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The Greyhound

The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

Depression is not a myth.

To me, depression is like the flu. Though it may not literally be contagious, I believe that many people experience depression after observing others who have it. It continues to become more common. Some people question the existence of mental disorders because there is no one single definition, making it very hard for doctors to diagnose their patients. This makes people believe that doctors are diagnosing their patients with depression even if they do not have it. Furthermore, people believe that the doctors should not be diagnosing anyone at all because depression, according to them, is not real. It is selfishness.

Toma Haiku, a spiritual psychology writer, believes that depression is not real. “It is something that exists in people’s minds,” he said. Depression, of course, exists in people’s minds. The study of psychology is the study of the mind. Where else would depression exist? In the pancreas? Depression, for the most part, is a mental disorder rather than a physical one (although the mental symptoms can lead to physical symptoms), so it makes sense that it originates in the mind. His argument, ironically, is only promoting the existence of depression.

Since depression exists in the mind, he does not believe it can be seen. “It can not be seen or touched or identified by sight or spirit in the real word,” he said. Depression can be seen. People can show signs of depression through their appearance, for example. A lot of my friends can tell when I am having a depressive episode by the way I look. “Amber, why do you look so tired? Why aren’t you dressed up, like you usually are?” They go on to ask, “Why are you so quiet?” These people are not mind readers; they can tell when I am depressed without asking. My depression can be seen.

In addition, brain scans show what is exactly going on in someone’s mind. According to brain scans, depressed patients’ brains show they have a lack of two neurotransmitters – norepinephrine and serotonin. Depression exists because antidepressant drugs that boost dopamine (NDRIs) and serotonin levels (SSRIs) work. Wellbutrin, an NDRI, helped me; a lot of my symptoms of depression are gone. This is biology; this is science. How can you deny that?

Haiku believes that depression symptoms are “all about you.” I’m worthless. I’m unlovable. I’m unattractive. Every day people have negative thoughts about themselves, too. People with depression may feel sadness due to their neurotransmitters and therefore think about themselves negatively and therefore feel depressed. Either way, they feel depressed and have depression.

My depression is not all about me. I remember one day, specifically, that proves this. Over the summer, I volunteered at an academic camp for elementary and middle school students. Throughout the day, my focus was on helping them. I rarely thought about myself. I can remember exactly how I felt one volunteer day. Exhaustion and emptiness came together, and I felt so powerless. I was having a depressive episode. It was the lack of norepinephrine, the lack of serotonin that was making me feel that way. No matter how much time I spent focusing on the students, I still felt depressed. It is like having a cold. You can try to take your mind off yourself – the cold – by watching a movie but you still feel sick.

In that situation, I did not let my depression win. If I did, I would have gone home, curled up in my bed, and slept all day. Jalal ad-Din Rumi, Persian poet and mystic said, “Why do you stay in prison when the door is wide open?” I do not believe that having the initial feeling of depression is selfish, but I believe that some actions, motivated by your depression, can be. Suppose you ignore your boyfriend or girlfriend, skip your best friend’s birthday, and sleep all day because you were depressed. That is a bit selfish. Sometimes I will use my depression as an excuse for not doing something. But was it really my depression that held me back? After all, I have control over my body.

Depression is, in fact, a true mental disorder; it is not merely selfishness. Unfortunately, more people continue to be diagnosed with depression. When someone is diagnosed with depression, they should not let their depression take over their lives because that may seem selfish. A rational cognitive therapist would argue that depressed people can think differently about the world – think more optimistically – and feel less depressed. All I have to do is change my perspective to see the more positive side of everything. Oh, and take my meds.

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  • M

    Mad at stupidityJul 21, 2016 at 8:02 am

    I just lost a friend to depression and mental illness. He threw himself off a very high bridge. People like “Toma Haiku” continue the stigma surrounding mental illness. 10 people a day take their own life in Canada. Depression needs to be out in the open to help those who feel ashamed about it. Thank you for being a positive force.

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Depression is not a myth.