Is depression the opposite of happiness? If the answer to depression is simply the re-calibrating of chemical imbalance with a dash of serotonin here and top up of dopamine there, then how is it that medical health forecasters are suggesting that within 10 years mental disorder will account for 40% of all medical death and disability in the developed world?
The chemical route appears to be providing less than encouraging answers. It seems that as community attitudes become better informed and sophisticated, that ever more acquaintances step out of the shadows to lay bare their burden. The opening up of a formerly frowned upon subject to discussion seems to have unveiled an epidemic.
There is a continuum that measures mental well-being and feelings ranging from euphoric through to well, melancholy, distraught, catatonic and ultimately suicidal. The extreme end of this scale represents a point of mental crisis that requires professional intervention.
Further upstream however before the edge of the waterfall is imminent, is the better place to implement strategies to dilute or negate the most serious and catastrophic of outcomes.
Few issues in life are black and white. The cause of depression could keep a debating society in material for ever. Yet without some reasonable understanding from whence this scourge emanates, effective treatment is hamstrung. Whatever the origins; chemical imbalance, social, environmental, irrational thinking or internal dialogue, alcohol and substance abuse; clinical mental disorder and any other number of triggers may evolve in to fully blown depression.
What can be done therefore, to dilute this scourge and nullify it's debilitating consequences?
Identify the symptoms early.
Symptoms can become triggers to ever escalating mood swings. Despair, irritability, change of appetite, expressions of worthlessness and guilt. At the lower end of the scale this is termed Dysthymia-or mood disorder. A benign sounding term, but sometimes a precursor to an altogether more serious affliction, which at its most extreme can manifest in suicidal thoughts.
Early intervention strategies.
Avoid non-prescription drugs and alcohol. Self harm and impulse behaviour is more prevalent, when the senses are dulled or heightened abnormally.
Connect and talk. Introspection in isolation can compound feelings of melancholy and warp reasoned and rational evaluation.
Participate in social and physical activities. Anything that interrupts the negative focus creates a different outlook and hence mood.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
There is a line of thinking that suggests that some forms of non-clinical depression is the result of a kind of learned habitual helplessness similar to that identified in animal studies.
In the absence of social support networks this can lead to a perpetual self defeating loop of replaying the past, but via the perception lens of irrationality. According to the father of Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (REBT); Albert Ellis, the cornerstone of extreme and dysfunctional emotional disturbance, are people's irrational beliefs. Evidenced to the degree that the words 'should' and 'must' recur in their vocabulary.
It is hard to be happy or at least content, the enemy of depression, if our beliefs require the world to always be in tune and accordance with our mental model of the way it should be.
Simplistic as it may sound, changing our use of language can dramatically reframe our experiences. as an experiment try discussing an emotive topic without using the word 'should' or 'must', or their equivalent. Finding new means of expression, changes the mental pictures that create our experience.
Depression has many guises and is often debilitating. In many cases however it is manageable. Acknowledging there is a problem is a start and caught early enough in many cases there are interventions that can make a difference.