The question that arises is this: If our subconscious mind cares about our well-being so much then why does it send us an emotion as severe as depression?
Before we can tackle that question let me tell you a bit about Veronica…
Lately, Veronica had become overweight due to her unhealthy eating habits and was very concerned about it. She knew that if she improved her eating habits and worked out regularly she could end her concerns but she couldn’t muster enough willpower and persistence to do so.
Every time she decided she would change her habits, she couldn’t stick to them and gave up too soon. Looking in the mirror every morning reminded her of the fact that she was overweight and this made her feel worse.
To improve her mood, she ate more sugary foods only to make her weight problem worse. Even though she knew it wasn’t the right thing to do, she kept doing it nevertheless just to regulate her mood.
This cycle of ‘feeling bad-eating-feeling bad’ went on for days till a time came when she decided that she couldn’t take it anymore. Her body-weight had spiraled to new heights and she felt very depressed.
Depression, the breaking point
Although depression is correlated with a chemical imbalance in the brain and some other observable brain structure changes such as a reduction in the size of the hippocampus, these changes don’t cause depression.1
Since prolonged stress is bad for us, depression kicks in to protect us from the physiological harm that may result from stress.
Just like Hooke’s law in physics says that there comes a breaking point for materials when they’re stretched beyond a limit, depression is the breaking point that is reached when our stress levels cross a certain limit over a period of time.
Depression can be good for you
Depression allows you to ruminate over and analyze the complex problem that may have caused your depression. Depressed people are fixated on their hopeless, complex and seemingly unsolvable problems. Their minds want them to concentrate on the festered problem at hand and not get distracted by unnecessary distractions.
Depressed people show a higher brain activity in a region called left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) which is responsible for maintaining attention towards the target problem and eliminate other distractions.4
When you begin solving the problem that caused your depression- you experience immense happiness and satisfaction.
So, in a way, depression can result in happiness if it’s well-understood and responded to appropriately. This last point is especially important and needs further explanation.
Depression results from hopelessness
Depression usually starts as an innocuous bad mood warning you that some aspect of your life isn’t right and needs fixing. If you ignore this warning then your bad moods will intensify because the subconscious mind increases the intensity of emotions to force us to notice them.
If you keep ignoring these signals and leave your problem unattended, the mind uses depression to force you to pay attention to the problem so gone out of hand.
When people get depressed they feel low, sad, helpless and have very little energy. To get rid of these bad feelings they usually resort to short-term mood fixes such as binge eating, exercising, traveling, etc.
Also, using medications is an ineffective way to curb depression because it does nothing to address the underlying cause of depression. Antidepressants are basically drugs that you’re using to temporarily relieve yourself from the painful symptoms of depression.
Therefore, they’re highly addictive and many people are unable to stop these drugs because of intolerable withdrawal symptoms.5
- Finding solutions to our problems and applying them.
- Accepting what happened and moving on.
For instance, if your loved one dies, then your mind will let you recover quickly from this loss because it knows that getting the person back isn’t possible. But if you break up with your lover, you may find it hard to recover because your mind knows that the person is ‘somewhere out there’ and not with you.
Similarly, if you wanted to become successful but failed to do so, your mind won’t let you accept this failure if it believes success is possible for you. You’ll soon realize that you’re fooling yourself and end up getting depressed.
Even if you can’t get rid of the problem right now just finding some hope can be enough to alleviate depression because depression is nothing results from a loss of hope. Even making a plan can ease your depression because your subconscious sees making a plan as the first step toward solving a problem.
How Veronica ended her depression
All days were not rosy but whenever she went off-track, she quickly picked herself up again and got back on track. After 6 months she became fit again and of course very happy.
Anything that is currently bothering you has the potential to make you depressed sooner or later if you don’t deal with it appropriately- if you don’t nip the evil in the bud.
1. Leo, J., & Lacasse, J. R. (2008). The media and the chemical imbalance theory of depression. Society, 45(1), 35-45.
2. Kendler, K. S., Karkowski, L. M., & Prescott, C. A. (1999). Causal relationship between stressful life events and the onset of major depression. American Journal of Psychiatry, 156(6), 837-841.
3. Hammen, C. (2005). Stress and depression. Annu. Rev. Clin. Psychol., 1, 293-319.
4. Andrews, P. W., & Thomson Jr, J. A. (2009). The bright side of being blue: depression as an adaptation for analyzing complex problems. Psychological review, 116(3), 620.
5. Gøtzsche, P. C. (2014). Why I think antidepressants cause more harm than good. The Lancet Psychiatry, 1(2), 104-106.
Serious about overcoming Depression?
Check out Depression’s Hidden Purpose: Overcoming Depression by Understanding How it Works
Hanan Parvez (M.B.A., M.A. Psychology) has written 300+ articles at www.psychmechanics.com, a blog with over 3 million views and 100k monthly visitors. His work has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Reader’s Digest, and Entrepreneur.