July 2022 | Success Laboratory | 1561 words | reading time ± 6 minutes
“Doctor, I think I’m depressed!” is an increasingly frequent reason for consultation. Always present as its own entity, mental health has recently become both a reason for recourse in medicine but also a subject of concern and concern for part of the population. The speech consisting in encouraging the exchange on this subject avoids real dramas, it is extremely beneficial, that a step ahead, and it is necessary to continue to communicate on that.
“Mental Health is Health” is a slogan that was told to me by my brother, friend, and colleague, from his recent trip to Toronto, a beautiful metropolis worth seeing, by the way! As often, there is a negative side to this medal, which does not change its primary value: Depression becomes an entity where anxiety, anguish, stress, weariness, ill-being, devaluation, negativity, etc(few people are interested in definitions) all these feelings collide and end up locking the person in a spiral of negativity that is associated with depression! By dint of sticking a label on yourself, you end up buying it, strongly!
It therefore seems necessary to provide clarity:
- What is Depression?
- How does this impact us?
- How does this translate?
- How to avoid these pitfalls?
- How can we get out of this cycle?
- What are the lines of philosophical reflection?
What is depression and how does it impact us?
Depression or depressive syndrome corresponds to the association of different symptoms that WHO has defined:
– reduce self esteem and self confidence
– ideas of guilt and unworthiness (even in a mild type of episode);
– pessimistic views of future
– ideas or acts of self-harm or sucide
– disturb sleep – disturb appetite
– reduced concentration and attention
There are different manifestations of depression but here I will describe the two most common forms in order to give you the weapons to react quickly for yourself, but also for those around you!
The following infographic compares and highlights the fundamental characteristics of these two types of depressive syndromes.
The prevalence of depression in the world varies between approximately 2 and 6% with a higher proportion in people over 70 years old. Women are more frequently affected than men.
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, cases of mental disorders have increased by around 25% according to the latest WHO data. Social isolation was most often the trigger for the spiral of negativity!
Depression has serious consequences, the most serious risk of which is the passage to the suicidal act. It is our responsibility to empathize, recognize, alert.
Empathize Recognize Alert :
ERA saves lives!
A comprehensive approach to the consequences of depression on our overall health is the concept of DALYs (Disability Adjusted Life Years), DALYs are used to measure total burden of disease – both from years of life lost and years lived with a disability. One DALY equals one lost year of healthy life.
Depression follows a certain form of malaise / discomfort
Depression is most often progressive and sets in gradually. The major symptoms discussed above get worse over time as the situation gets darker! What was at the beginning only a weariness or transient malaise, lasts longer and longer. At first, you can cope, put things into perspective and remobilise yourself to move forward despite the difficulties, but slowly the disease surrounds you and pushes you towards an impasse! You end up not being able to overcome the simplest things, you slowly lose control and the worst part is that you even end up feeling guilty for your inability! You blame yourself for being what you are and how you are! You hate yourself for thinking that! Time to time, you find the strength to fight for your family, your children, but over time, even those pillars end up bending under the weight of all the negativity the disease brings to you! You end up sliding into a feeling of strong worthlessness with a huge loss of confidence, anhedonia (lack of pleasure in life), and questions whose answers systematically sink you even more: that’s depression, and this is how the spiral of negativity drags you down to a bottomless pit!
A deep understanding of feelings and the working of the psycheare essential to build a bulwark against a disease that can happen to all of us: you don’t know what it is, until you experience it, the humility is always in order when dealing with the complexity of human thought.
Be aware and understand our feelings
Feelings and emotions are neither good nor bad, they exist and that’s all!
From a purely neuro-psychic point of view, feelings are the direct translation of an exchange of neurotransmitters, in specialized areas of the brain, but that is of little interest for our deal of the day. Everything is played in the interpretation we make.
We consider being sad to be bad and negative, but these are “very human” and societal considerations. At what point was there a confabulation to define good and bad feelings! In fact, I’m sad and that’s all!
What hurts is not that emotion, no! What is painful is that I have built my life with the idea that my ideal base state is to be happy! But isn’t that a vision, and a utopian construction of life? A false construction where on the absence of misfortunes defines happiness!
We would certainly benefit from building our well-being as an unshakeable fortress that would rise up strong and impregnable beyond the evils and difficulties of everyday life! This is the point of a holistic and philosophical view of life: strength is only measurable through the adversity we experience. Happiness cannot be the translation of an absence of unhappiness or suffering, it is hiding your face! Like those kids hiding under the sheets hoping to escape the monsters in their rooms, except those kids are 3 years old… not you!
A life without pain, lot of successes, absolute happiness are distortions of reality: Life is wonderful, but it reserves terrible trials: the sooner you sincerely integrate this into your personal conception, the better, closer to reality you will be, the stronger in adversity you will become because you will have prepared yourself for the worst. It is an ancient philosophy : Si vis pacem, para bellum (If you want peace, prepare for war) !
Forced to be happy
The previous original error coupled with the obligation of happiness (the definition of which gives rise to multitudes of related errors) ends up locking you into the negative and despair.
The whole of society has been built around the right to happiness, in the USA the right to seek happiness is even constitutional. This shows the central place we give to this concept.
The conception of happiness as the natural state of things, and indeed, its relentless pursuit are a source of psychological suffering!
I suffer when I can’t get what I want! The major problem with happiness is that it is dynamic and changing (like success). Its definition and its nature are also very personal.
If, in order not to suffer, I have to reach something whose nature, definition is changing and whose temporality is dynamic, I put myself in a situation of failure and therefore of programmed suffering! This is a bit of the great misfortune of our society: the relentless search for a happiness which by nature is fleeting and changing!
And let’s not forget that we are human: even if we reach a supposed state of happiness as we have imagined it, we will most likely want more or start looking for something else because of lack of wisdom or by our insatiable nature!
We may have to admit that we are not made for happiness as it is conceptualized!
It is up to each of us to make a definition of it, that allows full development!
Philosophy: Freedom as a cure for depression
The dogma of forced happiness is therefore a source of psychological suffering and depression!
To get out of it, free yourself from this obligation, free yourself from the format as it is designed.
It thus appears that the search for the feeling of freedom is an answer to the problem of depression! The search for freedom is a search for oneself and it can only be part of a process free from fear. This search for a self, free from all societal yokes, in particular that of happiness as predefined, is the philosophical search for the best version of oneself, dear to the Stoics.
By extension, it is the search for a philosophy of life specific to each that is likely to be the preventive treatment for depression!
The philosophy of life is a sturdy construction anchored and based on deep values that are both characteristic and specific to each person.
A philosophical thought that would not be a utopian and unrealistic vision of life. A philosophical thought under reality sometimes harsh but sometimes so fulfilling.
A philosophical thought stimulating a better life, a dynamic life, where happiness is not an end but a self-powered engine by the experiences we live!
Maybe that way we would be closer to the reality of things, but that is up to each of us!