Several recent studies point to the fact that depression may not be a disease and suggest it could be a disorder.
There is no doubt that depression is complex. Everyone who has experienced depression does so differently, at various times in their lives, and with varying frequency and severity. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 5% of adults suffer from depression, equating to approximately 280 million people globally.
Disease versus disorder
Many hypotheses underpin that depression is a disorder. This thinking is not new and is certainly gaining momentum, with the caveat that more research is required.
It can be a helpful shift to thinking of depression as a disorder. Researchers believe that the change in reframing depression can give you more control over the outcome.
Four factors that point toward a disorder
In general, four common factors are thought to contribute to experiencing depression.
The first originates from prehistoric times, when limited resources, such as food supplies, created social competition. Today, this social competition continues with the need to be competitive in most aspects of our lives. Then if results are unsuccessful, a loss of motivation and depression can set in.
The second relates to the setting of unrealistic life goals. Depression sets in by creating a feeling of detachment – Mother Nature’s way of telling us to set realistic goals.
Social exclusion is the third factor, a pertinent term as many of us find ourselves recovering from the COVID pandemic. We need to be included in our social circles and communities to satisfy our need for human connection. Individuals who feel socially excluded may signal to friends and family that they need additional support by changing their mood and becoming detached from daily life.
Rumination is the final factor. Individuals who focus on negative aspects of their lives and their perceived failures experience a loss of motivation. The maladaptive tendency of rumination towards negativity in all aspects of life suggests that an individual may have complex social issues which lead to depression.
A simple question that those experiencing depression should ask themselves is – what is creating a misalignment in my life that has resulted in these feelings?
Understanding the root cause and digging deep to obtain an honest response to what is creating this misalignment will help to understand the next steps in getting support.
What does this reframing mean long term?
This change and reframing of depression and viewing it as part of the human psyche, a disorder, may help see a change in the treatment offered.
It is common to misdiagnose depression and for antidepressants to be prescribed. This is due to the complexity of depression (including symptoms and behavior patterns) and the lack of helpful exploration from a clinical perspective.
There is a clinical need to reframe depression as a signal of misalignment, a disorder, and support the investigation to find the source of the root cause.
Thereby help should be offered to patients by encouraging them to explore their internal beliefs and thinking and to examine their external environment deeper to understand the root cause. This, in turn, can aid progression to a state where the individual can flourish.
This exploration can be facilitated by a trained therapist and/or a structured self-awareness practice using mindfulness and meditation tools.
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