According to the World Health Organization, there are approximately 350 million people around the world affected by depression and it is suggested that we will all experience at least one episode of depression throughout life. Making a rough comparison between depression and other mental disorders, it could be assumed that depression is the most common disorder affecting people of all ages.
When Did it All Start?
Depression is considered the disorder or “the plague” of the 21st century, which may imply that depression has occurred concomitantly with the development of modernity and society.
However, mental disorders such as anxiety and depression affected previous generations as well. Since little was known about the correlation between emotions, brain, and behavior, these disorders were profoundly ignored, misunderstood and mistreated.
Therefore, it could be said that the acknowledgment of depression has only begun in the 21st century, but not it is development.
How Does it Manifest?
The effects of depression usually affect and alter the quality of emotions, and thoughts, which are ultimately reflected in deviant behaviors:
- Sadness, restlessness, mood swings, sense of hopelessness, fatigue
- Insomnia, lack of concentration on normal/easy tasks, social isolation, loss of energy and sex drive, agitation
Certainly, the above symptoms are only a few and perhaps the most prominent ones. In some cases, the symptoms cannot be notable and as such, it slowly affects an individual’s state of mind and quality of life.
What Causes Depression?
There are multiple answers to this question. Some research data indicate that neurochemical imbalances may have a determinant role in depression, while other opinions suggest that genetic vulnerability has an influence of 40% on depression’s development. Yet, the complexity of the mental disorder cannot be discussed or understood by only looking at these two factors.
Some psychotherapists strongly believe that depression is highly determined by environmental factors. Although neurological scientists demonstrated that individuals whose parents or siblings suffered from depression are more likely to become depressed patients themselves, it is assumed that depression, under such circumstances, is learned. This does not mean that other factors may not cause depression, but behavioral psychologists believe that every dysfunctional behavior is learned when there is a combination of external stressors and lack of personal skills.
For example, when positive reinforcements of healthy behavior stop being present in an individual’s life (i.e. loss of a job or a loved one, etc.) depression may appear. If the individual lacks personal or social skills that could allow a better and quicker adjustment to alternative reinforcements, then maladapive behavior increases (i.e. social isolation, unhappiness, low self-esteem, etc.)
However, the behaviorism concept does not fully explain the multiple causes of depression as physical/emotional/sexual abuse, chronic stress, rejection or traumatizing life events can significantly affect an individual’s emotional and mental state.
Is Modernity to Blame?
If we were to understand depression from a social perspective, yes.
The past century can be described as a transitional phase for humanity, passing from sovereignty to nationalism, or from strict rules to more liberal views. Of course, such transformation has brought numerous advantages: freedom, equality, open society and a great emphasis on individual development. Taking solely these aspects into consideration, we could assume that the past generations may have suffered from depression due to the multiple restrictions and poverty. But we no longer face those challenges (at least not at a high level), yet the number of depressed patients continues to increase.
In a society ruled by trends and less by the real motives of individual’s development, people strive to reach a standard, which may not be imposed but somehow induced as being the definition of success.
Luxury, expensive goods, exotic trips, perfect relationships in perfect careers or in other words, a life with no stress seems to be the main standard of our modern society. Although people may not consciously wish to achieve it, they have a tendency of questioning themselves, their abilities to deal with life and their worth: “Am I doing it right?”, “If they can do it and it works, why can’t I do it?”. These are only a very very small part of the self-doubting questions that almost every individual thinks of.
What Can Be Done?
It is highly essential to remind people of pursuing goals that are determined by personal views, and not by society’s trends as they come and go, which means that there is an inconsistency. Fluctuation of emotions and goals can cause confusion and a sense of detachment from the self. When there is no consistency or guidance, depression and disorientation slowly, but surely appear. Therefore, defining self-identity in a society of trends is important in order to avoid depression.
*Regardless of the reasons why you may feel depressed, remember that there are solutions and professionals ready to listen to you and offer the best support so you can overcome any obstacle.