What is nostalgic depression?

In this article we will discuss what Nostalgic depression is and how one can manage it.

We will also briefly discuss what nostalgia and depression are and how they are linked.

What is nostalgic depression?

Nostalgic depression was a term that was used by physicians for centuries to refer to a form of illness that needed to be treated. 

However, the aetiology, the causes, and the mechanism of how this particular illness that inflicted a group of individuals was not conclusively agreed upon or defined and its treatments were not exactly based on scientific research. (Medicalnewstoday)

It was in the 18th to 19th centuries, with the rise in psychology and scientific research and study into the human mind, that nostalgia was acknowledged as part of mental disorder that we now know as depression or Major Depressive disorder. 

Now, it has to be clarified that depression today is not a term that has replaced nostalgic depression, but researchers and experts of the field conclude that nostalgia could be a part of depression related symptoms like melancholy, apathy, lack of interest, and negative intrusive thoughts etc.  

As of the late 2000s, researchers have come to understand nostalgia as a form of repression where individuals regress back to an earlier part of their lives or experience longingness related to loss, grief, and also depression. (Medicalnewstoday)

While nostalgia has been observed and understood to have some role in depression and other mental distress, nostalgic depression is not a recognised diagnosis rather it is an emotional state that may or may not be related to depression. 

What is nostalgia?

Nostalgia is a state where an individual experiences wistful and sentimental feelings related to longingness when one recalls past experiences- usually experiences that were positive. 

Nostalgia can be triggered by citations, places, and other present experiences that resemble or are linked to those past experiences. 

Nostalgia is not necessarily a negative emotion or feeling, rather it can provoke a sense of meaningfulness and connection to life and to other people.

However, longingness with nostalgia can fuel feelings of hopelessness and despair which can lead to dissatisfaction with present day life and ultimately depression. 

What is depression?

Depression or clinically known as major depressive disorder, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders, is a  serious mood disorder where people affected by it experience persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness. 

Apart from these emotional distress, people with depression can also experience physical symptoms such as chronic pain, or changes in their behaviour such as social withdrawal or slowed movements.

For someone to be diagnosed with clinical depression, symptoms must be present for at least two weeks. Let us look at the various symptoms that must meet the criteria for a diagnosis of depression. 

These symptoms should indicate change from normal functioning. 

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day- either by their own observation or observation made by others.
  • Diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia. 
  • A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide. (American Psycho;ogucal Association, DSM 5)

To be diagnosed with depression, these symptoms must cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. 

These symptoms should also not be the result of substance abuse or another medical condition.

How is nostalgia and depression connected?

While nostalgia can have a positive influence in the way we understand social connections, experience, as well as how we make meaning out of our lives through individuals or shared experiences it is possible that nostalgia can lead to negative states of mental health. 

Some of  the ways that nostal diag can be connected to depression includes:

  • Nostalgia, when mixed with rumination and worry- often observed in individuals with depression and anxiety- it can lead to negative impact on mood, memories, and their present experiences of their lives. 
  • Nostalgia related to regrets and sadness can also lead to symptoms of depression when one is unable to forgive themselves for past failure and mistakes and hyper fixate on these parts of their lives rather than long for the more positive aspects of their past.
  • Nostalgia can lead to cycles of dissatisfaction and despair where an individual can focus only on the negative things and as a result experience negative emotions which further fuels the tendency to dwell on the past. 
  • Loneliness and loss is another aspect of nostalgia that can fuel psychological distress and depression. If an indidvdiauls is focusing on people they have lost or a relationship or some aspect of their lives that they have lost, it is possible that it can lead to anxiety, regret, guilt, and sadness. 

How to cope with nostalgic depression?

Here are a few things you can do to cope with depression or low moods related to nostalgia:

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a state of being and more proficiently a way of life where the individual actively imagines in the act of cultivating full awareness of the present. 

This awareness of the presence is related to both the world outside and around the individual and the world within the individual in terms of thoughts and feelings.

