Most people don’t realize that there is a difference between being depressed and having depression. I know this because when people find out that I have struggled with depression they often ask, “What were you depressed about?” or have suggest a simple remedy: “You should get out of the house more!”. I don’t blame the people. We only have one word for depression after all. Thankfully the dictionary reminds us that the same word can mean two different things:
: a state of feeling sad
: a serious medical condition in which the person feels very sad, hopeless, and unimportant and often is unable to live in a normal way.
Most people don’t realize there are two definitions for depression. I hope this post helps to change that. Maybe this will become a place to which the depressed can refer friends and relatives who don’t seem to understand what depressed people are going through.
The first form of depression is that of being sad, usually about something that has happened. People commonly say they were depressed after losing a job, finishing a major project, or having a baby. They experience a period of sadness and typically, after a time, it lifts. Since it is caused by something, when the something changes or fades into the past, the depression follows. I will not downplay this form of depression. It’s real. It’s emotional. It’s normal.
Being depressed is a response to something, generally bad or hard to handle. It has a tangible reason. It often goes away on its own.
This form of depression is a medical condition. It happens to people for seemingly no reason. It is generally not in response to trauma or major life changes. It happens because of chemical imbalances in the brain. A depressed person’s brain does not receive the chemicals necessary to operate normally. The imbalances affect their mood, energy levels, thought patterns, sleep duration and quality and are often compounded by anxiety, but it is not caused by any of these things. People often see the symptoms of depression and assume they are the depressed person’s problem. These are indeed symptoms of a problem, but not the cause.
It’s an easy mistake to make because until a person experiences Major Depressive Disorder themselves, it is impossible to understand it. Depression takes a functional human being and reduces them to an emotional mess. The brain fills their life with negativity, horrible thoughts about themselves, even physical pain. The disability takes away the ability to feel anything that is positive or enjoyable. Imagine being unable to derive any positive feelings from hobbies, relationships, being awake, or even a kiss from a spouse. This is compounded by the absolute absence of energy or motivation. Depressed people are often seen as lazy. People think that if they just got up and did their job they would feel better. Depressed people would love nothing more than to be able to get up and do their job. The fact that they can’t along with the knowledge that they are being judged as lazy only serves to drive them deeper into the darkness.
Depression is a very dark place. It clouds the depressed person’s mind. It throws the past in their face (“Look at what you were before depression!”). It steals all that is good from their present (“There is nothing wrong but everything is wrong! You are a crazy person!”). Then it threatens them with their future (“This is how it’s going to be forever.”). Depression tells them they are a disappointment and a burden to their loved ones. Since a depressed person is a burden it makes the darker thoughts easy to believe, that their family would be better off without them. Depression can literally reverses the instinct for self-preservation causing the person to consider acts that would end their own life.
Depression of this sort is not caused by problems, a desire to be lazy, emotions, feelings, hidden sin, demonic oppression, God, or the Devil. Depression is often a genetic predisposition. That means it can be inherited, not unlike male pattern baldness. People don’t usually accuse a bald people of needing additional spiritual guidance.
Depression of this sort is not cured by conversations, prayer, therapy, home remedies, a good night’s sleep, a positive confession, more faith in Jesus, or even the love of a family (though these things will help). Neither is it cured by demands, ultimatums, judgments, anger, pressure, over-expectations, shunning, and oversimplified solutions.
Depression of this sort is caused by a medical issue with a physical brain and is cured with medical treatment. Some people think that taking medication for depression is wrong. They don’t understand what the medications do. Medication is a tool that helps depressed people to get back to their lives. People assume that antidepressant medication numbs a person like a drug and keeps them from facing their problems. It does not take away the ability to feel; neither does it act as a stimulant giving artificial energy. Antidepressants work to help the brain to produce the chemicals it needs to function properly, the same way an un-depressed person’s brain does. When a depressed person finally begins to see the light of recovery, they are often pleased to be able to feel both positive and negative feelings properly once again.
People have no problem with someone taking medication for diabetes. No one judges the diabetic or a person with cancer. Seeking treatment is encouraged and supported. Depression should be treated no differently in this regard. 80% of people who seek medical help for depression find a cure. Those are great odds. No depressed person should be denied the chance to seek that cure. They need our support, understanding, patience, and love.
That’s The Difference Between Being Depressed and Having Depression
I hope you have found this article educational or supportive. I am not a physician. I claim no medical training or the ability to dispense medical advice. Medications aren’t fun. They jack you around before they help you. Finding the right balance to balance you out can take a long time. It took me about a year of ups and downs to get where I am now, and now that I am balanced, the medications are being stepped down. Your experiences will vary.
I am simply a voice, crying from my home office, sharing my experience with depression and hoping that someone else’s can be made a little better because of it.