WHAT IS DEPRESSION?
What Is True Depression?
(Depression is not just a mood disorder)
I use the term True Depression or true depressive to distinguish it primarily from Mood Disorders that are not depression based (I will use the term depression here to also mean “true depression”). So what is the difference you may very well wonder? Mood disorders may have psychological origins, arise from a chemical imbalance in the brain or even be produced by taking some medications or psychotropic drugs. The reason depression is confused and thus classified as a mood disorder is that depression’s primary symptom is a down mood and the secondary symptom is suicide. What people looking from the outside see, whether they are treating someone with a mood disorder or a true depressive looks somewhat the same. One thing that is not the same is the results that are gotten in the treatment of these two apparently similar cases. Mood disorders can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, psychological issues or a combination of the two. In most of these cases some combination of medication and psychotherapy can control the problem. This is often not the case with depression. I have personally spoken to many sufferers who are more than sufficiently medicated and have had all sorts of psychotherapy but still suffer just the same.
So even though depression seems to be just a down mood it is much more than that. The crucial difference between depression and a mood disorder is that a mood disorder does not have a driving entity that fights against the therapeutic remedies while true depression does. An analogy would be how an alcoholic or drug addict have higher and higher thresholds to meet to satisfy their need to be stoned or buzzed as time goes on. Similarly, since in the case of the depressive there is a driver that is trying to push the sufferer closer and closer to despair, as the medication may balance out the brain chemistry of the patient, the demon inside his or her head finds a way to overcome the attempted solution. As more and more medication is supplied the patient becomes less and less able to function in a productive manner. Also since the main symptom of depression is a down mood most psychotherapy and holistic approaches concentrate on bringing about better moods. While improving owns mood never hurts and in fact is part of the solution, unfortunately by itself it fails to address the central core issue, namely the death wish. Without addressing this aspect of the affliction episodes are likely to continue to occur.
What Causes Depression?
Depression is a failed death wish that usually comes from very early childhood, most often on or about the time of birth. It appears that depression is a mechanism that is adopted in childhood in a moment of fear and desperation as a way to escape the frightening new environment the physical world represents. Even when the child survives the impact and shock of the delivery room with its glaring lights and other disturbing aspects, it may perceive physical and/or emotional abandonment if he or she picks up negative vibes from their parent(s) or they are not cuddled enough soon after birth. This can also occur with adolescents which may manifest from feelings of worthlessness or abandonment when the individual is at a particularly vulnerable age. Why some adopt this strategy (at least 5% of the worldwide population or about 350 million souls at this writing) and others don’t, may to be related to a number of emotional factors as well as the individual’s tolerance for isolation. Depressives’ emotional thermostats are apparently set lower so they opt out more readily than the rest of the population. After awhile this strategy can become habitual and thus condemns the sufferer to a life of emotional darkness and gloom.
The death wish is not an uncommon phenomenon. With older couples, who have been together for most of their adult lives, when one dies the other often follows their partner in death within a relatively short period of time, though there seems to be no other apparent reason for their passing. In these cases what others, endeavoring to live a normal life, would call depression is employed as the catalyst for the older person's death. I have personally witnessed or heard about this phenomenon playing out. My mother in her late eighties when facing terminal cancer told me that she was ready to die and did within a couple of weeks, though her doctor said she should last at least six months. My neighbor, while in his late seventies, lost his wife of many years and he himself died soon afterward. A friend of mine said her mother, in her early nineties and otherwise physically healthy, decided to die and soon did after losing her ability to function as she had up to that time.
In the cases cited above, the death wish plays out and ends in the desired result, and although this may also be true with infants, perhaps in the unexplained cases known as crib death or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). When the child does survive, the death wish directive to the child’s unconscious mind remains throughout their life and eventually manifests in episodes of depression at various stressful and challenging moments, to varying degrees depending on the individual.
Do You Have Depression?
Being depressed should not be a vague concept, though the understanding that people have about it may be vague but as far as the condition is concerned you either suffer from depression or you don't. If you have it you may suffer infrequently or often. If you have depression you may suffer very severely or not as severely. The duration of your episodes may vary as well. They may last minutes, hours, weeks, months or even years. But regardless of how frequent, severe and long the episodes are, you are either a depressive or you are not!
As opposed to what is generally believed, one does not get depression later in life like getting Alzheimer’s or other age related illnesses, it’s either there, though undetected or it’s not. One of the problems is that since depressives carry this affliction from early childhood, you and others don’t realize you have it until it begins to interfere with your life. You have nothing to compare it to until your get better and then you realize the difference.
Depression is a failed death wish that almost always occurs during early childhood, infancy or at birth. The desire to die and return to where it came from stems from the rejection the child feels or hears from one or both parents. Life especially to an infant is scary enough without the fear of abandonment, for to a child abandonment means undue suffering leading to a nasty end.
If the child survives, perhaps due to coddling the death wish remains in the subconscious until it is changed or reversed. Like a computer the subconscious does only what it is told and keeps doing it until it receives a different command. Thus throughout the depressive's life, when feelings of being helpless and hopeless are experienced (as an abandoned child would feel) it is likely that a depressive episode is triggered, and the individual is permeated by feelings of despair. Over a lifetime the emotions, events and circumstances that trigger a depressive episode can spawn many branches until one is hurled into this abyss of misery without even being aware of what set it off.
