Is Depression Really A Choice?

I’ve seen the topic of whether or not depression is a choice discussed within comment sections over the years.

While I’m not a psychiatrist, I’ve studied and taken enough psychology, sociology and other classes of the like to have a thorough understanding of how most disorders work.

I also have been diagnosed with depression which is derived from having social anxiety disorder since the age of 13 (the majority of depression cases come from some form of previous anxiety).

So, as someone who has gone through it and also understands it from a therapeutic level, I’m just gonna go ahead and deem myself worthy enough to answer this question.

The answer to this is no, and yes, in that specific order.

princ_rm_pet_scan_of_depressed_brain

No, the diagnosis of any sort of depressive disorder is NOT a choice. No one just up and decides they want to be depressed.

It usually develops from a specific event that is life changing. This could be anything from the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, a break-up, moving to a different city… basically any specific occurrence that causes a person to have to adjust to a completely different way of living from what they were accustomed to prior to it happening.

It slowly begins to manifest itself into the way you function on a daily basis, in every aspect of life.  You lose interest in things you used to love.  You eat excessively and poorly.  You drink excessively.  Your health is bad.  You (might) crave sex, drugs and/or other things that will help erase the thoughts of genuinely not enjoying who you are as a person, or blaming yourself for a situation that was out of your control.  You mask these feelings when you’re around your friends because you don’t want to seem like a burden talking about your blues.  In the most severe cases, you might even attempt to take your own life.  I have a couple friends who succeeded in doing so.

No one WANTS those feelings. So no, being depressed is NOT something anyone chooses to have.

HOWEVER…

Yes, what you do after acknowledging the fact that you are depressed is completely and 100% YOUR CHOICE.

Wallowing in your own self pity is not going to make anything better.  Binge watching TV is not going to make anything better.  Dating a bunch of different people to fill the void you lost in yourself is not going to make anything better.

It’s about picking yourself up before you allow yourself to get too low.

No, depression doesn’t completely go away – most of the time, you have to learn to live with it.  You have to use your awareness to recognize when the downward wave of emotions are taking over your thought process and nip it in the bud before it gets a chance to consume you.

I feel like there are 5 methods anyone who is struggling with depression can use to fix their situation, and they are as follows:

Find A Hobby You Are Passionate About

You absolutely HAVE to find some sort of outlet to bring back the good vibes — or, in psychological terms, help release endorphins and/or dopamine — and find that happiness for yourself before even thinking about being in a relationship and looking for someone else to provide that happiness.

My outlet was going to the gym and writing (shocker there, right?)

progress
My secret? A clean mirror

I’m not trying to say you have to do what I did, although the gym has been proven to help in this area.  I’m just saying this is what worked for me.

I’ve known other people who deal with it through activities like playing a musical instrument, dancing, cooking, cleaning, etc.  Figure out a hobby you love that can keep you productive and that you can set goals for.  This will allow you to have something to continue to strive for while enjoying the journey in the process.

Surround Yourself With Positive People

If we’re being honest, sometimes depression can come from simply being surrounded by a bunch of assholes.  Take a good look at your circle, whether it be your friend or even your job.  If the people around you are not making you feel like you can reach your full potential, you need to change that situation.

You are a product of your environment, whether you want to accept it or not.

If you have 5 millionaire friends, you will probably be the next.  If you have 5 gangbanger friends, you will probably be the next.

Think Happy and Encouraging Thoughts

I remember one time telling someone after I had been diagnosed with severe depression, and her response was, “Oh you shouldn’t be depressed.  You need to be happy.”

Well, no f*cking shit, lady.

But as silly as that statement seems, it’s true.  Even in it’s irreverence, sometimes the most simple advice makes the most sense.

While you can’t just make yourself happy in an instant, you can make yourself think positive affirmations like “I’m going to have a great day today!”… “I’m going to overcome this!”… “I can do anything I put my mind to!”

Repeating positive thoughts or even writing them down helps to reinforce healthy brain activity.

Exercise

I originally said you didn’t have to do what I did, but now I’m saying you have to.

Not everyone is into lifting weights, but you can run, do yoga, jog in place, dance, skip, or whatever your heart desires as long as it requires you to move and get your heart rate up a bit.

A body in motion stays in motion.  A body at rest is probably depressed.

Talk About It

The one thing I noticed always helped me with get over any sort of moments of feeling low was after I talked to someone about what I was feeling and they just sat there and listened, and I got all the crap off my chest that was weighing me down, it would be a HUGE relief.  Like this immense burden had been lifted off my shoulders and I could breathe again.

I also noticed that when I sat there and listened to other people when they were down on themselves, the same effect occurred.

I actually found out a couple years ago that I saved the life of a guy I had met for the first time simply by hanging out with him for a few hours.  He sent me a message expressing this and I was taken aback because I had no idea he was in such a dark place at the time.  He has since completely turned his life around and is living a happy and fulfilled life, a lot of which also had to do with him moving away from the location that was keeping him down in the first place (refer back to method #2).

So when someone is talking to you about their deepest feelings, even if it might feel a little awkward, just let them talk. Let them release what is weighing them down, and if y’all both gotta cry in the process to reach that moment of joy when that weight is lifted, it’ll all be worth it.

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