Have you ever wondered how someone who seems happy all the time could be depressed? It can be surprising to find out that someone who seems like a constant ray of sunshine is actually dealing with some really hard stuff. There’s even a type of depression called “smiling depression” which describes a person who appears happy and content to others, but who is dealing with depression and its symptoms in secret. We have a lot of assumptions in our culture about mental health in general, especially depression since it’s so common. Those assumptions can make it hard to ask for help when you’re depressed.
What is depression?
Depression is a clinical mood disorder that causes a variety of symptoms. The severity of depression can differ as well. Some experience a more mild version of depression that is easier to manage, and others deal with more debilitating depression that requires more effort to treat.
Everyone is different, and everyone experiences depression differently. Some folks experience depression as energy-draining and tiring, but others don’t have that experience. Other people may simply be used to having to function no matter how they’re feeling inside. This is especially true for people who have experienced abuse. On the outside, everything seems okay, but on the inside it’s a different story.
What causes depression?
Brain chemistry plays a role in depression, which is how many antidepressant medications work. Researchers have also discovered that the brains of people with depression tend to be different from non-depressed folks. Depression isn’t just related to brain chemistry, though. That’s just one piece of the puzzle.
Sometimes, depression happens as a result of an experience, like losing someone you care about. There are people whose genes make them more likely to develop depression. Many mental health problems run in families, and depression is one of them. Depression can develop as a result of a serious illness, substance use, conflict, age, or even certain medications.
Depression is something that interferes with daily life. This means that the feelings of distress and the symptoms get in the way and prevent you from doing things you normally do. Everyone functions differently when they’re depressed. Some people certainly experience bouts of depression where they’re not able to care for themselves well, but others are still able to function at a high level even when depressed.
Why is it hard to ask for help with depression?
Living with depression doesn’t mean that you will be sad all of the time. Distressing feelings may come and go, and in between you may feel happy or like your old self again. Other folks are very good at hiding their true feelings behind a smile.
It’s hard to admit that there’s something not quite right, especially with a disorder like depression that can already distort your thinking. Here are 3 reasons why:
Mental health stigma
Even though mental healthcare is becoming more mainstream, mental health disorders are still stigmatized, especially more severe disorders like schizophrenia. Mental health problems are hard enough to deal with on their own, but when you add stigma on top of it it can make it seem scary to ask for help. Not everyone understands what goes on in therapy, or that mental health is just like physical health. Experiencing a mental health disorder has no moral value. It doesn’t make you a good or bad person to live with something like depression, but that is not the message many of us get growing up. This messaging can stick with you and make it harder to ask for help when you need it.
Fear of burdening others
Asking for help is vulnerable. It can be hard to admit you need something from someone else, especially if you’re used to being independent and self-sufficient. It can also be nerve-wracking to think about burdening someone you care about with your mental health. No one likes being a burden, and no one wants to feel rejected when they’re already in distress. We’re not meant to go it alone, though. Asking for help is a normal part of being a human. We need each other more than we think we do. It’s okay to ask for help.
Wanting things to be perfect sounds nice, but in reality it often leads to burnout and resentment at the very least. Life isn’t perfect, and struggling against that idea only creates more distress for you. What if instead of struggling to make everything perfect, you allowed yourself to enjoy something imperfect? It can feel like you’re letting yourself down at first if you’re a perfectionist and you don’t hold yourself up to that standard. However with time, it will be easier to accept that nothing is ever perfect, and you don’t have to be so hard on yourself. Things won’t be perfect, but you can still enjoy life anyway. Sometimes perfectionism comes from expectations that others have of us, which can be even harder to work through. You can only control what you do, not what others do, though. People may have their own feelings about you and what you do, but you’re not responsible for them. You’re responsible for yourself and your actions, and for coping with your feelings. You don’t have to put pressure on yourself to manage everyone else’s emotions too.
If you’re not feeling like yourself lately and you need a safe place to talk, working with a therapist can make a difference. Get in touch with our office to start working with a therapist for depression today.