6 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Depression

John McManamy | Sep 3rd 2015 Apr 10th 2017

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Depression is the source of a host of misunderstandings. Following are some you may not have considered.

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Depression didn't used to carry a stigma

Back in nineteenth century America, men were much more open in disclosing their inner thoughts and feelings. As a result, Lincoln did not hide his depression. To the contrary, his depressions formed part of his compelling narrative of a man rising above his humble roots and numerous disappointments.

This story resonated with voters. The rest is history.

Source: Lincoln’s Melancholy by Joshua Shenk

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No two depressions are alike

Depression is a construct of binary opposites: Too much emotion vs too little emotion, too much thinking vs too little thinking, too much activity vs too little activity.

Thus, an over-ruminating and anguished individual madly pacing the room in a state of hopeless despair technically has the same diagnosis as someone unable to get out of bed, who is emotionally numb, and is unable to string two thoughts together.

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Depression is not a single illness with a single cause

We may call it depression, but various low moods may be the result of failures in entirely different (though related) brain systems, with our environment and personalities acting as wild cards.

The combinations are endless.

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Depression is not always a bad thing

True, no one chooses to have depression, but according to evolutionary biology these traits have been passed on for a reason.

For instance, depression may be an artifact of mammalian hibernation, when it was prudent at certain times of the year to slow down and conserve energy. 

Depression is also nature’s way of forcing us to acknowledge reality.

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Depression may be part of our true "normal"

As opposed to some of us who experience temporary depressive episodes, others may have depressive personalities that remain fairly constant throughout their lives.

This may not be entirely bad. Quite the opposite, in fact, provided we are able to accept our fate and adapt accordingly. As well as having realistic world views, successful depressives tend to be sensitive people who are highly empathetic and deep thinkers.

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Finally, something you already know …

The funniest people in the world tend to experience depression. The list is endless, from John Cleese to Stephen Fry to Larry David. But the tragic suicide of Robin Williams last year left us with the sobering reminder of depression’s true destructive powers.

Be wise, live well …