The word depression must be one of the most misunderstood words in the English language. Why is it’s meaning so hard to grasp? It is because the word has two starkly contrasting implications, depending on who is using it.
The term depression’s clinical use describes a debilitating condition that robs energy, purpose, meaning, concentration, feelings of love, and experiences of joy. This is an emotional and physical change that impacts specific areas of the brain. Depression activates the brains pain circuitry, creating a state of suffering that can be debilitating.
Beyond this, depression is neurotoxic, meaning the disorder can eventually lead to neuron death connected to the brain’s critical memory and reasoning areas, including the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Prolonged periods of severe depression can, therefore cause a type of brain damage.
Confusion abounds when people in everyday conversation use the term depression. We often use this term to refer to experiences much less severe and debilitating.
You will often hear people make comments such as “I’m was so depressed when I couldn’t get to my favourite coffee shop”, or “Oh my God I just ripped a hole in my favourite pair of jeans and I feel so depressed”.
These are probably not cases of clinical depression. Yes, you are sad and pretty disappointed, but you are not depressed. These kinds of disappointments are frustrating but are merely a part of life.
Ripped jeans and not getting a favourite coffee does not affect our ability to function in our lives. The feeling connected to such an experience of disappointment and annoyance rarely lasts for very long. Familiar words from a loved one or hug help us shift out of these emotions.
In contrast, clinical depression can persist for months. Sadly, no amount of friendly support from loved ones is enough to make it any less debilitating.
Time for a new language?
Those who suffer from depression are often met with relative indifference when they open up to friends and family about their condition.
The sad reality is those who suffer from clinical depression are expected to snap out of it because of this profound confusion. We would not take this attitude with someone suffering from cancer or some other chronic disease.
If you or your loved one is suffering from clinical depression and would like support, please contact me. I would be happy to speak with both of you about how I might be able to help. I am seeing my clients online through zoom or at the listening room in Hove.