‘Just Get Better’: Easier Said Than Done with Depression

person sitting on park bench watching sunsetDepression may be one of the most misunderstood health issues in the world. Few people would criticize someone with diabetes or Lou Gehrig’s disease, but many people spout their opinions about depression because they think that having “the blues” and clinical depression are one and the same thing. Since all human beings have had “the blues” in life when they lose a loved one, or a job, or their car breaks down, everyone thinks they have experienced it and can offer their advice on how to get through it.

I have heard people smugly proclaim their strength of spirit in not succumbing to depression despite the challenges life has thrown at them. Others criticize depressed people for their laziness and negative thinking. There are frequent posts on Facebook from various sites proclaiming explanations like, “I woke up one day and decided to be happy” and pictures of beautiful scenery with the caption, “Go for a walk—it’s cheaper than therapy.”

A positive attitude and appreciating the beauty around us is a healthy way to live life; however, it’s not that simple for people who experience clinical depression. This is because the very symptoms of depression are the opposite of the aforementioned healthy life habits: Depression causes negative thinking and an inability to enjoy one’s surroundings. Often, it zaps people of energy and all they want to do is sleep.

Others have insomnia. Well intended loved ones may encourage the depressed person to “stop being a couch potato” or “stop worrying and get some sleep.” When a depressed person expresses hopelessness loved ones may tell him or her to “Get off the pity pot!”

Then there is the ignorance about medications for depression. My pet peeve is frequently seeing cartoons online that blatantly imply that antidepressant medications are dangerous and/or get one “high.” I recently viewed a satirical cartoon in which a doctor is telling his patient to put down the methamphetamine so he can prescribe Prozac, Percocet, Xanax, etc.

Here antidepressants are being lumped with prescription drugs for pain and others for anxiety. While these medications can be quite effective in alleviating pain and anxiety, many people end up abusing them to get high and become addicted to them. Just as insulin is a lifesaver for people with diabetes, antidepressants are the same for many with depression. Contrary to popular belief, they are not addictive, nor do they get people high; antidepressants help people function properly by regulating the neurotransmitters in the brain.

And then there are celebrities like Tom Cruise offering advice on how to manage depression. Many years ago, Mr. Cruise criticized actor Brooke Shields for taking an antidepressant for her postpartum depression. He recommended that she take vitamin supplements and exercise rather than take her antidepressant (WENN.com). Celebrities are held in high regard in this country and you can bet that many of Tom Cruise’s admirers discarded their antidepressants based on his ignorant recommendation. This was a dangerously misguided recommendation on Mr. Cruise’s part.

Perhaps the worst thing about the ignorance people have about depression is that many people who have depression believe and internalize the world’s negative judgments about it. They deem themselves as weak, lazy, and negative. They compare themselves to friends/others who do not have depression and blame themselves for not resisting it like others have.

Someone experiencing depression may unfairly compare his or her depressed self to his or her formerly higher functioning (depression-free) self. This is like breaking one’s leg and criticizing oneself for not having won a race against one’s formerly healthy-legged self.

Here’s the truth about depression: It is not a choice. It is a psychological issue caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain, an abusive childhood, or any number of other factors. Just like physical disease and health issues, there is no connection between a weakness of character and depression. When someone starts experiencing depression, it is important to seek psychotherapy, and it might be necessary to also consult a psychiatrist. This may mean disregarding the advice of well-meaning friends who offer their supportive ear in place of professional treatment.

I had a close friend living with depression many years ago. I recommended psychotherapy and her husband told me “She doesn’t need all that psychobabble; she has me to talk to.” When I asked this man where he got his opinion about psychotherapy, he said it was “Just my value. I believe people should help themselves when they are struggling.” I asked him why he had not cured his own broken leg when he had fallen off his roof a few years back? He explained that broken limbs require a professional’s intervention while “anybody” can help someone to feel emotionally better.

There are many symptoms of depression which include: Loss of interest, loss of energy, feelings of hopelessness, appetite and sleep changes, and negative, distorted thinking. Depression is like looking into a funhouse mirror, seeing the distorted image, and believing it.

In therapy, one learns positive coping skills which will serve as ammunition to fight depressive symptoms. Your therapist may point out your distorted beliefs, e.g. “I will never get better,” or “I’m a loser.” In the more severe cases of depression people may feel suicidal. They may need to be hospitalized or attend a daily outpatient program in which group therapy and psychoeducational groups are offered.

