Why Depression Is Misunderstood

Why Depression Is Misunderstood

Of all the words in the English language, depression could be one of the most misunderstood. Why does this term seem to confuse so many people? Why is its real meaning so hard to grasp? It is because the term has two starkly contrasting meanings, depending on who is using it.

Among clinicians, the term depression is used to describe a syndrome that can robs people of their energy and ability to concentrate, love and experience joy. This is not just an emotional state, but a physical one that impacts specific regions of the brain. Depression actually lights up the brain’s pain circuitry, inducing a state of suffering that can become debilitating.

Beyond this, depression is actually neurotoxic, meaning the disorder can eventually lead to the death of neurons in critical memory and reasoning areas of the brain, including the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Simply stated –  depression causes brain damage.

Colloqiual Usage

Confusion abounds when the term “depression” is used by folks in everyday conversation. In these instances, they usually are referring to something far less serious or clinical. In fact, most people use the term as a synonym for mere sadness or being upset.

For instance, you will often here people make comments such as, “I was so depressed when Starbucks dropped its pumpkin spice latte,” or “Oh my God, I just ripped a whole in my favorite pair of jeans. I am so depressed right now.” More precisely put, these are frustrating disappointments that are simply a part of life. Ripped jeans and discontinued menu items have little effect on our ability to function, and the feelings of disappointment and annoyance rarely last for very long. A friendly word from a loved one or a hug is generally all that is needed to get over the perceived “crisis.”

In contrast, clinical depression often persists for months, and no amount of friendly support from loved ones is enough to make it any less debilitating.

Time for New Language?

And this is where the confusion lies and why folks struggle to understand the ramifications of clinical depression. It is also why those who suffer from depression can be met with relative indifference when they open up to friends and family about their condition.

The sad reality is that because of this confusion many depressed patients are expected to simply “snap out of it” by friends and family. No one would ever take this attitude with someone suffering from cancer or kidney disease; the admonition is equally offensive and inappropriate in the case of clinical depression.

Perhaps it is time to come up with a new term to describe the symptoms of clinical depression? By using new language, more people could understand the disease and show more compassion toward individuals suffering from it.

Working with a skilled, experienced psychologist, therapist, or counselor can help you learn new skills to better navigate depression. If you are interested in therapy to explore these concerns, I invite you to call or email me to get started working together. Telehealth appointments are available.

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