Depression. Given the state of the world, it seems more people are diagnosed with depression by the day, but most often it is a self-diagnosis. It’s easy to feel you fall under the symptoms of constant sadness and loss of energy, but it’s important to really consider the source of the issue. This post is not a diagnostic tool, I am no expert, but it can be used as a navigational tool. The purpose of this post is to bring together expert information to help understand the difference between depression and cognitive dissonance. This in no way is meant to belittle anyone’s experiences with their own struggles, but those experiencing extreme symptoms of depression should seek medical and professional help.
First, we should define depression (major depressive order). According to psychiatry.org aka the American Psychiatric Association, “Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease your ability to function at work and at home.”
Symptoms of depression include major changes in diet and sleep pattern, feelings of worthlessness and helplessness, and thoughts of suicide. Most often the causes of Depression are actually chemical differences in the brain and genetics, however people with harsh environmental factors and certain personality traits are more susceptible to developing depression. This is one of the biggest differences between a healthy amount of grief and actual depression, and the main reason for making this post.
If you are able to pinpoint the source of your sadness, then you most likely aren’t suffering from depression. Living in a toxic environment, having a job that doesn’t satisfy you, and generally comparing your body and life to others will cause feelings of grief. You may feel that your sadness is constant, but that’s because there are constant negative influences around you. This is different from depression because even under good circumstances a person with depression could struggle to be happy. This is why you shouldn’t self-diagnose, especially because it belittles a serious mental illness.
Now, I brought up cognitive dissonance in this post because it relates to the “constant negative influences” I mentioned earlier. I think cognitive dissonance is one of the biggest reasons people misdiagnose themselves with depression. So, what is cognitive dissonance? According to SimplyPsychology.org, “Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors. This produces a feeling of mental discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance.”
Cognitive dissonance can often lead to an inability to be happy a lot of the time, constant feelings of sadness and worthlessness, because your beliefs are not aligning with your thoughts and actions. Society makes everyone believe they should be productive people, you must wake up at a certain time and be a work or at school and be alert, productive, and happy. Society also makes people believe their worth comes from how productive they can be, what they can give back to society, how smart, strong, or attractive they can be.
The truth is maybe you have a hard time getting out of bed because you’re biological clock is not meant for early mornings, DiscorverMagazine.com writes “Scientists have discovered more than 300 hundred places in the genome that influence our sleeping habits.” Being forced into a sleeping habit and feeling tired while believing you should be fine would obviously cause quite a bit of friction with your beliefs and attitude. This cognitive dissonance, combined with the fatigue of an incompatible sleep pattern, could easily mimic the inability to get out of bed in the morning due to depression.
This template can be used in just about every situation where symptoms of depression are present. Feelings of worthlessness could come from the cognitive dissonance of having a retail job in a society that values being a millionaire and owning your own business. Maybe you feel lazy for not cleaning your house more often, but society’s perceptions of this were based on a wife who would stay at home, not work a full time job. Maybe you’re poor and feel responsible, with all the major blogs and newspapers saying it’s all your fault for buying coffee from Starbucks, when in reality wages have been stagnant while the cost of everything else has increased ten fold (Pewresearch.org).
The truth is, we all have reason to constantly feel worthless and sad. In this day and age, we are hyper aware of the tragedies happening around the world constantly, meanwhile being almost powerless due to being born in a society that crushed us with low wages and high cost of living. We believe people are constantly becoming rich and famous with just a little ambition and entrepreneurship, when in reality most of the wealthiest people received major amounts of money from somewhere (most often their own family).
In conclusion, I am sorry if you struggle with any forms of sadness. Whether you have depression or not, society has failed you. Regardless of an official diagnosis, you know the struggles you go through and that isn’t diminished by any sort of categorization of your sadness. Hopefully with better knowledge of where your sadness may be coming from, you now have a way of combating it.