill our physical needs, we need to fulfill our psychological needs such as finding meaning and purpose in life or feeling valued by others. If those needs are not fulfilled we become depressed. He supposes, that today's society has become less and less good at meeting these deep underlying psychological needs which could be the reason why more and more people are becoming depressed.

To get out of depression, you need to understand, that the feeling you're experiencing most likely has a perfectly understandable cause and that any other person in your situation would feel exactly the same.

The challenging part is to find out what causes your depression. Usually, a long deep talk with a close friend or even a psychiatrist or doctor could help you get closer to the actual cause of your depression. And once again, it's not your fault that you feel that way. It's society. 

We all know that eating junk food is bad for our physical health. Similar to that, junk-values don't meet our psychological needs. We are taught since birth to look for happiness in all the wrong places. Marketing experts and the influence of Social Media literally taught us to look for happiness in material goods and status and even worse - the more you believe that these things will make you happy, the more likely you are going to become depressed.

Johann Hari summarizes this amazingly:

If you're depressed; If you're anxious; You're not weak, you're not crazy, you're not a machine with broken parts. You're a human being with unmet needs. [...] We live in a machine that is designed to get us to neglect what is important about life.

This being said, the first step for us as a society is to start truly listening to these signals to find the deeper solutions that are waiting all around us.

Watch this excellent TED-Talk by Johann Hari