What is Depression?

 *TRIGGER WARNING*

The British Dictionary describes it as “a mental disorder characterized by extreme gloom, feelings of inadequacy, and inability to concentrate.” However, Harvard Medical School’s research argues that depression not only comes from a chemical imbalance, but also from (and not limited to) things like stress, medications, genes, or faulty mood regulation.

Neurotransmitters help improve the brain’s ability to regulate mood, as they are deeply involved in how nerve cells communicate with another. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that relay messages from neuron to neuron. An antidepressant medication tends to increase the concentration of these substances in the synapses; this change appears to influence the brain to do its job better. Additionally, PET scans show the amount of activity in the brain. It has been found that the brains of people with depression do not have the same level of brain activity as those who do not, meaning those who do suffer from depression overall have less brain function.

All the medical jargon aside, it’s extremely important to remember that depression is an illness and not a choice. Depression is more than just feeling sad. Sometimes, you feel depressed when you experience loss or you are struggling or something injures your pride or self-esteem. Feeling depressed is not being depressed. Depression is feeling surrounded in darkness constantly, never feeling like yourself, not wanting to wake up, and so much more. It’s overwhelming, and it often remains unrecognized and untreated.

Depression makes you feel like you are always alone. Even in a room full of people, you feel like there is no one to talk to. Typically, depression doesn’t result from just one event; depression builds inside of you during a combination of events along with personal and long-term factors. Those who have suffered from depression before or who are at risk of depression can sink into depression when triggered. Some people are at a higher risk due to a naturally anxious personality, a low self-esteem, a perfectionist mindset, a sensitive disposition, or a self-critical and negative view of themselves. Depression is also likely to affect people who have a family history of depression, who have a serious medical illness, or who use drugs and/or alcohol.

Sometimes, it’s too late to ask “Did you know?” or “What can I do to help?” They’re already gone because we don’t know how to handle the emotional side to depression. In the end, depression is more than just an illness that you can take a pill to fix in a month or two. The truth is you’re probably never going to be “perfect” again, and that is okay. It takes work, time, and support, but you are worth that effort. Always remember that.

Sometimes, you just need to talk to someone. That’s why the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline was founded and is open 24/7. But if you are depressed, you should go see a doctor for treatment and possibly therapy.   If you know someone with depression, HELP. This can never be stressed enough. If they say “leave me alone”, you take them out to pizza. If they say “I’m fine”, you say “No. You’re not.” Never let them be alone; it’s too dangerous. Being alone leaves a depressed person with only their thoughts, and depression is the scariest, most horrible illness to go through alone.