Recently I wrote about those who question the reality of depression. What sparked the article was a Twitter thread wherein a professional kickboxer launched a very derogatory speech about how “depression isn’t real” and how depressed people are “too lazy to change it.” Most of the responses to him were emotionally charged, but some people offered several articles and resources that discussed the reality and consequences of depression. Occasionally someone would agree with the original post, including one person who charged: “I challenge anyone to come up with a study definitively proving the medical cause of depression.” That statement is, of course, absurd. People turn up with scores of diseases and conditions everyday for which there is no known cause.
Basically, we have two claims here, but in three forms. The first blatantly states that depression is a fake problem. The second says that anyone with so-called symptoms of depression is just lazy and needs to just get up and get better. The third essentially implies the same as the first, and uses a lack of cause to justify the argument. Hopefully these are the kind of people who just remove all their filters once they get behind a keyboard. But in case you ever have to engage with someone so ignorant and contentious, let’s go ahead and address each of these so that you can be armed with reason.
“Depression isn’t real”
In the interest of full disclosure, I need to once again say that I’m personally skeptical of Psychology as a field of medicine. Ironically, I started my degree as a Psych major but changed it to a minor after I got further into the relativity of it. That’s because I was also studying other cultures and quickly found that one country’s abnormal case that supposedly requires medication or institutionalization is another country’s priest or mayor. It should be noted that many non-Western countries offer a vastly different support system through communal living. We, on the other hand, are very isolated and hyper-focused on independence. Non-Western areas also tend to have a much different view of spirituality and are not obsessed with tangible evidence to validate their beliefs. I would not be surprised to find that depression is often a culturally specific condition. But that doesn’t negate its reality.
For example, while living in the suburbs, I suffered from severe postpartum depression. However, I believe I would not have had the same experience if I lived in a place where I was not isolated from my community and family. In no way does that mean my experience wasn’t real. Indeed, extreme poverty in places like Brazil causes malnutrition and dehydration. It’s so profound, that if a mother can carry a child to term, there is a very high risk that the baby will die because the mother cannot even produce milk with which to nurse the infant (from Death Without Weeping by Nancy Scheper-Hughes). Those people, too, are suffering from severe depression. Go figure.
The Mayo Clinic summarizes that “depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems…More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness and you can’t simply “snap out” of it. Depression may require long-term treatment.” Furthermore, Harvard Medical School adds that “there are many possible causes of depression, including faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and medical problems. It’s believed that several of these forces interact to bring on depression.”
Depressed People are “too lazy to change it”
Remember those starving folks in Brazil? Are they just lazy? Did you know that in the United States alone, an average of 20 veterans commits suicide every day? So, they had the fortitude to go into combat and/or serve in any capacity of the military, but somehow they just got lazy and killed themselves? Depression is one of the hallmarks of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that “PTSD affects 7.7 million adults, or 3.5% of the U.S. population. Women are more likely to be affected than men. Rape is the most likely trigger of PTSD: 65% of men and 45.9% of women who are raped will develop the disorder. Childhood sexual abuse is a strong predictor of lifetime likelihood for developing PTSD.” But our kickboxing Twitter ranter says these victims are just too lazy to change themselves. I guess ignorance really is bliss.
‘No Cause = Not Real’
I’m not going to spend much time here. I usually try to be relatively diplomatic, but this is one of the dumbest arguments I’ve ever heard in my life. The National Institutes of Health lists 14 autoimmune diseases alone. These have no known cause, but the condition is really happening. We don’t know definitive causes of depression, but you can compare brain scans of depressed and non-depressed people and see a definitive difference in function.
Please take the time to check the links in this article. They offer a wealth of information regarding the reality of depression. And if you or someone you know or love is in bad shape right now, do not hesitate to get help. What’s happening is real and it needs to be addressed, lest it lead to greater health problems or worse, even death.
The Crisis Text Line offers 24/7 support. Text for free at 741741 for immediate help.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also a 24/7 support system available by phone, text, or online chat. 800-273-8255. They also have options for deaf or hard-of-hearing as well as Spanish speakers.
International callers: The Lifeline Canada Foundation. They also offer International Crisis Hotlines and Worldwide Emergency Numbers and include call, text, email, and online chat options.