Depression never occurs in a vacuum. We all have differences in our biochemistry, our social supports, and in the way we handle our depression. We also have major differences in our basic personalities. Things like whether we are an extrovert or an introvert can greatly affect how our depression manifests. Likewise someone who is best described as the "class clown" will probably use different coping strategies than someone who is very serious and cerebral. Keep in mind that everyone is dynamic in their personality. We may express vastly different personality traits depending upon our mood and how well or unwell we may be feeling. When you take a look at the following depressive personality caricatures you may find bits and pieces of you in more than one description.
Here are some personality types and how depression may manifest for this person. Tell us if you see yourself or someone you know in any of these examples.
This is an individual who describes any event as what is being done to him or her. They seldom talk about what they are doing to problem-solve or change things. It is always about what other people are doing to them. The victim is a bit egocentric in viewing their needs as most important. It is difficult for them to see how they play a role in the events of their life. They see themselves as "special" in that they have it the worst and nobody could ever be as unlucky or misfortunate. This person feels they have no control over any aspect of their life and that other people or life circumstances call the shots.
What can help "The Victim"?
Many people who play a victim role in adulthood may have actually been a victim of neglect or abuse as a child. They need to unlearn the behaviors associated with being a victim and understand that they have some control as an adult. For some people, assertiveness training can help them to get what they need in a mentally healthy way.
Whereas the victim relinquishes all control during a bout of depression, the controller seizes more control any way they can. This is a person who may have experienced some sort of loss whether it was perceived or real. When this person has lost control of some aspect of their life, they react by being more controlling over other areas of their life. For example, the individual who cannot cope with the grief of losing a loved one may become extremely controlling with their family or at their work. The person who has been sexually abused may develop an eating addiction and end up obese. This is one way to unconsciously control the possibility of being hurt again by creating a physical barrier. Hoarding objects or animals is another way some people deal with loss. They literally fill up the hole in their psyche by keeping control over their objects or pets. It is a grand paradox that the controller is quite often out of control with their behaviors.
What can help "The Controller"?
If the controller has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder a therapist specializing in this type of anxiety disorder is essential. One of the problems is getting the controller to get help as they may not recognize their problem until it becomes out of hand and totally disrupts their functioning and/or relationships with others. Learning to relinquish control is the goal of the controller and to face the emotional pain they are desperate to block out. In the case of unresolved grief, a therapist specializing in grief and loss can also help.
You might not know this person is depressed because they will do everything to hide it. This is a person who prides themselves on their independence and is very reluctant to receive help from anyone. They may be a caretaker or the head of the family and feel that it is their responsibility to be perfect and without flaws. This person feels that if they allow their feelings to be shown that they will be perceived as weak and that they will be vulnerable to pain and hurt. This person may feel guilt for being depressed because they feel that they letting their friends and family down. The stoic pastes on a smile to get through work or daily life and then cries in private. The stoic may feel that depression is a luxury they don't have time for. They may cover up the pain in busyness and overworking. They will only get help when things reach a crisis point and they can no longer hide the pain.
What can help "The Stoic"?
The stoic needs to understand that they are not superman or superwoman and that everyone needs help from time to time. The stoic needs to also be reminded that there is no shame in having depression or in receiving treatment. They also need to know that there is support and that reaching out doesn't make you weak, it makes you stronger. Playing to this person's sense of responsibility may get them into therapy or counseling. If they are a caretaker or part of a family, remind them that taking care of their emotional needs will help them to be a better spouse, parent, friend, or caretaker.
The intellectual is very cerebral and serious. They may pride themselves on their practicality and problem-solving skills. One thing the intellectual loves to do is to research. They may spend an inordinate amount of time researching the best ways to treat their depression or any other mental or physical illnesses. This person may enjoy debates about treatment or the politics behind health care. Yet the emotions are lacking. The intellectual may have great difficulty connecting their feelings to what is happening in their life. This is a person who fears becoming emotional as they perceive it to be irrational and out of control. The intellectual may discuss painful life events with an emotional detachment. This is a person who may lack emotional insight into their own issues as well as empathy for others. They don't open up very often to others or share how they are feeling because they feel no need for it.
What can help "The Intellectual"?
This is a person who responds well to reason and logic. If you can convince them that therapy or treatment is practical and will help them solve problems they may go for it. Cognitive behavioral therapy would probably work well for this type of personality. Yet in the best case scenario, the therapist would also work on getting this person to connect emotionally and discuss feelings. This is a person who may need help in interpreting social situations and how to read other people's emotions and behaviors.
The blamer is closely related to the victim but is more aggressive and outwardly angry. Every problem they have can be attributed to someone else. They may blame their parents, their friends, spouse, children, and society at large. This is a highly negative person who likes to shift responsibility for their problems onto others. This is a person who holds grudges and will not easily forgive any perceived slight against them. They place the responsibility of their mood and happiness onto other people. Depression manifests in angry outbursts and immature tirades. This is a person who may have some paranoid tendencies and feel that people are out to get them. The blamer can best be described as combative, irritable, and sullen. They may withhold love, cease communication, or be passively or actively aggressive with the people they feel are to blame for their troubles. This personality may be the most difficult to deal with and who poses the most resistance to therapy. An addiction to alcohol or drugs can magnify the negative traits of the blamer.
What can help "The Blamer"?
The blamer needs to understand that they are responsible for their mental health and happiness and that they cannot shift this responsibility onto others. Caretakers, family, and spouses may need to seek therapy in order to cope with having a blamer in their life. Anyone who tries to help the blamer will have to be assertive and not be afraid to use some "tough love." Therapy can be helpful if this individual does agree to it. If the therapist can get to the pain and emotions buried under all the anger, there can be hope for recovery. In some cases the only way this person will change is if there is some crisis which forces their hand such as the threat of impending divorce or even legal action if the person is abusive or has an addiction to drugs and alcohol. This is a personality who may hit rock bottom (destroying every aspect of their life) before they will accept help.
Can you relate to any of these descriptions more than others? Do you see any family members or friends in these personalities? Are there other depressive personality types you wish to add to the list? Share your story here. We are listening