Depression, something as common as a cold, if not treated in time can be as deadly as cancer. I have talked about depression a number of times. I have talked about my fair share of battles with it, what the difference between depression and clinical depression is, and how we can talk to people who may be suffering from it. But today I want to talk about why depression is so hard to treat, and why it needs a lot of effort not just from the sufferer but also from those around them. So without further ado, let’s dive in.
One of the main differences between a physical illness and depression is that depression demands the active participation of the patient. If you have a cold, the medicines you take would work whether you want them to or not. No matter how much you try, the medicines, once inside your body, will work. This is not the case with depression. Here if you take the medicines but don’t put in an actual effort into controlling your thought process, it won’t work. You could have all the drugs you want, you could even get electro-convulsive therapy, but until you put in effort in trying to control your mind, nothing will work.
Many symptoms of depression are universal and found in everyone who is diagnosed with it. These include a lack of enjoyment in things people enjoyed before, extreme sadness, and a feeling of numbness. Despite these common symptoms, there is no universal cure that exists for depression. If something works for one person, it may not work for others. This means that every patient has to go through a trial-and-error process which requires a lot of patience and self care. Both of those things are not very common among depressed people.
Some mental illnesses like schizophrenia have clearly visible external manifestations. Depression on the other hand has hardly any. This makes it a huge barrier between a person who might be depressed and a counsellor or a therapist. If someone is trying to identify depressed students in a class, the chances are that they will get it wrong. Many sufferers hence go under the radar, since they aren’t identified as depressed at the right time. Further, the stigma that is attached to depression makes them averse from actually seeking help.
The stigma attached to depression and its treatment still exists. It is because of people denying the existence of depression as well as people using “depression” as slang for sadness, or other non-severe emotions. Many people believe that depression is something that can be snapped out of or gotten over. This prevents people who are mildly or moderately depressed from seeking professional help. As more time is spent without help, the severity grows. The people then struggle to understand or appreciate the severity of the illness and this feeds the stigma attached to depression. Thus, this creates a dangerous loop.
Depression rarely ever occurs by itself in patients. There is a high rate of co-morbidity reported among people who have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Among them, anxiety and bipolar disorder are the most common ones. This creates conflicting thoughts inside the sufferer’s head. These conflicts lead to irritation and frustration. It often takes a long time before the person even realises that they have two illnesses at the same time. Many times, it is only on visiting a psychiatrist do people realise what else they have been fighting.
It seems pretty obvious that depression is very hard to treat. It tends to take root right in the intricate depths of our mind and wreaks havoc there. The fact that depression is never really 100% cured just piles the misery on.
There is a silver lining to all this though.
Depression can be overcome. Maybe not 100% but 99.9% sounds good enough as well. Every time depression comes back to attack you, you are better equipped than you were the last time as well. We can fight depression. It takes a lot of time and effort, but it is possible. Nothing is impossible when you have the means and will to fight off your own mind.