Depression: Feeling sad and down all the time

I tried to force myself to not be sad. But trying to use willpower to overcome the apathetic sort of sadness that accompanies depression is like a person with no arms trying to punch themselves until their hands grow back.  A fundamental component of the plan is missing and it isn’t going to work. When I couldn’t will myself to not be sad, I became frustrated and angry. In a final, desperate attempt to regain power over myself, I turned to shame as a sort of motivational tool. But, since I was depressed, this tactic was less inspirational and more just a way to oppress myself with hatred. Which made me more sad.”Allie Brosh, ‘Hyperbole and a Half’

What is it like to experience depression?

If you’re depressed, you might:

  • have a strong sense of hopelessness or feel things will never get better
  • blame and criticise yourself, feel very bad or guilty
  • sleep and eat differently — some people eat or sleep very little, while others sleep or eat much more than usual
  • withdraw from life — when there’s no pleasure or enjoyment to be had from activities, people stop doing the fun things they used to do
  • have suicidal thoughts — for some these thoughts can become intense and dangerous.
  • have sad feelings that stay around — your low mood lasts most of the day, every day for weeks and weeks
  • find that how you function in the world is affected by these problems, causing a negative impact on things like work, study and relationships.

What are the causes of depression?

The causes of depression are complicated and still being researched. It is generally agreed that depression is caused by a combination of genetic factors (things passed down through your family) and environmental factors (things that happen to you or that you encounter in your life). Some of the main environmental factors are:

  • a recent stressful event or trauma
  • long-term stress — ongoing issues such as an abusive relationship or a ‘toxic’ workplace
  • physical illness
  • drug and alcohol use.

However, there are many other causes and they usually occur in combination. The take-home message is that if you are going through depression, this is not your fault. You are not to blame for the way you are feeling.

“Just snap out of it.”

Have you ever heard these phrases? ‘Just get over it’. ‘Pull yourself together’. ‘Buck up.’ ‘Count your blessings.’ ‘There are people worse off than you.’ People who experience depression can’t just ‘pull themselves together’. This is like asking someone to ‘get over’ a broken leg without crutches or a cast. Depression is a horrible and difficult thing to experience. But there are treatments that can really help. Find out more here.

Feeling unsafe right now?

The most distressing and dangerous parts of depression are thoughts of self harm and suicide. If this is how you feel, you need to first keep yourself safe.

More on keeping safe

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