Why are so many people depressed?

In this blog we will try to answer the question of “why are so many people depressed?”

We will also briefly explore what depression is and what one can do to manage depression.

Why are so many people depressed?

Here are some possible reasons as to why there seems to be a rising number of individuals who are depressed and struggling with mental health related problems. 

Unprecedented challenges

The most obvious cause of depression in the past three years is because of the pandemic that has led to many unprecedented challenges- from isolation, loss and grief, unemployment, and stress.

Research indicates that the sudden pandemic has led to environments that were detrimental to mental health. The communities that were hit the hardest by the pandemic had more cases of mental health disorders and problems such as depression and it affected women more than men and young people more than older individuals. 

Socioeconomic conditions

Because of the challenges that have come about due to the pandemic, another challenge that has changed the lives of many individuals is unemployment. 

With the lockdown and the social isolation, many indi dvd ausl who were in labour, customer service, and other jobs that need people to be present physically were let go because their services were no longer available. 

The lack of employment, the suddenness of this change could have led to a rise in depression and other mental health problems. 

Isolation 

With the pandemic there has been an obvious impact on social relationships, we as a society have become more isolated than ever. Isolation has a severe impact on mental health, depression included, because we human beings are social beings and we thrive in positive and supportive relationships. 

Lack of human connection, positive family and social relationships can also be a major issue that has become one of the leading causes of depression and other mental health problems in recent years. 

Social media

As cliche it might sound, social media is a huge influence over one’s mental health. It is social media that allows for easy access to the outside world which means easier access to negative influences, toxic competition, bullying, hate, and a rise in consumerism and materialism. 

Many studies have looked into the impact social media has one an individual’s well being and most studies have concluded that social media lead to dissatisfaction of one’s life, looks, possessions, economic standing, diet, health, relationships etc. it can magnify your negative feelings and outlooks when faced with constant comparison and dissatisfaction. 

People are talking about it more

Now, another reason why individuals might be noticing that more people around them are depressed could be because more people are talking about it. 

While it is possible that more people are diagnosed with depression every year, it is also possible that people would have been diagnosed at the same rates should there have been more awareness and less stigma around mental illnesses back in the day. 

It could be because there is a healthier and more supportive climate around mental health in this present generation, that more people are talking about it, admitting to themselves about it, and seeking help.

Stress

Another major cause of this rise in depression or mental health problems that has been recorded is clearly because of stress.

The causal factors mentioned above all add to the experience of stress that young individuals face today. 

Writer Therese.J.Borchard who has written about their own mental health struggles makes an observation that today’s generation face more stressors and this triggers depression in individuals who are already predisposed to it- especially in teenagers. 

It is also possible that while faced with stress, there is a huge and very obvious lack of support systems, causal community relationships, opportunity to play and have fun without something else allowing you to do so- such as technology-, and there is not much opportunity to be in the moment which add to the problem. 

Over diagnosis

According to a book called The Loss of Sadness that looks into depression and the rise of prevalence of depression, the writers claim that this trend could be because of overdiagnosis caused by professionals in the field who have been lax with the criteria that defines depression. 

The writers hypothesised that since the 1980s, researchers wanted to study depression more easily and this led to experts diagnosing normal levels of sadness as depression. They also claimed that though depression is real, it is possible that it has been overly diagnosed. 

What is Clinical 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. 

The Diagnostic and statistical manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed) DSM-V outlines the following criterion to make a diagnosis of depression. 

The individual must be experiencing five or more symptoms during the same 2-week period and at least one of the symptoms should be either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure. 

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.

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 to manage and maintain a positive state of mental health?

In very simple words, mental health refers to our overall cognitive, emotional, and behavioural wellbeing that is concerned with what we think, feel, and behave. 

Mental health is a crucial part of a person’s life as any disruption in their mental well-being can impact their daily lives, their relationships with other people, and also their occupational progress as well. 

Interestingly, this relationship between mental health and the various factors such as relationships, jobs, day to day activities is bi-directional meaning that such factors can be affected by our mental health and at the same time, these factors can affect our mental health. 

A few things that we can do on an individual’s level to manage and maintain our mental health include:

Seek out therapeutic care

Engaging with a therapist, being diligent with your medication, and making the changes you need to make to get better will determine your prognosis.

If the cost of therapy is becoming a burden consider talking to your therapist for a sliding scale option or the possibility of a pro bono case, and if that is not possible ask your therapist to refer you to someone who can take on your case at a much lower rate or for free. 

Your therapist will help you understand what is happening to you, might prescribe you medication if needed, and can help you tap into your own strengths that can help you adapt to challenges, changes, and overcome them.

Join a support group

Another thing you can do for yourself is to join a support group of people struggling with depression so that you can experience emotional support first hand within these communities and over time learn how to manage your challenges by learning from each other. 

It is possible that people with depression can also struggle with a sense of worthlessness, a feeling that you have nothing of value to offer. By joining a group that is open, empathetic, and growing towards healing, you and your experiences can be an excellent sense of support to someone else who is also in their early part of their journey. 

Seek out positive relationships

Like seeking out support in groups, seek out positive relationships in your life that do not judge and rather support you as you get better.

These can be friends, family and even past coworkers who offer support and a shoulder to learn on when you need it. 

These positive relationships can enable you to heal as well as help you as you move forward in life. 

Focus on resting and recovering

The most important thing that you can do for yourself is to rest and focus on recovering, do not rush yourself to get better so that you can go back to school or go back to work. 

Instead, take time to eat well, rest well, exercise, give time to yourself to think and engage in things you used to like doing before you started working- be it reading comics, or playing video games, or walking your pet.

Take effort to engage in things that you love doing, explore new activities if you feel like it and explore the world around you. 

Developing awareness within communities, Policy development on a political scale, and community effort for interventions on various levels- youths, working populations, elderly, and within vulnerable populations as well. 

Conclusion

In this blog we tried to answer the question of “why are so many people depressed?” We also briefly explored what depression is and what one can do to manage depression.

References

American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association, 2013.

About Mental Health. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. 28th June, 2021. Retrieved on 11th Dec 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm

Mental health: strengthening our response. WHO. 30th March 2018. Retrieved on 11th December 2021. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-strengthening-our-response

Twenge.J. Why So Many People Are Stressed and Depressed. PsychologyToday. Retrieved on 9th February 2022. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/our-changing-culture/201410/why-so-many-people-are-stressed-and-depressed

Petty.A. Why Is Everyone I Know Depressed? Great List. Retrieved on 9th February 2022. https://greatist.com/live/why-is-everyone-i-know-depressed#1

COVID-19 Mental Disorders Collaborators. Global prevalence and burden of depressive and anxiety disorders in 204 countries and territories in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lancet. 2021 Nov 6;398(10312):1700-1712. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(21)02143-7. Epub 2021 Oct 8. PMID: 34634250; PMCID: PMC8500697.

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