Clinical Depression is not a dinner table conversation to say the least. People are more likely to talk comfortably about clothes, shopping and food than on a psychological disorder. Even if it is talked about, people often mention it casually and use it as a synonym for sadness. While one of the symptoms of depression is sadness, that one word cannot completely describe the multivariable and multi-symptomatic disorder that constitutes depression.
Clinical depression is somewhat special in a way. Diabetes for example, is characterized by a high sugar level in blood, above 200mg/dl, caused by insufficient insulin production. Sadness is one of the major components of depression and the most common symptom. It is something akin to blood sugar concentration in diabetes but it cannot be measured the same way; there is no scale or universal unit for the measurement of sadness. Even if people see depression as an illness, they often expect individuals to get over it quickly, like the common cold. These myths and misguided expectations only add to the stigma and perpetuate the pain of depression. Clinical depression, is a mental disorder, and asking society to accept something it can neither see nor feel, is a very hard task. After all, “we believe what we see”. With no standardized testing methods, depression gets all the more confusing and difficult to diagnose.
The tangibility quotient of depression not only affects the workplace environment but also the medical field. Doctors, contrary to cultural beliefs, are taught to believe that the clinical depression is common and does exist, but diagnosing a person with a magnitude is completely different. Depression may manifest itself with feeling suicidal in one patient to feeling very sad in another. Intangibles, like feelings, are hard to express, and communicating the symptoms effectively for a proper diagnosis is not as simple as expressing the concentration of sugar in blood like in diabetes.
Eric Maiser is a bestselling author of over 40 books. He is a psychotherapist and a creativity coach. In his blog he writes that clinical depression portrayed by the medical world is so vague, that using it as a basis to actually diagnose a patient is false. It lacks support and is baseless because of how vague the definition is. Depression as people believe, he argues, is caused by society’s tendency to abnormalize everything. The mind makes a habit to abnormalize and then, clinical depression is borne out of it. Eric Maiser may be right in some cases wherein he says that people and society have a tendency to sensationalize and abnormalize everything that comes their way. The scientific evidence in overwhelming in this field, and although nothing is concrete, it can be safe to say that clinical depression is not merely a habit of the mind and also due to genetic, environmental, and societal reasons. Yes, clinical depression is difficult to diagnose; Yes, it is hard to treat; and Yes it may be scary to see a strong person slowly eaten up by an invisible disease from the inside but the number of people currently suffering from depression in the United States alone is staggering with 80% of cases going undiagnosed every year.
As a society, we need to stop ignoring the things we think are difficult to understand, we need to stop having hushed conversations, and bring it all into the open. Clinical Depression needs to destigmatized so that people will continue with medication and the diagnostic rate will increase. People who are clinically depressed are just like you and me, no different most of the time. Why it happens, when it happens, how it happens, all these things may be unknown, but it does happen. When it does, leading a patient to believe that isolation is eventual and permanent is not the correct path. Doctors may not understand the disease enough to make us feel secure about it, but discouraging someone from getting help is not correct either. Clinical Depression is not comfortable to talk about but that is the case with many other things too. Through platforms, campaigns, and most importantly, creating safe spaces to talk, society can reduce stigmatization of clinical depression. Society by and large needs to listen to the conversation, embrace the discomfort, and keep the conversation going.
Originally published at medium.com