“Depression” is one of those words that is getting a household name. Anyone feeling momentarily sad has said that they’re feeling ‘depressed’. But the truth is that depression is much more serious than society’s ever given it credit. We need to focus our attention on understanding depression, what it is, and what we can do to help those afflicted.
Until recently, most assumed that depression simply originated from one's biological predisposition. We know now that depression is the result of a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors that can vary widely for each person. There are several things that can amplify the onset of depression, so it’s important to know the following risk factors:
Loneliness and/or social isolation. Clearly, Covid-19 isn’t lending us any favors here, but it’s crucial to stay as connected as possible during this time. Utilize healthy amounts of social media, FaceTime, visit outdoors with neighbors (while maintaining distancing guidelines), whenever you find the opportunity to safely interact with other humans - do it.
Relationship problems. No one generally wants to argue with their loved ones, but maintaining good relationships is also critical for mental health. Divorce, a breakup, even the betrayal of a good friend can all increase your risk for developing depression. As mentioned above, taking time to rekindle relationships both romantic and platonic can be extremely helpful for your mental health.
Stressful life experiences. Scientists are still attempting to understand the effects of stress on the body, but they know that increased stressful experiences lead to a higher risk of depression and other mental health disorders. Ask for help taking a few things off your plate at home or at work to reduce your stress levels. Make a conscious effort to relax and unwind for a few minutes each day.
Chronic pain and/or illness. Long term suffering takes a serious toll on one’s mental health. Being in pain or discomfort without the anticipation of a cure can quickly turn one’s mindset towards hopelessness & depression. Talk to your doctor about ways to manage the pain that you're in; it sounds crazy, but talking to a friend or therapist about what you're going through can actually help to alleviate physical pain!
Family history of depression. While many risk factors of depression are circumstantial, unfortunately having depression in the family can increase one’s risk of developing it. You can't pick your family, sadly [for more reasons than one]. But if you do have a history of depression in your family - talk to those that have suffered to learn how they found recovery. Talking about sensitive subjects with others can quickly forge a unique and intimate bond; a new friendship can help in a multitude of ways!
Personality. Some personality types generally tend towards a negative outlook. The “glass-half-empty” personality types are more prone to developing depression. Personalities who are excessive worriers, those who consistently envision the worst-case scenarios, and people who are highly critical of themselves or others have a higher risk of depression. If you have one of the previously described personalities, you may find it helpful to explore ways to relax and let go of situational outcomes a little bit.
Early childhood abuse or trauma. Studies now show that abuse or traumatic experiences during childhood can create long-term damage to brain development. Without adequate rehabilitation, these brain deficiencies can put one at a higher risk of developing depression and other emotional imbalances. If you are a victim of childhood abuse or trauma please seek guidance from a professional therapist. There are many non-invasive interventions that can help heal past trauma and can be absolutely life-altering.
Alcohol or substance abuse. Often people reach for self-soothing vices when they are in pain or in need of a mental escape. The catch-22 is that, though these methods may make one feel better in the moment, they end up causing further damage to one’s chemical and emotional well-being. Resist the urge to fall into these types of self-soothing traps when you are feeling down.
If you have one or more of these risk factors, you may be more prone to developing depression, but this isn't a definitive prognosis. Simply keep closer tabs on your emotions, dedicate a little extra time for introspection, and we're confident you'll stay happy as a clam. If you think you, or someone you love, might be suffering from depression, there are so many simple life changes you can implement to quickly initiate recovery. Follow us on Facebook for regular tips on how to keep up on mental maintenance. Be sure to go check out 10 things you can do today to combat depression!