Trigger Warning: Depression, suicide
If you or someone you know are suffering from depression, please reach out to someone you can trust, like your friends, family or an affectionate person in your life. For further help, you can also reach out to NIMHANS, 080-46110007, Fortis Stress Helpline, 08376804102, or Parivarthan 7676602602. Your mental health matters.
W.H.O states that globally 5% of adults suffer from depression. Recently, one of the most discussed mental health topics is depression. Offline and online. Depression is said to be accountable for rising many other emotional and physical problems. Over the past seven days, there were 287.41k tweets of hashtag depression on Twitter alone. So what is depression? And why is it one of the most trending mental disorders of recent times?
Depression is a serious mental disorder where people undergo severe mood changes of overwhelming sorrow or disinterest. It affects how a person perceives things negatively and can lead to emotional and physical problems. If left untreated, depression might sometimes lead to suicide as well.
Causes of Depression
When a person goes through a considerable change in their lives or suffers a loss for some time, they may be diagnosed with depression. The cause varies from person to person. However similar the case is, the journey remains unique for everyone. For example, a person suffering from physical health issues can suffer from depression. Unemployment, prejudice, trauma, and family issues can lead to depression. Hormones, chemicals and genetics might also be responsible for depression.
Types of Depression
In medical terms, there are few types of depression
- Unipolar major depression
- Dysthymia – Depression lasts for two years.
- Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder – Children and teens express anger and outbursts more severely than a typical reaction.
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder – severe mood problems in women before periods.
- SIMD (Substance-induced mood disorder) – Due to consumption of alcohol or drugs or stopping.
- Depression due to a medical condition
- Bipolar Disorder – Manic depression with extreme moods.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder – often in winter due to season changes, short days and less sunlight.
- Psychotic depression – Hallucinations, Delusions and Paranoia
- Postpartum depression – Major depression is seen mainly in women for weeks and months after childbirth.
Other types of depression include Atypical, Situational and Treatment Resistant Depression. The types of depression depend on the causes of depressed people.
Depression Pre-Social Media
Having depression, one of the most common illnesses in approximately 250 million people on earth, has been trending in recent times. But, depression and depressed people have been around for centuries before even the idea of social media existed. Rabindranath Tagore has also suffered from depression, even after the year he won the Nobel prize. So, it is essential to note that having depression is not just a social media trend. And depressed people on social media are people finding a platform to be as authentic and vulnerable as they can be.
Depression has a long history, initially called melancholia, which Hippocrates first described. Surprisingly melancholia was a broader concept than depression. Symptoms of sadness, despair, fear, anger and delusions are significant. Many theories have evolved since then on melancholia. Johann Christian Heinroth argued that melancholia was a disturbance of the soul due to internal moral conflict. The development of different types of depression and explanations is visible in history. However, in ordinary people, a stigma remained around depression leading to fewer people getting help.
Depression Post-Social Media
Social media became a reason for depression in teens and adults as people began to compare themselves with others. Ironically, people use the same platform to amplify their voices on mental health and depression. People are forming online communities to help each other by sharing resources and listening to each other. People who used to think they were alone in their fight don’t feel alone anymore.
Due to the resources, medical professionals and famous figures speaking out on their mental health struggles and depression, depressed people found a new medium to share their journeys. People shared their views, opinions and struggles through various forms, including humour, on social media. The pandemic and the losses people had to endure also became a big reason for depression in recent times. Many locked up in their homes began sharing their journeys online.
Reasons Why Depression is Trending
- Accounts sharing sad quotations, stories and poetry gained popularity.
- Social media vs reality check memes trended.
- Vulnerable posts by depressed people got widely accepted.
- Depressed people saw themselves fit in the social media culture.
- Medical professionals started breaking taboos and stigma related to depression and mental health struggles.
- Being sad on social media became a trend itself.
- Hashtags related to depression, mental health and its ok not to be ok gained momentum.
- Fake information leading to the fake diagnosis of depression also became one of the reasons for depression to trend.
- “depression can look like this” became a trend
- Merch, stationery and more with mental health themes like anxiety and depression started to sell out quickly and broadly.
- Competition in which celebrity or public figures struggled more in life became fierce due to constant comparisons every time a celebrity or a public figure talked about their journey.
- People began sharing how they were vulnerable, sad, confused and lonely in their lives on social media.
- Depressed people became influencers and promoted mental health resources, platforms and helplines through their handles.
- People began glorifying or glamorizing mental health online.
- People also began normalizing and destigmatizing mental health and depression online.
Several other reasons like being part of a sad culture, hashtags and sad revolutions also played their role in trending depression. However, whatever the reason, more people began to speak out, identify mental health problems, and seek help. In contrast, increased depression due to social media is a negative factor. Many quickly overcome social media-induced depression with considerable support and focus on themselves.
People are slowly learning where they should direct their energy. Platforms like Instagram and Twitter give options like mute and restrict to help tune out accounts that impact us negatively. As long as we quickly adapt to ever-changing social media trends and focus our energy on trends that matter to us, we can positively help as many people as possible.