Depression is a painful experience that can also be dangerous. That’s the bad news. However, there is so much good news about depression:

  1. Depression is not indicative of a weak character
  2. It can be treated with therapy and, in some cases, medication.
  3. Psychotherapeutic treatment for depression can also improve one’s self-esteem, assertiveness, and communication skills.

If you are experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, please seek psychotherapy and psychiatric (medicinal) treatment. The help of professionals is crucial for recovery.

Reference:
WENN.com Source. (2005). Tom Cruise Slams Brooke Shields’ Drug Use. Hollywood.com. Retrieved from http://www.hollywood.com/news/brief/2440860/tom-cruise-slams-brooke-shields-drug-use?page=all

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Kristy Fox-Berman, LCSW, therapist in Branchburg, New Jersey

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 16 comments
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  • abe

    abe

    February 12th, 2014 at 2:14 PM

    Anyone who would tell you to just get better and get over it clearly has no clue as to what the reality of living with depresssion is like.

  • linah

    linah

    November 26th, 2016 at 10:40 AM

    I did not know I have depression until u was hospitalized I lost my husband and i prayed God to give me strength because I had to deal with the in laws who accused me of killing my own husband sometimes I wonder if men are not to die if a man dies a wife has something to do wit it I was so strong I had to prepare for the funeral take care of everything my children needed me more but a week after funeral I had been crying keeping myself alone the pain was o much to take I even collapsed then my doctor arranged for hospital admission until I was better but her I am again depressed again experiencing so much pain crying at night because of people called Christians who accused me of so unbearable things I just don’t know I thought church was a place to pray ND strengthen us but not my church it’s a fight after fight ministers plotting one another congregation acting like politicians campaigning for other ministers it’s terrible

  • Tami

    Tami

    February 13th, 2014 at 8:03 AM

    Kind of hard to imagine how the words of others impart so much meaning in your life… and how easy it is to internalize all of these things. We need to love and care for others, take the time to make their times of feeling down and depressed a little easier on them, not so difficult and challenging by bringing them down with our words and actions.

  • sophia

    sophia

    February 15th, 2014 at 5:10 AM

    It would be nice if there was some kind of magical on/off switch for depression but we know that isn’t the case

  • TheSocialLocust

    TheSocialLocust

    February 17th, 2014 at 6:11 AM

    my boyfriend has said to me a few times, “life is what you make it. ” That hurts really bad.

  • malachai

    malachai

    February 17th, 2014 at 10:56 AM

    I don’t think that others realize how much more pain they are causing those of us who battle with depression when they tell us to shake it off and get over it. Really? You think that it’s that easy? Don’t you think that if it was that easy I would have just shaken it off a long time ago? This is not something that I enjoy or that I choose to be, but it has chosen me and I am left to face it on a daily basis. I work hard to live with this and still find a way to be happy. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don’t but please don’t belittle my feelings and my illness by telling me to get over it. Understand that I work at this each and every day and I am making strides toward improvement but it does take time to heal just like with any illness.

  • Carlos

    Carlos

    February 18th, 2014 at 3:56 AM

    I was always told growing up that people who struggled with this were weak, they just wanted to be this way and if they didn’t then they would work hard to overcome it.

    I guess I believed this for a long time because this was what I had been taught. But now that it has happened to me, then I don’t feel that way I guess. Or at least I tell myself that this isn’t a choice, that I am not weak just because I am living with depression.

    I think that being weak would be not seeking out help, but I have.

  • Juliet

    Juliet

    August 16th, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    Feel bad :(

  • Ishah

    Ishah

    June 15th, 2014 at 1:41 PM

    Sometimes i feel that my depression has nothing to do with brain chemicals eventhough i have PCOS but rather, it has much to do with my circumstances & my low self esteem & wrong decisions based on others opinions..I couldn’t stand up to what i believe in .. I couldn’t continue my career in the field i wanted to.. I couldn’t marry a person i wanted to marry and ended up marrying someone i don’t love. If i can ever change any of these things, i think i can overcome my depression.

