Depression is insidious. For people suffering from depression joy is elusive. Depression is not only a general feeling of sadness or being down and out. It is a serious condition and needs attention. People suffering from depression cannot just get over it and move on. They need support, healing, and to discover the epicenter of their pain.
It is estimated that 6.7% of the US population has had an episode of depression. That’s 16.2 million Americans. Of that population, 63% describe their depression as a major hindrance in their life. Depression can be debilitating. It is a serious condition.
One of the most tragic aspects of depression is suffering in silence. Lack of connection and social isolation is a major factor in depression. The pain areas in the brain for social isolation are triggered just as they are when people experience physical pain. Pain is activated and represented in the brain for both social and physical pain without any distinction. Pain is pain.
The difference is, when we see an individual with a physical aliment like a broken leg, we have a natural protective and generalized way to empathize with an individual by imagining the pain with the help of our empathy circuit and mirror neurons in our brain. But when an individual suffers from depression, it is masked, manifests from the great abyss, and may be hidden to us. Thus, the person suffers alone.
A recent study in Nature found that 36% of graduate students reported having depression, approximately six times the national average. Why is this escalated in graduate students? It is not clear whether it is the deep study of human existence, continued failure, persistence of feeling like an imposter, or striving for the impossible. In our recent study, conducted by Ruth Karpinkski, we found that individuals with greater intelligence reported an increase in depression. People with higher verbal IQ tend to worry and ruminate and have an association with more depression and anxiety. A more active and engaged mind may have the challenge with an imagination of more possibilities of the worst case, bad, and ugly, while that same mind can imagine the best outcome, good, and beauty. Both are essential for creative problem solving and taking calculated risks. Importantly, being aware and tuning into imagination of possibilities is the first step in knowing how to ground a highly intelligent and creative person.
More alarmingly, teen depression has been on the rise since 2005. It is hypothesized that our society is becoming more disconnected and despite connections through technology, we are missing in-person, real-time social interactions. More and more studies are pointing to the fact that addiction to screens, social media, and video games are on the rise. Is this leading us to being all so disconnected? Encouraging face to face connection is essential for wellness in our developing minds and teaching healthy habits when engaging with social media.
The most common signs of depression are feelings of chronic sadness, depletion, or anxious mood, low energy, sleep disturbances, weight fluctuations, feelings of powerlessness, defeat, hopelessness, and unworthiness, suicidal thoughts, physical pain, and gastrointestinal disturbances. Importantly, an individual can have one or a combination of the symptoms. It is essential, if you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, that you or they get help.
Depression can be treated with a number of therapies for healing, including talk therapy, meditation, and medications.
Importantly, healing is found in all the arts. Writing about your pain, drawing, singing, acting are all channels to help with the symptoms and suffering. Additionally, yoga, meditation, and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction have been shown to decrease symptoms of depression. Connecting with nature, friends and just talking with a confidante about your struggles may ease your suffering.
If you are suffering from depression,
I wish you healing,
I wish you peace,
I wish you freedom from suffering,
I wish you equanimity,
Now and always.
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