Why people get Depressed? Science behind depression

Issues like mental health and depression coming into the public limelight as many tragic incidents are happening. Probably, the people are realizing now how important these issues are, yet not talked about. I feel that it’s important to spread awareness about these issues and to make the public aware. There are a lot of myths, misconceptions, and misinformation regarding depression in society. This is why we will go into detail,

What depression and mental health are? And what are the most common myths around depression that are heard amongst our friends and family?

The biggest question is something that might come up in the minds of several people. If someone has so much fame and so much money that he/she can do whatever he/she wants, How can someone like that become depressed?-Especially within India, there is a common belief that having money ensures happiness. So now, it would be said that he had everything and he was happy in all aspects. How could he then be affected by depression?

A lot of things could trigger depression. One out of them could be sustained stress that you have been under for a long period of time. This could also be a cause for depression, but stress is not the sole reason for depression. There are a lot of people who do not get depressed despite them being under stress and there are people who can get depressed even in the absence of any stress. So this is why it is a biological manifestation, it’s because of different genes, proteins, and receptors in our body.

There are so many activities happening inside our body in the organs at the micro molecular level. The combination of these activities happening simultaneously determines whether you will get depression or not.

 And furthermore, when all these activities are placed in a specific environment, For example, a very high-stress environment for a very long period of time then most people might suffer from depression. But there are some people that have no cause (to worry about) and still suffer from depression.

Postpartum depression

 It is a good example. Many mothers, right after childbirth suffer from this. Having just completed pregnancy and delivered a baby. And with everything going on smoothly in life they wanted exactly. Despite that, postpartum depression is a very common problem and it affects a lot of women. So what basically happens is that the state of hormones gets altered because there is a sudden change in the hormones right after the delivery of a child. So this is why a lot of women suffer from depression.

Not all of them, though. It does affect several women and it is not recognized because it is assumed that there’s nothing bad that has happened in their lives. They should be happy since everything is okay. But despite that, they go into depression.

It does not always have an extrinsic relation-There is an environmental relation. There is an impact of the environment on our biology. This environmental impact and our biology together determine whether one will suffer from depression or not. Not only depression, but there are also several other mental health conditions like Schizophrenia or Autism. Although genetics plays a larger role in autism rather than the environment so all these things cumulatively- environmental impact, genetics, hormones, and physiology, in general, interact with one another.

Biological, psychological and social factors all combined matter. not just psychological factors as per common perception. So the biological factor is very important here because it can also happen that people under extreme stress and in a completely averse environment never feel depressed.

It indeed happens, a population kept under stress perpetually, for a long period of time in conditions like a famine or a world war, a lot of people become victims of mental health problems simultaneously So, we can see that sometimes, it can be triggered by things but it depends on the level and the extent of the stress and for how long it is exerted.

Can we differentiate a bad mood /low spirits from depression?

A bad mood/low feeling can get alright relatively quickly. Low mood spells get over as swiftly as they come. They last for a day or two. At most, it can linger for a few days. Depression causes mood swings that last for several days, sometimes with reason and sometimes without one.

There is a mental health condition called Bipolar disorder, in which there are a lot of fluctuations. There are extremely high functionalities when your mood is very good and then there are extremely low functionalities. These low functionalities in depression drag on for a long period of time sometimes for weeks. And it becomes immensely difficult to break out of it.

Depression is classified into three categories- Low, Moderate, and Severe. Every stage has different treatment methods. There are a lot of common treatments that people talk about. There is a tweet of the Health Ministry that suggests the following to steer clear of depression. Follow a routine, travel, be creative. Think positive, practice Yoga.

 Are these really the solution for mild depression? Or are these things of absolutely no help at all?

They indeed help. The people that are helped by these should absolutely do them. But the problem with depression is that it renders a person incapable of doing all this. A person feels so debilitated and helpless that they would not be able to travel or do yoga even if they want to. These things can make one happy and elevate one’s mood for some time in a mild depression but this is not a long-lasting solution. Because until you address its core problems- what we call the neural mechanisms, things will not normalize. They can definitely be addressed by psychology but these are all milder versions.

