Depression is much more common than you think – statistics estimate that one in sex people will experience depression at some point in their lives. I’m not just talking about feeling sad for a few days, hormonal mood swings, or feeling particularly blah. I’m talking about clinical depression, feelings that are so bad they’re considered a disability. Clinical depression is chemical imbalance that can ruin someone’s life, and in the most severe cases, even end someone’s life. Depression this serious can go hand-in-hand with substance abuse, drug addiction, severe anxiety, and other mental issues. It varies from person to person, and it’s treatable, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to treat. It’s not always preventable, either – there are some things you might think matter that don’t actually help prevent depression at all.
I have watched friends, family members, and significant others struggle with depression, and it’s not easy – watching someone you love go through this leaves one feeling helpless, frustrated, and desperate. One of the worst things has been listening to the way others talk about depressed people. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say, “That person is so pretty/has such a great job/seems so happy… how can they be depressed?” I would be a millionaire. Depression can happen to anyone, regardless of what you do, what you look like, and how happy you seem, and that is imperative for everyone to understand.
The problem is that depression is not easy to understand. If you have never experienced the crippling feelings of sadness (which doesn’t even seem like a strong enough word) and self-doubt that go along with it, you can’t possibly understand how tough it is and how out of control it leaves you feeling. I have felt depression before, and I hope to never feel it again. I am a smart, capable young woman who has lived a charmed life – most people don’t believe I could have been depressed. This is because people have a certain idea of what depressed people should look like. That usually involves someone who is failing at life in some major way, someone who doesn’t have things together, someone who has a “reason” to be depressed.
This view of depression is harmful to everyone, especially the people suffering from it. It contributes to the stigma of depression that we all experience, which contributes to the taboo surrounding it, and can contribute to people not seeking help because of that. We need to understand that depression does not discriminate – it can happen to anyone, even when you least expect it. That said, here are eight things that definitely do not help prevent depression, so please, stop thinking they do.
FameThere are a lot of celebrities who admit to being depressed. When a celebrity makes this confession, I hear a lot of people wondering, "How can they be depressed? They're famous! They have everything!" I read articles that are shocked at how this person could be feeling so low when they seem so happy and well-adjusted in front of the camera. I know that everyone isn't saying these things with malicious intent - these are people who clearly don't understand depression. Because if you understood it, you would know that sometimes, no matter how much you have, you still feel depressed. And some people are being rude about it - they seem almost angry that a famous person dares to feel misery. Take Justin Bieber's situation as an example: Justin has admitted to feeling depressed several times, but it doesn't seem to make an impact. I hear people say things like, "I don't feel sorry for him, he has no reason to feel depressed" or "How can you be depressed when you have that many people who love you?" Honestly, this upsets me. I feel sorry for Justin. It isn't fair that he can't be taken seriously when it comes to depression because so many people think that material possessions equal happiness. Please remember that many, many stars are depressed - and to assume they can't be because they have things you don't is ignorant. Source: Instagram
Having A Lot Of MoneyYou've heard it before, but I'll say it again: money does not equal happiness. Money doesn't take away depression. In fact, money is known to make some people unhappy. I've heard too many people say things like, "How can they be depressed? They're rich! Just buy the things that make you happy!" If that's how it worked, that would be great, but it's not true. Source: iStock
Being Really AttractiveAnother annoying stereotype about depressed people is that they aren't attractive. Good looks might make life easier sometimes, but they don't make you happy all the time. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who have often been called two of the most beautiful people in the world, have both spoken about their struggles with depression. Your looks have absolutely nothing to do with clinical depression. Credit: Fred Duval / Contributor / Getty Images
SmilingSome depressed people are really good at hiding their depression. They know how to put on a smile and make it seem like they're having all the fun in the world - then they go home and feel miserable in silence. Just because someone is smiling doesn't mean they're okay. I used to be friends with someone who always seemed happy and smiley... and then one day I realized she was deeply depressed. People don't expect this. They expect depressed people to look like stock images of depression: crying, dirty hair, sad eyes, perpetual frown. This isn't the case for many people suffering from depression.
Being In A RelationshipHaving a significant other does not equal instant happiness. Even if someone is in a great relationship, they can still feel depressed. My first boyfriend was (and still is) extremely depressed. I was 15-years-old when we started dating, and I was devastated that our relationship alone wasn't enough to make him feel happy and not depressed. I couldn't understand it: we were happy together. How could he still be so depressed? It took me a long time to realize that depression is an issue in the brain - it can't go away completely because one thing (or all things) go right for someone. Source: iStock
Being Really PopularThis is similar to the fame example: people assume someone can't be depressed if they have a lot of friends, are loved by a lot of people, and have a great social life. Most of us assume that popular people have it all figured out. In reality, this is sometimes so far from the truth. Please don't assume that just because someone seems to have everything, they can't feel unhappiness... or more.
Coming From A Happy FamilyA friend I was very close to for a good part of my life was so depressed that it led to alcoholism and drug addiction. A year ago, he passed away from what we suspect was an overdose. He came from a truly wonderful family, the kind of family most people dream about. When I heard of his depression, the thought went through my mind: "How could he be so unhappy with that kind of upbringing?" And then I had to remind myself that outside factors sometimes do not matter. He had a supportive family that tried everything they possibly could to help him. It wasn't enough, because sometimes it isn't. Source: iStock
Being Super SmartSometimes people assume that depression has something in common with stupidity: if you're not depressed, you can quite clearly see what can help depression, and it starts to seem crazy that someone wouldn't know how to use those tactics to get rid of their unhappiness. You assume that if someone is smart, they have to know how to get rid of depression. Not so much. In fact, high intelligence is often linked to depression. Smarts have nothing to do with this. Source: iStock
Have you ever felt depressed? Do you know anyone who is depressed? What do you disagree about? Let me know in the comments.