When we talk about emotional depression, what we really mean is a form of depression whereby a series of emotions, such as fear, grief anger and shame, end up not just becoming the predominant emotion but also feeding back on themselves in a loop that feels impossible to overcome.
Emotional depression is different from, say, the depression where we end up emotionally blocked, where we have no way to act on the emotion we’re feeling and end up feeling hopelessness and despair.
Of course, all depressions are emotional to a certain extent. It is hard to imagine intellectual depression. At the same time, not all depressions are the same and for different people, depression will out itself differently. Depression can make you lethargic, sad, or make it impossible for you to sleep. Some people who are depressed seek out solitude while for other depressed people, the very reason they’re depressed is that they feel so isolated.
Emotional depression versus other kinds
The signs of emotional depression are, as you might expect, often emotional. They can often manifest in different ways, but the most predominant feeling is that of one or several unmanageable emotions. For example, you might find yourself overwhelmed by the feelings of guilt, worthlessness and helplessness.
Do note, emotions are now understood to be far wider than they’re conceived of in pop culture. There aren’t just the primary emotions we all know, such as fear, anger, surprise and happiness. There are countless other ones which we now interpret as emotions. For example, interest, enthusiasm, contempt, doubt and boredom.
Many negative emotions can form the base of an emotional depression. So, there might be strong elements of hopelessness, loneliness or regret involved. If such an emotion feels like it has become the main go-to emotion in your life but isn’t something you look forward to, then the possibility exists that you are in the thralls of emotional depression.
Be wary of hypochondria
Before we go on, be aware of the problem most first-year medical students have. When they read up on illnesses, they almost always label themselves as having all of them. That’s because they almost inevitably recognize some of the symptoms which are described as they read about the illness in question. And from there, their imaginations run away with them and they end convinced they’ve got some exotic disease that only three people in all of history have ever had.
Don’t let that happen to you. Don’t talk yourself into a depression. Always remain skeptical and always think back to how long you’ve been feeling this way. We all have down periods. Make sure that that isn’t what you’re experiencing and that if you just let it run its course, you’ll be well soon enough.
Otherwise, you might well be encouraging a self-fulfilling prophecy in which your expectations actually bring the undesired situation about.
Emotional depression, as mentioned, is often identified by the predominant emotion. So, you might sense overwhelming sadness or self-reinforcing shame that makes you feel worthless. Often, this kind of depression will have a cause – though of course, it is entirely possible that it grows beyond that and into something more pervasive.
The strength of these emotions might give way to serious bouts of depression where you are entirely enthralled to that emotion. This can include bouts of crying, for example, or anxiety about social interactions due to your overwhelming self-doubt or even self-hatred.
It can also often express itself as feelings of utter helplessness where the person does not feel they can actually do anything about the situation. They hold the belief that nothing is worth trying and will actually do nothing as a result.
Why such depression can remain so pervasive
A big problem modern society has is that most people believe that the opposite of depression is happiness. However, a little bit of sleuthing makes it clear that this is not the case. Sometimes in the midst of a depression, even the most depressed people will have happy moments and even days. It is just that when things go wrong again, they get dragged back down into the darkness.
This suggests that the opposite of depression, therefore, is not happiness but emotional resilience. When we end up depressed, we end up getting battered time and again by serious down periods, which strip us of our defenses. The ticket to getting back on top of them is, therefore, to build up our resilience again. In short, some of the best ways to do so are:
- Exercise. Though the jury might still be out about whether exercise actually makes you happier, it certainly makes you less depressed. And that’s pretty much the same thing, if you’re depressed.
- Social interconnectivity. The truth is that our friends and family can help buffer us from the ups and downs of life. They can offer us ways to get out from under that shoe or simply give us emotional support when they can’t do that. So, you have to start rebuilding your connections.
- Diet. Processed foods turn out to make depression worse as they aggravate the natural ups and downs of the body. This undermines resilience and worsens our depressive feelings.
- Purpose. If we have a reason that we get up every day, that can give us a huge amount of protection from the vagaries of life. There is, after all, a reason why we’re here. Note that the purpose can shift over time. Your today’s purpose might not matter as much to you tomorrow. So, don’t overthink it. Instead, focus on what matters to you right now and throw yourself into that.
All forms of depression can be beaten
Whether you’re feeling emotional depression, lethargic depression or just having a down week, the feelings can be beaten. All it takes is building up your defenses and resisting that feeling of helplessness that overwhelms your attempts to free yourself from it. Yes, that might sound like a huge task from where you’re sitting. And I’m not trying to belittle it.
What I am trying to do is remind you that millions of people manage to pull themselves out of their unhappiness and live healthy and happy lives again. What they do to get there is to walk towards the light despite their inner demons shouting that it is pointless to do so.
Follow in their footsteps and you too will make it out. It might not be tomorrow, it might not be the day after. But if you stay committed to slow but steady improvements, it will be faster than you might think.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Natalie Andersen, chief officer at Get Good Grade, pro writer, and researcher, author of the book “Conquer Essay Phobia: Perfect Formula for a Good Grade!” Though now happy, in years gone by, she ran the gauntlet of depression and anxiety. And though it was terrible at the time, she became wiser because of it.