Feeling bad and having depression are two separate phenomena. For a depressive, feeling bad can trip the switch that may result in a depressive episode, but they are still two distinct and separate phenomena, where the depression acts as catalyst which greatly intensifies the bad feelings and makes it much harder to exit the mood. On the surface, the difference lies in how quickly and easily one can end the episode. Bad feelings and dour moods are normal and occur with differing frequency, severity and duration for most individuals. These are all a function of many variables including personality, temperament, circumstances, and various other aspects regarding the individual. But whether or not these lead to a state of depression is another issue entirely. Feeling bad is like stopping your car, you should be able to restart it and move on if you wish. But feeling bad when depression is involved means your car is stopped and it is very difficult to get it started again, and the harder you try, unless you know the key, the worse your episode becomes. What’s more you are stuck in the mud as well, which means that all your prospects look dim for getting back on the road and on your way.
So if you feel bad and do not have depression you can move on much more easily. If you feel bad and you trigger a depressive episode (because you suffer from depression) then unraveling yourself from the bad feelings is much more difficult. In addition you may experience morbid thoughts of death and suicide which in themselves are quite disturbing. It is the intensity, difficulty of ending it and grim feelings of helplessness and hopelessness and thoughts of death that differentiate a depressive episode from normal occurrences of bad moods and getting the blues.
The Effects of Depression
It seems that depressives (those who suffer from depression) suffer constantly though it may not be apparent. To elaborate, depression for sufferers operates as an underlying subconscious strategy or coping mechanism and darkness prevails. The intensity of the darkness (suffering) depends on how much light comes into the person’s life to lessen the effects of the emotional darkness. That is to say it is always there, and as with darkness, it only leaves when light is brought to bear.
In general three pronounced and unmistakable instances can transcend the depressive state. They are (1) when engaged in an activity which takes all our attention (otherwise known as the flow state, made famous in the bestselling book The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle), (2) when elated about a thought or an occurrence and (3) when we experience an artificial high from drugs, alcohol and/or other intoxicating agents, or are involved in other addictions such as gambling or overeating, which are most often detrimental to our health and well-being.
One reason the cure for depression was so difficult to find is that it was never meant to be a continuous process but was intended to end the life of the sufferer the first time it was experienced (like the abandoned infant or older spouse); this is why sufferers often have thoughts of death and some even unfortunately take the ultimate step and commit suicide (statistics show that 60% of all suicides are committed by people suffering from depression). Depression is supposed to be Mother Nature’s way of allowing an abandoned child or adult (with no hope of survival) to die a faster and more peaceful death than what they might otherwise face if their death was not hastened. Thus, it appears that depression was intended as a self imposed form of euthanasia.
Dysthymia: Depression's Negative Baseline
According to Mayo Clinic Staff, "Dysthymia (dis-THIE-me-uh) is a mild but long-term (chronic) form of depression. Symptoms usually last for at least two years, and often for much longer than that. Dysthymia interferes with your ability to function and enjoy life. With dysthymia, you may lose interest in normal daily activities, feel hopeless, lack productivity, and have low self-esteem and an overall feeling of inadequacy. People with dysthymia are often thought of as being overly critical, constantly complaining and incapable of having fun."
True Depressives, when not involved in an activity or otherwise joyful due to positive circumstances and not in the midst of a depressive episode, endure a low grade gloominess technically known as Dysthymia. This may not always be noticed or understood for what it is because the sufferers are not accustomed to life without this mood dampening effect serving as a backdrop. This gloominess comes from the depressive’s ongoing battle between their continuous negative death wish and their positive life force that is always struggling to keep the potentially destructive dark feelings at bay. Depressive’s feel best when their life force is strongest and often suffer dark episodes when they are feeling down and defeated. The old gloominess is noticed when the depressive throws the mental switch that turns their depression off and instantaneously or within days a clearing takes place. They only know that they had the gloominess when they compare it to the new way they feel when they are truly depression free.
The definition of refractory in this context means: resisting ordinary methods of treatment. This is actually one of the definitions given to a certain "type of depression." This is not because those who created the description understand this facet of the affliction and are attempting to describe it through knowledge, but in fact it is a way of admitting that they do not understand the nature of it and are presenting just another example of their lack of understanding and insight into its essential character. Refractory depression is explained in an internet article named "Treatment-resistant depression" published by the Mayo Clinic staff.
The truth is that this "form" of depression is no different from other forms of depression (in its essence) except that, using their methods, the symptoms are more difficult to treat. But, as in the case of many other clinical disorders, the description in those cases are not changed because the patient is not responding as well to the treatment. So in effect, they are trying to blame the patient and the infirmity for their failure to yield the proper response, which would be like blaming a math problem for ones inability to find a solution by labeling it uncooperative. The point being that treating "symptoms" is quite different than healing or curing the disorder. Again, this goes to my conviction that the medical community believes that the apparent symptoms of depression (sad and morose moods) constitutes the actual disorder itself, which I firmly contend is not the case.
Understanding and Overcoming Depression