Hello, my resilient readers! It’s been two weeks since my last blog, but I have been brainstorming topics. I want to talk about how depression affects your social health. We start developing how we interact with our environment before birth. Fetuses kick in the womb when they feel a touch or their birth giver eats something they do/don’t like. Our society and environment mold our thoughts and actions as we develop throughout our lives. Any mental illness can affect how we interact with the world on micro, mezzo, and macro levels.
I could address the effects all mental illnesses have on us socially. Although, I believe it would be too vague and not applicable to those of us that may want to use this article to educate others on the topic. Therefore, I will discuss depression in this article for now.
DSM-5 definition of Major Depressive Disorder
The DSM-5, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Edition 5, defines depression as having the following symptoms:
- Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report or observation made by others.
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities most of the day, nearly every day.
- Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
- Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly everyday
- psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day.
- Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
- Feelings of word worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, indecisiveness, nearly everyday
- recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent pseudo suicidal ideations without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan to commit suicide (160-161)
The DSM-5 also says that the diagnostic criteria are “five or more of the following symptoms have been present during the same two weeks and represent a change from previous functioning; At least one of the symptoms is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure”(160). Depression and sadness are similar in nature, and sadness is a symptom of depression, but they are not classified as the same thing. Sadness happens because of a trigger such as losing a job or a breakup. That sadness does not last long, and individuals can quickly bounce back from those setbacks. Depression happens without any reason or situation to cause it.
My own social sabotage
While coping with our illnesses, we practically self-sabotage. We retreat and behave abnormally (what is normal). Our brains tell us these awful inter thoughts as a result we cause ourselves to become more withdrawn. It’s like depression is a planet, and we are one of its moons. We circle it; sometimes, it covers the light (lunar eclipse), and sometimes, we find the light (solar eclipse). We are constantly orbiting because of its gravitational pull until we either escape that pull or collide into it.
I remember in my darkest days thinking about how I knew my life was good and was better than it had been at that time. I was speaking to myself negatively as if I was an older person saying, “It was worse back in my day, and I got through it.” Those phrases used by older generations hold inter-generational trauma, which I intend to address in a later post. Most people with depression know that getting up and being active, visiting with friends, or even taking a shower can elevate some feelings of depression. The kicker is how depression doesn’t let you do any of those things. This is what causes strain on your social interactions. It’s not that those individuals don’t want to hang out, go outside, or take a shower. It’s that depression symptoms physically and mentally won’t let them.
There was a joke about how people are glad when plans get canceled. I have canceled many plans while depressed. There are times that I don’t feel sad, and I want to hang out. I have gotten entirely ready to go out and then called to cancel. Depression pushes people away from us and isolates us, then says, “No one even cares. You’re all alone; see how easily you were able to cancel hanging out”. Our friends and family may notice the isolation but deem it an introvert act or believe it isn’t as bad. Some people may feel they don’t fit into society and don’t want to burden others.
I am a crier, so when I become deeply depressed, I will cry anywhere at any time. I remember once, while in the Army, crying in a vehicle for hours, and my supervisor brought me into the office to talk about how long I had been gone. What could I tell her? Oh, sorry, I was having debilitating depression and was crying, but I don’t know why. There have been times I sobbed while driving home; all I can think is how strange that must have looked to other drivers. Sorry officer, I didn’t know my headlights were off because I could barely see through my tears. I couldn’t control when or where my depression would hit me, so I didn’t want to be around anyone when it did.
How the talk of mental illness has changed.
There has been a long stigma about mental illness and how people express it. As I stated earlier, it is inter-generational, but over the years, we have become more open to the conversation, and it doesn’t have the same condemnations. The thought that people weren’t depressed in the past is absurd. People didn’t talk about depression for fear of being sent to a mental hospital or losing their social standing.
People use the term depressed loosely and may show signs of sadness or exhaustion. This can negatively affect how society views depression by making it a regular thing. For example, someone may say, “I don’t want to hang out. I’m depressed about not getting that promotion.” Everyone deals with hardship differently, so maybe someone who didn’t get a promotion makes them feel unworthy or like a failure. Then that individual has this sadness or hopeless feeling for months, and they never seem to come out of that. This situation could lead to a diagnosis of depression.
My advice to avoid socially sabotaging yourself during depression is always to reach out for help. You are not alone in this world. Even if you distance yourself, those who care are always close. What your depressed brain says is not always true. Also, small wins are big wins. Drinking a glass of water…win. Getting out of bed to pee…. win. Answering a text….WINNNN. Be kind to yourself!
My advice for those who care about someone with depression. Great job at trying to research ways to understand and care for your loved one. It’s not you; it’s me…. just kidding, it’s depression. They will push you away, but it’s not because they don’t want you there. You can’t fix depression for someone else.
Depression is a mental disorder. We can sling ourselves from that gravitational pull with time, therapy, and sometimes medication.
**The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the Serotonin Soup website!**
Call your doctor or 911 right away if you’re in a crisis or believe you may have an emergency. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area at any time (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline). If you are located outside the United States, call your local emergency line immediately.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596