    I believe for some people its just their environment.. If they can change it, or adapt it.. then they can overcome .. but for some, (as i have seen myself)they just can’t fight it. That’s not their fault.. they are fighting a battle we cannot understand…

    Good piece of work especially the Quotes part that such kind of sayings are really famous these days and people who know nothing about depression use them as their piece of advice.

  • Patty

    Patty

    September 27th, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    My man was in a horrible marriage worth a woman who made him feel worthless. He never left the house, and suffered from debilitating depression. She stole his money and kicked him out, making him homeless.
    We started dating two years ago, and we are hopelessly, ridiculously in love. He moved into my house on a beautiful river. We have friends, good jobs,and all if the things that you would expect would make anybody happy. He tells me all the time that his life is perfect. And yet, he still has his black days, where he is so depressed that he can’t function, and his therapy and antidepressants don’t help.
    We get through these days together, because I understand that what he has is a brain chemical problem. It needs medicine and treatment by medical professionals. It isn’t something that can be fixed by making his life happier, because his brain chemistry is off, and this amazing person that I love with all my heart can’t understand why I would want to be with such a loser. It breaks my heart.

  • La Fonda

    La Fonda

    June 10th, 2015 at 6:05 PM

    My husband is a rock for me and at my low times I wonder what he is doing with ME. I feel damaged. Can’t understand how he could love someone like me. He just smiles and says, “I got your back, baby”. Keep repeating you are there for him, no matter what. Keep repeating. Bless you.

  • lori

    lori

    July 21st, 2014 at 11:27 AM

    How do you encourage a friend to keep seeking help for severe depression? Especially if their therapist isn’t working for them and won’t refer out to a cbt or DBT specialist. If they are hospitalized and it isn’t helping. How do you keep encouraging trying knew therapies to learn and practice coping skills and thought changing behaviors…

  • dying inside

    dying inside

    September 26th, 2014 at 11:39 AM

    After 20yrs+ of ‘suffering’ depression, yet another severe episode has appeared and again I do the whole ‘it’s not depression it’s just me’, ‘I should be able to shake myself out of it’ , ‘I’m just lazy and that’s why I can’t do anything’. ‘I’m a strong person I don’t do depression’. It all came to a head yesterday when I asked for help – it was that or crash the car or today feel like sticking a kitchen knife into my heart. I feel so lost and alone and sore – my head hurts & my heart aches. The darkness comes out of nowhere with no care for whose lives it is affecting. Appt on Friday to get my meds changed AGAIN and hopefully find a combination that works with no side effects otherwise it’s the end of the road for me :-(

  • jayne

    jayne

    April 15th, 2015 at 7:28 AM

    treatment resistant depression sucks… it’s trying everything to fix it with little or no relief, and no hope of ever figuring it out… :/

  • Mary

    Mary

    June 9th, 2015 at 10:52 AM

    I am just.coming out of a severe depression episode. I avoided some friends while I was depressed because the comments they have made in the past about depression . Its.sad when need someone can’t or don’t want to be around them due to the comments.

  • Annette K.

    Annette K.

    January 13th, 2017 at 6:21 PM

    Hi there
    After reading this article I know I am a narcissistic person and my older sister is codependent it has been this way all of my life, but I’m only just realising it now, I have been suffering with fibromyalgia for over 7 yrs now and not only has she put me down for everything forever but since being ill “I’m lazy, inconsiderate, cold-hearted my house is to messy if I loved my daughter I’d quit smoking I only ever think about myself” I could go on and on and I’m always to scared to say anything she even acts this way to our mother, and I’m getting to the point where I’m sick of it I’m sick of saying sorry when I have done nothing wrong, I had a really bad week last week with my depression and didn’t answer my phone to anyone then she text me and asked why I was ignoring her I told her how I felt and why but I was told I was thoughtless cold hearted and rude when I didn’t apologise she just got more angry and just kept saying that just cause I’m “ILL” as she puts its it I shouldn’t hide behind it I tried to explain to her without apologising I may add but she’s one of these people that says she doesn’t get depression everyone has problems and to get over it, when I actually said the words I’m not apologising as I have nothing to apologise for she went mad and again said I was selfish and told me to leave her alone, at first I was proud of myself for being able to stand up for myself but now hours later the guilt is setting in was she right? Am I selfish? Maybe I shouldn’t have done it have I lost my sister?
    If there is anyone that has mane had a similar experience I need help and advice do I keep being strong or should I apologise Please help going out of my mind

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