Depression: A Self Generated Problem
Mention that you feel depressed and anyone will know what you’re talking about. Feeling down-in-the-dumps, miserable, negative, overwhelmed or worthless, are all symptoms of what we commonly refer to as being depressed. Certainly, these are symptoms we’ve all shared from time to time. That’s because getting depressed is a normal, inescapable part of being human. Getting depressed is not the same as a clinical depression.
Traditionally, a clinical depression refers to any depression that meets specific criteria described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual published by the American Psychiatric Association. Far from being something imagined or “all in your head,” a clinical depression is a whole body problem with both biochemical and emotional underpinnings. With symptoms like sadness, crying, fatigue, appetite disturbances, decreased sexual desire, worry, fear, difficulty concentrating, and feelings of hopelessness, it’s obvious that a clinical depression can be a serious problem if left untreated. And yet, as devastating as a clinical depression can be, it’s often left untreated. The reason is that for some, depression is a shameful label. They feel embarrassed and humiliated because they feel they can’t cope or because they’re just too weak. They say, “I should be able to handle this.” Or, “There’s no reason for me to be depressed. If I wait long enough, I’ll just snap out of it.” And yet for others, it’s just a matter of ignorance, as they perceive their depression to be an inevitable part of life. There’s a menacing bias about depression that is deeply rooted in the culture. In the classic 1948 film The Snake Pit, Olivia de Havilland portrayed a woman institutionalized in a crowded state hospital due to a breakdown following depression. The snake pit of the title is the hospital’s room of horrors, an open ward in which the hopeless cases are confined. This groundbreaking film, along with many others that followed, have contributed to our perception and fears of depression. Self-Coaching challenges this dark and ominous perception that depression is an illness and that we are victims of depression. Think of yourself standing next to a large machine with a crank protruding out one side. You begin to turn the crank and as you do, sparks begin to fly in all directions. The sparks represent your depression. Rather than an illness, begin to think of depression as a self-generated problem–one that you sustain by cranking out thoughts of negativity, self-doubt, and hopelessness (thoughts that collectively wind up altering and depleting your chemical balance). Once you begin to understand that your depression depends on you, turning the crank of insecurity and despair, Self-Coaching will point you toward the ultimate solution: What am I doing that sustains my depression and what can I do to stop it?