Keeping the Blues Away: Understanding Depression



Depression. The big sad. The hollow feeling of absolute nothingness yet such a deep feeling of massive hopelessness. If you suffer with depression you may feel like a supermassive black hole is inside of you somewhere. You cannot escape from the torture and soul depleting mindset of your unwanted abundance of misery that never ceases. You can’t… You never will… It’s a part of you…

Q. Will it always be like that? A: No. No-one should ever feel like there’s no road to recovery.

The entire days spent it bed, the entire days without feeding oneself, the feeling of hatred for oneself, the feeling of putting on a brave face, the feeling of confusion and great thought. Why feel? Happiness is overrated anyway, right? Is there something wrong with humanity, instead?

 It comes with criticising yourself

but there is also room for self-appraisal…

The amazing sense of achievement of getting dressed and going out for a walk. You’ve made yourself breakfast! Give yourself a pat on the pack! You didn’t feel like crying today… could this day get any better?! You didn’t sleep all day… hello new you! You didn’t feel like harming yourself? Wow, you’re a superstar!

This may sound bleak but these are the lows and highs that many sufferers of depression go through day in day out.

Depression is real. It is a serious medical condition that can deplete all sings of life from a person’s soul. If you could see what a depressed person is like when they are alone you would see them without their mask. Unrecognisable.

Depression kills all optimism inside of a person. They feel like they can never recover, that sadness will always be a part of them. Sometimes it can be impossible to know why, that’s the worse thing about it.

Everyone has a different opinion of depression.  Even if you have a large support group around you, facing the ongoing stigma that comes with opening up about your own struggles is always going to be there. The good ones will usually approach you first if they sense that something is off about you. If you can trust them don’t be afraid to open up. You should feel a sense of great solace and gratitude when you come across these helpful few.

In the biological perspective of psychology, it is an occurrence of a low level of chemicals reciprocating in the synapses of our brain such as serotonin and dopamine… amongst others. Ultimately, the observation of this perspective from a clinical outlook ignores the bigger picture as the chemical structure of your brain and how it contributes to low mood and depression can be due to a myriad of factors. Things are sometimes out of our control; we cannot bring deceased loved ones back but treatment can help to relieve symptoms and to help with the recovery process.

On the other hand, people sometimes experience depression without any external factors and it may just be entirely chemical. Physical exercise can improve the chemical activity in your brain improving your mood if only temporary however regular exercise though can be a huge benefit as it stabilises the nervous system to keep producing the feel-good hormones that you need to sufficiently maintain a positive mood. The importance of this cannot be stressed enough – regularity is widely confused for often, what it actually means is routinely at a consistent rate.

What is often found with young people who experience depression long term is that they do not believe that their symptoms will ever get better because they don’t see a life where they’ll be free of the forsaken day to day doom that they are in. Exercise can feel pointless and motivation to work out can feel unfeasible at times. Exercise can be seen as a burden activity or a waste of one’s time but is seen as crucial for recovery. If you need any other reasons to exercise there are plenty of them – a wonderful start is to acknowledge the fact that our IQ drops down as we age doing so very quickly from the age of about 30.  Exercise is currently the only thing that empirically shows the deceleration of this.

There are many things that can contribute to experiencing depressive symptoms in the social realm of your life, like bereavement, financial struggles, relationship and family issues. Triggers that can create an onset of depression are more tangibly interlinked with the causality of our environmental surroundings as a root cause of negative emotions when one considers the biological perspective. People that are emotionally torn by bereavement almost always get through it in a short amount of time and can recover in the manner of functioning with their day-to-day lives. Negative emotions caused by financial struggles can often last as long as the person is experiencing such a situation. Rational thinking is usually the key to hold off negative thought and it’s really about the situation of the individual. A person who is in debt for example and is trying to support their family has to deal with their situation in a different way then say a young student that is struggling to feed themself. Both of the people in these two examples have different steps to overcome their troubles but both have to do it differently. The key thing to look at from the young student’s situation is that they are young and are in an incredible opportunity.  A noticeable amount of young people are resentful of being poor, blaming the functions of sociological structures and their ‘hierarchal tyranny’. By doing this they are in part ignoring the amount of sacrifice and perseverance that goes in to making money and accumulating wealth. Also, they are ignoring the achievements that society has made throughout history, all they need to look at is the warm room they are sitting in and the food that was made for them. Are we no longer moving rocks and sharpening arrows? We’ve come a long way since then, and we are blind to it. Almost every single millionaire has had to work extremely hard and has had to sacrifice a huge amount of their time to work to the levels beyond what other people are capable of doing, that is how society has moved on. Older people also tend to have more money merely based on the actions of the sensibility of saving and building their wealth throughout their lifetime doing so with discipline. Nothing that is worth having is easy to get. The case of the person in debt struggling to feed the family can be seen as a more challenging situation as self-doubt and self-worth can start to diminish when you know you can not take care of other people you love and are obliged to do so. Money itself in this instance shouldn’t really be the primary concern, in a matured person’s mind, it is not the materialistic desire for money that should be of your concern but rather the ability to provide for your loved ones. If a huge pile of bank notes were suddenly given to a poor person without question – a massive mountain stacked up right in front their eyes then the chances that they would unravel in to chaos very quickly is extremely high. Nothing would feel of any sense of reward, then there is the case that being poor is stopping you from harming or even killing yourself from drug or alcohol addiction for example. Being poor keeps a lot of people alive and happy. Freedom is not synonymous with joy. This is exactly why people say money will not buy you happiness.