A person who practises mindfulness may begin with putting effort to bring about all of their senses to focu on what they’re experiencing right now however, over time, it becomes a way of life- done without much effort and with a greater understanding of one’s self. 

Mindfulness is the experience of being present with the here and now. The state of Mindfulness is an experience of your present feelings, thoughts, and behaviour. It is the act of paying attention to yourself, your body, and the world around you.

It is the complete opposite of living in an autopilot mode of existence which can cause various problems, mental health related issues, stress, and an overall poor sense of well being. 

Being mindful requires you to let go of the past, and the worries of the future and simply focus on the present and the things you can do in the present. This can help you move past unnecessary anxious and depressive thoughts that are unnecessary and often causing dysfunction. 

Seek out fulfilling relationships

Another thing that you can do is to seek out positive relationships that are supportive, that motivate, as well as enable you to grow and expand your interpersonal effectiveness.

Seek out relationships that allow you to grow and experience freedom within healthy boundaries that are respected and maintained. Mutual relationships that focus on mutual growth, equal give and take, and one that is directed towards meaning and fulfilment. 

Seeking support

In the case that you find yourself struggling with nostalgia to the point that it has affected your life where you cannot maintain your relationships nor keep up with work, you can seek out counselling and therapy to help you understand why you are feeling, and how you can take changes in perspectives, lifestyle, thoughts etc, that can help you build and maintain a healthier sense of wellbeing. 

Ground yourself to the present

Mindful Walking.

This mindfulness exercise incorporates physical exercise as well. 

Take a walk outside or around your room and start by paying attention to the sensation of your feet in contact with the ground. 

Next, expand your awareness to the sounds and smells. 

Also, expand your vision to what you see. 

Next,  let go of other distractions and walk, as if being mindful of every step is vitally important. 

Square breathing

You start by taking a moment to breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and so on until you feel grounded. 

You can also add another element to this exercise by tightening your muscles and releasing them while breathing.

Hands in water

For this grounding technique, you put your hands in a bucket or bowl of room temperature water and focus on the water’s temperature.

Next, you take notice of how it feels on your fingertips, palms, and the backs of your hands. 

Then you take notice of whether these sensations are different or the same.

For Thai exercises you can alternate between different water temperatures. Use warm water first, then cold. Next, try cold water first, then warm. 

Touch items near you

For this technique, you pick up and touch an object next to you and take notice of the following things:

  • Weight
  • Hardness or softness
  • Temperature
  • Colour
  • Texture
  • Size

Conclusion

In this article we will discuss what Nostalgic depression is and how one can manage it.

We will also briefly discuss what nostalgia and depression are and how they are linked.

It is most probable that the individual is not satisfied or happy with their present that leads them to focus on the past which they think was better. 

They are sad because they realised to some extent that this past is something they cannot relive. 

Why is nostalgia so painful?

Nostalgia is painful because it involves longing for a past that is impossible for us to relive. This bittersweet experience of revisiting a past or someone in the past or an experience of the past that has brought us much joy, meanigning and satisfaction can be painful because, it is possible that the present does not give the same feelings. 

What is nostalgia a symptom of?

As of the late 2000s, researchers have come to understand nostalgia as a form of repression where individuals regress back to an earlier part of their lives or experience longingness related to loss, grief, and also depression. (Medicalnewstoday)

Why do I yearn for the past?

Yearning for the past is related to nostalgia which is an emotion related to loneliness of the past and the most probable reason why one longs for the past is because the past was better than the present- or at least that is how one perceives it. 

It is most probable that the individual is not satisfied or happy with their present that leads them to focus on the past which they think was better. 

References

Raypole.C.Those Happy Golden Years: Coping with Memories That Bring More Pain Than Peace. Healthline . Retrieved on 8th February 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/nostalgic-depression#benefits-of-nostalgia

Cohut.M. Why do we need nostalgia?. Medicalnewstoday. Retrieved on 8th February 2022.https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/why-do-we-need-nostalgia#Nostalgia-and-homesickness-as-disorders

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