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Understanding and Overcoming Depression

Discover the Healing Power of Inner Dialoging

Susan M. Mumm, MA

The first step towards understanding depression is to clearly define the word itself. Many people would describe depression as a feeling; the phrase “I’m feeling depressed” is a common use of the word. This is actually a misconception. Depression is actually a condition. The actual feelings associated with the state of depression are sadness, boredom/stagnation, despair or hopelessness, unexpressed anger, and in the physical realm, lethargy. Depression is characterized not only by these feelings, but with associated behaviors such as withdrawal from and non-interest in normal activities, difficulty performing normal life maintenance tasks, and disruption of normal eating and sleeping patterns. This distinction between a feeling and a condition may on the surface appear inconsequential, but I have come to conclude that is it, in fact, very significant when trying to overcome the condition of depression. It is much, much easier for a person to tackle the question “Why am I feeling sad? or Why am I feeling stagnated?” than “Why am I feeling depressed?” It is also easier for a person to reflect upon the question “Are there things I might be angry about that I am not expressing?, or “What might be causing me to feel hopeless about my life situation? Another useful thing to know about the feelings associated with depression is that human feelings are a “package deal”. Sometimes people feel so overwhelmed by some of their feelings (usually sadness or anger) that they want to shut them off. It is possible for people to shut their feelings off, but what happens is, that not only does the sadness or anger get shut off, but all the good feelings as well such as joyfulness, excitement etc. You can turn your feelings valve off or on (at least for awhile) but you can’t turn some on and some off. This is why people who are seriously depressed appear to have no feelings at all; the are emotionally “flat”.

The logical second step to understanding depression is to clear up contaminated information you may have as to the causes of depression. The debate that always ensues in any discussion about the cause of depression is “Is depression caused by bio-chemistry, or environmental factors ?” The correct answer is that it is a combination of both. It makes no sense to propose that depression is 100% bio-chemical, because how would you account for the astronomical rise in depression in the last several decades? Did millions of peoples’ biochemistry suddenly simultaneously mutate? It is also illogical to conclude that depression is 100% environmental. There are many people whose life situations are extremely harsh, dysfunctional, tragic, etc., who do not end up depressed, and there are, conversely, people who seem to have everything going for them who end up committing suicide. Using the combination theory, the cause of depression can be explained as follows: There is always a certain percentage of the population who are bio-chemically susceptible to depression. Whether or not these people actually end up depressed depends on the personal environment as well as the socio/political environments in which such people function.

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