Depression is not about sadness

This is what Ruby Wax stated this morning on Radio 4 and it caught my attention, as I agree. Too often the word depressed is used to describe low mood of all kinds confusing its definition with experience of our humanness, so we have forgotten what depression really is.

With a 23% increase in anti depressant prescriptions between 2010-2012 it seems even the professional population may have forgotten too, as a culture of prescribed pill popping has developed in part I believe because our tolerance and understanding is not there for our own emotional processes and experience  Рthe fear, loss, sadness and anger.

With a severe recession affecting almost everyone in the country, job security is at a low, job prospects are bleak and unhappiness, anger, fear and disappointment thrive. People can feel too under pressure and ill equipped to deal with these kinds of feelings instead seeking advice from the GP. The GP has 10 minutes and as Ruby Wax also suggested this morning, should use that time to refer to someone who is qualified to diagnose. Because a course of anti depressants may not be the best course of treatment; it may also be a step towards learned helplessness.

I see it in my work treating addiction where people will have long histories of ‘depression’ alongside increasingly complex self destructive patterns where they have tried to manage their emotions and usually failed so that they end up in my office still looking for answers. With almost all of these people treatment or intensive counselling usually provides the compassion, stability and tools required to stop the self destructive behaviours and develop different ways of managing their humanness. It can also lead to a medication review and either appropriate ongoing medication or coming off the antidepressants entirely.

The more we can talk about depression and other mental health disorders such as addiction the more we can properly define and therefore better understand them. These are not vagaries born of a self indulgent population, these are real conditions warranting targeted treatment and well deserved successful outcomes.

With 1/5 of us struggling to cope with our feelings, and the county enjoying the biggest baby boom in 40 years,¬† it’s about time we made emotional intelligence a priority so that we are educating for a healthy future.

After all, we reap what we sow.

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