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is an effective treatment plan for people that have cognitive distortions. The ABC model that comes with it is great to hold off irrational thoughts that many people with depression experience.

Those that have a healthy mind will often tell you that they can be resilient to the problems that they face and can deal with them in the manner that puts them in to the best chance of recovery. The biggest habit of people that are strong minded is that they can learn from their mistakes and not repeat them. Social learning theory is a great tool for personal development.

Classical conditioning is an applied form of social learning theory; the father of classical conditioning is Ivan Pavlov. During the 1890s he was researching salivation in dogs in response to being fed. He inserted a small test tube into the cheek of each dog to measure saliva when the dogs were fed. Pavlov predicted the dogs would salivate in response to the food placed in front of them but he noticed that his dogs would begin to salivate whenever they heard the footsteps of his assistant who was bringing them the food. When Pavlov discovered that any object or event which the dogs learned to associate with food (such as the lab assistant) would trigger the same response, he realized that he had made an important scientific discovery. Accordingly, he devoted the rest of his career to studying this type of learning.

Pavlov’s dog was a revolutionary study as it proves that as humans our free-will isn’t quite what we think it is. We have to break through the glass ceiling to get what we want in life and not adhere to our temptations which are caused by our cognitive convulsions.

A typical cognitive disfunction that leads to negative emotions may arise in a person because we are conditioned to react to certain events, reactions to negative feedback, harsh words, a break in routine or unhappy experiences.  Some habits are very difficult to break and many people experience change as very daunting. This is the same effect the salivation in Pavlov’s dog has on the human brain. A nicotine addict for example who will light up a cigarette every lunch break will arguably do so without even thinking about it. A person may also routinely reach for a nicotine hit after a meal, when they are in front of the tv or every time they go out for a walk, this is all relative.

What if we break a typical reaction to a stimulus? So, for example, we are going about our day in a typical fashion and we come across an obstacle that upsets us, angers us or makes us feel hopeless. You may have an urge to cry or yell. How do we develop a level of serenity that gets us through such troubles? One way is by the concept of reinforcement which was given by B.F. Skinner as a part of his learning theory profoundly known as Operant Conditioning. Reinforcement refers to anything that holds the power to increase the likelihood of a response to occur again. In simpler words, anything that calls forth a response to reoccur is reinforcement. It can be something as small as rewarding yourself with chocolate or as big as treating yourself to a holiday in the Maldives! Reinforcement may be materialistic like jumping on a plane or non-materialistic like words of praise or a simple pat on the back!  As long as it is strengthening a response, increasing its chances to reoccur, has the element of tangible rewards, situations and events attached to it it is reinforcement.

The different kinds of reinforcement are – Positive Reinforcement: it involves adding a rewarding stimulus in order to increase a positive behaviour/likelihood of a particular behaviour to occur again.

Negative Reinforcement: It involves reducing an aversive stimulus in order to increase a positive behaviour/likelihood of a behaviour to occur again. Often negative reinforcement is confused with punishment. However, it is important to understand that this is not the case. Negative reinforcement increases the likelihood of behaviour, whereas, punishment decreases it.

Your GP may be giving you a ‘solution’ by prescribing anti-depressants which many people end up being reliant upon. With this comes compliance issues. Are people taking these pills as prescribed and instructed? The impact of these drugs often takes weeks sometimes months to kick in and people can actually feel worse when they do not feel any different, at times making people feel suicidal. But what has been outlined above, people can actually do different things to feel better and anti-depressants don’t work magic, they merely construct the chemicals in your brain to fight off negative emotions, your actions are really the most important thing, so exercise and learning theory also has to be applied.

This article is written to help to gain a better understanding of depression and hopefully can be useful if you know someone close to you who is going through a difficult time. Stigma will always be there, unfortunately this may never go away. There is a lot of support out there. There is the Samaritans, amongst many other organisations that can help people in different kinds of need. There is always hope. Stay strong!

This a poem by Erin Hanson entitled ‘Sadness’

They say happiness will find you,

But I think sadness will find you too,

It sneaks up on you in darkness,

Just when you think you’ve made it through,

It opens holes in what was solid ground,

The kind you never know are there,

Until you go to take another step,

And find you’re standing over the air,

The world around you passes by,

In blurs of colour and sound,

Nothing around you making sense,

As you continue your plummet down,

You can’t remember how it started,

And you don’t know when it will end,

But you know that you’d give anything,

To stand up on your feet again,

Sadness is that feeling,

When the falling doesn’t stop,

And it saps your life of meaning,

And of the good things that you’ve got,

So when you finally hit rock bottom,

And you look back up at the sky,

What you once had seems so far away,

The only thing left to do is cry,

People all yell out “save yourself”,

Calling things about “happiness” and “hope”

But they’re too busy with their lives to realise,

It’d be a lot quicker if they let down a rope.