Depression is often misunderstood. Most doctors refer to depression as a disease, or as a disorder. When symptoms of depressions present in a patient, such as loss of appetite, sleeplessness, general sadness, or a desire to withdraw from social situations, doctors rush to prescribe medication to alleviate these symptoms. What many doctors miss is the chance to delve deeper into the underlying conditions that are causing these feeling to exist in the lives of their patients.
Some cases of depression are caused by chemical imbalances and can be treated like a disease. But for many individuals suffering from depression, the form of depression they are experiencing is not best addressed through the use of medication as the primary/sole treatment option.
The True Causes of Depression
Human beings often become depressed because depression is the logical reaction to the challenges in their lives. Some feel isolated because they have no one to talk to, or hang out with. Others work tirelessly to succeed but receive little or no reward for their efforts. Still, others feel depressed because they see so much suffering in the world, but feel powerless to change anything. It is only logical that such feelings of isolation, failure and helplessness might lead to depression.
Aside from the logical, psychological causes of depression, several environmental factors also cause people to become depressed. Some people who suffer from depression are simply reacting to an imbalance in their lives. Perhaps they are working too much and sleeping too little. Perhaps they are stressed out from too many obligations. Perhaps they are failing to get the right type, or the right amount, of nutrition. Perhaps they are getting old and facing the fact that they are not living the life they truly desire to live. Bodily changes, aging, malnutrition, social pressure, and even nostalgia can all cause people to experience depression. In such cases, using medication alone as a treatment option does not eliminate the root causes of the depression.
Compassion is Key
Compassion means, “to suffer with.” Every human being needs to feel understood. Take the example of a person who has turned to substance abuse as a method of coping with depression. Over time, the substance abuse turned to addiction, and now the person is in an addiction recovery program. Though this person is going through the process of overcome the addiction, the root causes of the depression that led to the substance abuse still exist. What this person needs is other human beings who can say, “I’ve been there. I know how hard it is. You’re not alone.”
What medication can cure the depression of a young woman who is not being rewarded for her efforts at work? What drug can heal an elderly widower’s sense of social isolation? What prescription will heal the depression of a single father caused by lack of sleep from working three part time jobs? What drug will ease the depression of a hospice worker who sits all day with the dying?
Depression can be normal, logical, and perhaps even inevitable in certain circumstances. It’s a part of life. What depressed individuals need is compassion from someone who understands, who has been there, who has felt the same feelings, and who can help put things into perspective.
It Can Happen to Anyone
When the famous celebrity Robin Williams ended his own life, many people were surprised that someone so funny could have been depressed. Some people were shocked that someone so famous, with so much money, couldn’t get proper treatment for his depression. Those reactions reveal society’s basic misunderstanding about depression.
Humor can be an effective coping mechanism, but not all pain can be laughed away. Money is an excellent tool, but it can’t fix an existential crises. Fame is no comfort in the darkest, most lonely moments of the night.
What Can You Do?
If someone you love is suffering from depression, don’t look at them as being solely defined by this, as sadness is a part of the human experience. Few people make it through life without suffering from some form of depression. The best thing you can do to help those who are depressed is to suffer with them; be by their side; let them know that you feel their pain, and that you will stick by them no matter what.