On the pursuit of happiness; how depression can interfere

Shiva Mirzahaidar, staff writer

Depression: a ten-letter word that carries the weight of ten tons.  It is used to express a condition of general emotional dejection and withdrawal.

This psychological illness is made up of “feelings of hopelessness and helplessness,” psychologist Gayle Fuller said. “It is a depressed mood that is chronic and ongoing, often accompanied by loss of interest in regular activities, sleep problems, low energy, and weight fluctuation.”

Depressive symptoms include difficulty concentrating, decreased energy, feelings of hopelessness, insomnia, changes in appetite, loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, persistent pain, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

According to teendepression.org, about 20 percent of teenagers will experience depression before they reach adulthood. 

“We tend to usually just push through sadness and understand that this is a normal emotion,” AP Psychology teacher Amy McConnell said. “With depression, sometimes people don’t really believe that it’s going to end. They might believe that it will just get worse.”

A surprising number of students suffer from this debilitating mental disorder.

“I opened up to a friend and found out she was also taking the same medication as I was for depression,” Junior Lana Mayflower* said. “It made me feel less alone. Like somebody knew what I was going through.”

Support is necessary when it comes to coping with depression, since coping with it alone can lead to a deeper, more dangerous depression.

“It usually just starts with being a good friend and just letting someone talk,” McConnell said. “Simply talking through it is helpful, along with understanding that what the other person going through is hard.”

This psychological illness is more than a few days of crying, but rather a long period of pure hopelessness, as powerful endorphins are released in a depressive patient’s brain. This chemical imbalance leads to uncontrollable feelings of anguish and sadness.

“There are a variety of causes when it comes to depression,” McConnell said. “There is, however, enough scientific research to back up that some people have a biological predisposition. They’re potentially more prone to developing depression, and this is related to their body chemistry and sometimes a triggering event may send that person into a deeper depression.”

This illness may seem like a simple period of sadness to many who have not experienced it, yet it creates many struggles for sufferers.

“A lot of people didn’t take me seriously when I talked about my depression,” Mayflower said. “It was really upsetting, since the sadness and exhaustion were always there. Even getting out of bed seemed like the hardest thing, so did getting dressed or even showering. I had no motivation to do anything. I also felt like things would never get better”.

Although this is a very common illness, there are still many misconceptions about depression.

 “Clinical diagnosis from someone that’s properly trained in counseling, psychiatry or psychology is what’s really important to distinguish depression between just sadness,” McConnell said.

Despite the many outlets to cope with depression, many teenagers do not get help. Shockingly, only about 33 percent of these teenagers get help for their depression, according to teendepression.org.

“I think we live in a culture that promotes independence, and that’s a good thing, but I think the bad side of that we don’t always seek out the help we should,” McConnell said. “So, to feel weak or to feel that you need help getting through something tends to have a stigma attached to it, and it shouldn’t.”

Pressure from school, peers, and outside stresses can also lead to depression, as these factors seem to be the most significant part of a teen’s life.

“[Students] can start feeling down on themselves and that can just get greater and greater. The more they feel lack of success or they feel failure, the harder it is for them to handle it, and that can really be depressing,” McConnell said.

Despite the many causes of depression, there is still hope for people suffering through it. Several organizations and campaigns, such as To Write Love on Her Arms and Half of Us are providing help for those who suffer with depression or illnesses like it, such as anxiety and bipolar disorder. Resources, such as symptoms, where to find help, and success stories can be found on their websites.

“Finding good ways to deal with stress is important, like exercise, time with friends, and family,” McConnell said. “When we start talking about clinical depression and how to prevent it, I think we all need to recognize that there are going to be times in our lives when sad things are going to happen, and I think most of us will experience some form of depression. People need to be aware of their risk and seek help when they need it, and get the help that they need as soon as possible.”