Tuesday, August 29, 2017

What Triggers Depression

Although unhappiness is the underlying cause of depression, there are many other factors that may actually cause or trigger the onset of depression, because depression does not just happen by itself. If you have the attitude of “my way, or no way” and you do not have the things you want “your way,” you may then become more susceptible and vulnerable to depression.

Disappointment and frustration

Disappointment and frustration are most common experiences, and they can be due to just about anything in life. But one of the most common sources is people: from one's spouse who does not meet one's expectations; from one's children, who are disobedient or rebellious to one's values and principles; from one's parents who do not approve of one's behavior and temperament, or, even worse, who wish they had never given birth to one.

Disappointment and frustration are more acutely felt when an individual has a distinct and strong ego-self, who loves himself or herself more than anyone else.

Self-criticism and self-denial

Self-acceptance is an important element in the art of living well. We must all learn to accept ourselves as who we are, and not as who we wish we were. We must never cherish unrealistic expectations of ourselves, which may lead to low self-esteem. In other words, a perfectionist, ironically enough, may become more easily susceptible to the ultimate lack of self-esteem, which is often expressed in depression.

The bottom line: if you cannot accept yourself as who you are in spite of your imperfections and shortcomings, how can you accept others as who they are? If you do not love yourself as who you are, how can you love others as who they are? Therefore, self-acceptance holds the key to having better relationships with others, which is often the source of human happiness.

Comparison and contrast

We all have the tendency to compare ourselves with others, or even with ourselves at different stages in our lives. This comparison and contrast may lead to depression.

Despair and despondency

Feeling trapped in a dire situation or circumstance with no foreseeable exit only distresses the mind. It could be any situation or circumstance, such as getting an unwanted pregnancy, having several children early in a marriage saddled with many financial burdens but with no vocational skill, being stuck in a bad love relationship with no way out, and many other despairing and despondent situations.

Adversity and loss

Adversity and loss are inevitable in life. Adversity may come in many different forms, such as accidents, injuries, and diseases; while loss can be physical loss, such as loss of mobility, material loss, such as loss of a home due to foreclosure, mental loss, such as loss of memory, spousal loss, such as separation or bereavement, and spiritual loss, such as loss of life purpose and meaningful existence in life.

Inactivity and lack of goals

An inactive individual is more vulnerable to depression, because that individual spends most of his or her time drifting about and doing nothing in particular. By the same token, an individual lacking life goals ceases to struggle in life—that may explain why depression is more frequent among the senior and the elderly. Man is basically a goal-seeking creature. Therefore, after reaching one goal, an individual should set another higher goal in order to avoid the feeling of being letdown after the achievement of the goal, and thus setting off a depression.

Regret and self-pity

A depressed individual often looks back at the past with anger and bitterness, accompanied by regret and self-pity. "What if" and "I wish it were" are always on the mind of that depressed individual, wishing things were different. Regret and self-pity always go hand in hand with that depressed individual.

Biological malfunction and chemical imbalance

Of course, with the advancement of modern medicine, medical authorities have now attributed many cases of depression to biological malfunction, such as an abnormal thyroid, or imbalance of certain brain chemicals. However, it should be pointed out that it is difficult to determine whether it is the thinking mind or the chemical imbalance that actually causes the biological malfunctioning. The explanation is that an individual's own negative or self-destructive thinking patterns may also ultimately lead to the chemical and hormonal imbalance in that individual.

Therefore, we should always look at the whole picture, and not just a part of it; after all, depression is a complex and complicated disease of the mind, and we are also living in a world of depression.

Stephen Lau      
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

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