According to WHO, more than 300 million people across the world are suffering from depression. That’s almost equal to the entire population of the U.S. Besides, more than a million people in the world commit suicide every year, with depression being one of the more common causes. And with the rise of technology and social media, people are losing human contact, which is further igniting stress and depression.
If you’re fighting depression or are on the verge of getting depressed, this piece of information can help. Read along to discover the major drivers of depression, and how to stay away from them.
Out of many psychological and biological causes of depression, stress is the most prevalent. We all experience stress regardless of our age, gender, and profession. The reasons for depression and its outcome might be different for all. A school kid may get depressed because he didn’t do well in his class test. A college student could get depressed if he fails to impress his first-year crush. Not meeting the targets or underperforming is one of the major causes of depression for office employees. Everyone experiences stress, but if chronic stress is left untreated, it can turn into depression.
The rise of technology
We live in a digital age, where technology is taking over human tasks. Emails have replaced direct mail, phone calls have replaced face-to-face conversations, and social media has replaced social gatherings. We have lost the human touch, so whenever we feel stressed or depressed, we seek technology and gadgets to feel better instead of talking to people.
While the term social distancing is gaining popularity during the COVID-19 outbreak, most of us have been already practicing social distancing for a long time. Technology is good only if it is used for the welfare of mankind. It can be destructive if people use it as an alternative to human interactions, which sadly on the rise nowadays.
Social media (and bullying)
Social media, when started, was used to connect people. But now, people are using it to disconnect from others. More and more people are getting obsessed with social stardom that they tend to overlook the difference between real-life and virtual reality. Most people’s actions on social media are driven by the opinions of others. And when such people lose the self-presumed stardom, they feel like they’ve lost something valuable. Such thoughts lead to depression, which drives detrimental actions, such as drug abuse, self-harm, and suicide.
Another major cause of depression, which is closely related to social media and technology, is cyberbullying. Celebrities, internet personalities, and influencers are always at the risk of cyberbullying, but it can affect normal people, too. What will happen if you share your opinion on a controversial topic, and your followers don’t like it? You will be bashed left, right, and center. People will troll you, make fun of you, unfollow you, and shame you openly. And if you are an internet personality, this can be a nightmare. Many celebrities have faced cyberbullying over the years. Some manage to fight and overcome it, whereas some get stressed and depressed.
While some causes of depression are purely self-created and thus avoidable, some of them are beyond control. Extramarital affairs and divorce rates are on the rise, which causes drift in families. And in most cases, it leads to depression. Divorce rates have doubled over the past two decades among couples older than 35 years of age. In 1935, there were 16 divorces for every 100 marriages. By 1998, this number increased to 51 per 100 marriages. And currently, more than 8 million people are living with a divorced single parent.
Not only does divorce affects the mental health of the persons involved in the marriage, but it also impacts the child. If the child is a teen, the chances of them getting adversely affected by divorce or separation are high.
Losing a loved one
Death is a natural phenomenon and something beyond human control. But it’s not easy to get over the loss of someone close enough. Most teens tend to get depressed due to the untimely demise of their parent(s) or other loved ones. While adults have a better tendency to cope with pain and overcome the mental trauma, kids and teens could get badly affected by the death of a loved one. They tend to isolate themselves, and do harm to their body. Numerous teens indulge in drug abuse to overcome stress and depression, which in most cases, is due to losing a loved one.
Lack of physical activity
Now that we’ve covered all psychological triggers of depression, let’s dive into some physical causes. One of the most common reasons why people are becoming more depressed now is due to the lack of physical activity.
Exercising or playing outdoors enables your brain to utilize more oxygen and get rid of mood disorders and negative thoughts. Moreover, free play allows children to learn to solve their problems, make decisions, and get better control over their life.
Increased screen time
Kids and teens should spend more time outdoors, but what about adults who are working professionals. Most jobs nowadays include sitting in front of the screen for hours. A 2013 British study suggested that people who spend more time in front of computer or TV screens had lower self-esteem and greater mental health problems like stress, anxiety, and depression.
Furthermore, there have been studies that indicated the link between increased screen time and the deterioration of certain brain areas. The same effect was also seen witness in children and teens play games on phones, iPads, or computers for more than 20 hours a week. Besides, it is also linked to atrophy in parts of the brain’s gray matter, which reduces the person’s capacity to develop empathy and compassion.
How to overcome (or avoid) depression?
You know what causes depression, but now what? The reason why most people cope with depression better than others boils down to their ability to tolerate. Fortunately, tolerance and coping abilities can be developed with some practice. Let’s dive into a few actionable things you can do right now to avoid or overcome depression.
- Help others in any way possible: Find small ways to help people. It can be anything: helping your neighbors mow the lawn or an old woman lift her groceries. Don’t measure your actions in volumes of work done. Just try to bring a smile on people’s faces.
- Do something that gives you a sense of accomplishment: Create SMART goals. SMART is a business jargon that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. In a nutshell, do something that you can do quickly and measure its success. You can start with something as small as making your bed every morning. Slowly, you can progress to something like reading one book a week or learning a new skill every month. Also, reward yourself when you accomplish your goals and gift yourself that winning feeling.
- Practice mindfulness: Don’t stay in the past or future but the present. Sometimes, self-judgment can drive you into the past, or career stress can give you a ride of the future, but gently bring yourself back as soon as you notice it. Research suggests that people who practice self-compassion are more likely to have higher self-esteem and self-confidence.
- Exercise and eat right: You may not realize, but your lifestyle has a direct impact on your mental health. If you eat healthily and exercise regularly, you will find yourself in a better mood. You’ll feel more energetic and mentally active and be able to make better decisions.
The number of people having depression is increasing year after year. Thankfully, depression is something that can be managed and cured by making some psychological and lifestyle changes. And remember, nothing is more important than your life. If you’re down or depressed, talk to people regardless of what they’ll think of you.