 We do not know whether the people who claim to be cured by these things actually suffered from depression or not. When we look at incidents and single cases of a person being cured of depression, we do not know whether they were correctly diagnosed or not. The symptoms of depression overlap with the symptoms of other diseases like PTSD, anxiety, or even bipolar disorder. So we should find out whether the diagnosis was correct or not, what the mechanisms and the root causes are, and what their treatment plan should be in accordance with that. Telling everyone to do Yoga or to travel would not work.

 Everyone should have their own customized treatment-In general, then all this (yoga/travel, etc) is apt for mild depression. It is apt to consult a psychologist for a medium depression. And in severe depression, it is apt to take anti-depressant medicines similarly; some people get treatment from a single counselor and get cured while others require these extreme measures.

Antidepressant pills

The stigma attached with the anti-depressant pills is that taking medication would induce sleepiness or would lead to other side effects. It is a very misinformed concept. Just like Type 2, Diabetes cannot be cured-it has to be managed throughout your life. There are very commonly prescribed drugs like Metformin, People take that medication and manage diabetes with it. Similarly, depression is managed and when the situation gets better over time, the psychiatrist or whosoever is being consulted assesses the patient who is then tapered off slowly.

These are merely anti-psychotic medications, sleeping pills, or addiction pills. There are pills for anxiety that might be soporific or slightly addictive, and they are very commonly prescribed. Such medications should be avoided.

 The functional medications for depression are neither soporific nor addictive. Since they make you feel better and since the extreme bouts of depression can spur suicidal thoughts, this medication should not be stopped abruptly.

Is Getting depressed a choice?

Another very common talk widely heard is that “Getting depressed is a choice”. A lot of people say that getting depressed or not is up to one’s will. We have been hearing it for some time now. They claim that it is up to us to give in to depression or to instead do things that will drive away that depression. The people that say these things confuse depression with sadness. They have no understanding of what depression actually is.

Nobody likes staying in that state. It makes you feel worthless and makes you feel as if you have no value in life and that you are not worthy of anything. So this is not one’s own will. Nobody is a victim of self-pity here. You’re either depressed or sad.

 If we dislike someone, we easily label them as a “psycho”. Not to mention, we have also elevated suicide so much over the past. It is also believed that, if someone hurts themselves in depression, then it is a cry for help and that that person is seeking attention, and the moment he/she gets it, he/she would not commit suicide.

Is it wrong to reach out to friends/family if one gets suicidal thoughts?

No, it isn’t. You should definitely reach out. In fact, it recommended doing.  One should reach out to a professional first because our system does not have the kind of sensitivity to not judge somebody for reaching out to a friend. They will judge you and label you as attention-seeking. Seeking professional help is much better. They would also know what to do further.

If there’s a trusted friend or a close relative, they can be confided in. Especially the generations before us- one of our parents or grandparents-have a lesser understanding and fewer people of those generations understand mental health issues because they feel like it is a “new disease”.

There is another widespread perception that depression came with the modern era and that there was nothing like this in the time of their ancestors. A lot happened during the time of our ancestors.

A book of medical history stated that if someone had pain or discomfort, like a headache, then holes were drilled into the skull. Because they believed that there were demons inside the head. And that they needed to be drilled out. In the case of an infection or fever. Bloodletting was also practiced- the superficial vein was pierced and took out blood in order to drive out the supernatural things.

 Depression earlier existed as well but we did not know how to define it. We did not know how to vocalize it with the language we had. The world today is very subjective and our experiences are extremely varied. It could happen that someone living in the Himalayas or living in a place like Sweden, near the North Pole has no idea of what is happening in the world. And as a result, no tragic news being broadcast on his TV. And he is economically sound as well, and then it might be possible that the chances of depression in places like these are less, because the environment that triggers it is absent. But it does not mean that there are no cases of depression in these places at all. Only the triggers are fewer in number-

Different conditions have different manifestations. Talking specifically about depression, if you are experiencing such low mood spells, where you do not have the motivation to do basic things and this spell goes on for a very long time. If you’ve become socially withdrawn and do not desire to meet anyone, unlike before, if it persists for several weeks (2-3 weeks) then definitely it is something other than stress. Go seek help from professionals or feel free to open up with your best friend.

I hope you would have found this to be informative. Share it to spread awareness.

4 thoughts on “Why people get Depressed? Science behind depression

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