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How to Explain Depression To Someone That Doesn’t Understand It

How to Explain Depression To Someone That Doesn’t Understand It

If you are no stranger to depression, you understand how crippling and isolating it can feel. Those feelings can worsen when you try to explain your symptoms to someone that has never experienced depression for themselves and you don’t feel understood.    

It may help to use several approaches and perspectives when trying to explain your own experience of depression to a loved one. With these helpful approaches, depression can be understood from many different lenses. 

Explaining Depression Differently From Sadness

Depression affects how a person thinks, feels, and functions overall. Sometimes, people will refer to their sadness as depression. Although prolonged sadness might be a symptom of depression, periods of sadness are typically temporary and will balance out over time. 

Everyone experiences sadness from time to time. It is expected during times of grief, loss, extreme life changes, or general stress. These instances of sadness will typically dissipate over the short term. 

Major depressive disorder (MDD), on the other hand, is the mental health diagnosis we commonly refer to as depression. MDD is something that does not go away over time. Like most mental health conditions, a diagnosis of depression relates to brain dysfunction. 

Beyond just experiencing intense sadness that does not go away, depression is accompanied by several long-lasting symptoms that can affect all areas of a person’s life. 

Explaining Depression From Your Personal Experience

When you are trying to explain a diagnosis that you have to someone else, it is normal to try to explain your unique and subjective symptoms. Having to describe depression on a personal level may be challenging because it might involve sharing intrusive or difficult thoughts. Oftentimes, these negative thought patterns are not rational, but their emotional grip outweighs logical reasoning. 

Explaining depression to someone that has never struggled with mental illness or mental health can pose even greater challenges. They may try to offer advice to you when you explain why you can’t get out of bed in the morning, such as empowering you to stay positive. The issue is, depression is more than just staying positive; depression is quite literally what is keeping you from doing that. 

Be patient when you try to explain your own experience to others, but most importantly, be kind to your struggling mind. If you find that explaining your symptoms is not working, try to use another approach. 

Explaining Depression in the Brain

If you do not find success in explaining depression in your own way, consider using an educational approach. Another helpful way to explain depression to someone that does not understand it is by using examples of what depression does to the brain and body. Research shows that there is not one location in the brain where depression occurs. Instead, depression is said to affect multiple brain regions, or all regions entirely. 

Depression is not solely the result of a specific chemical imbalance in the brain, meaning that it does not occur from too much or too little of one single neurotransmitter. Instead, it is said to be a result of dysfunction and miscommunication between neurons that interrupts how they signal one another. This process sends messages from one brain area to another, and is ultimately responsible for how we think, respond, behave, and feel. 

In short, depression is caused by faulty mood and messenger regulation. There is noticeable dysfunction and disturbance between nerve cell processing in the brain. 

Antidepressants are common medications used to help those that struggle from the intense, negative effects of major depressive disorder. Antidepressants boost the activity of certain neurotransmitters and other brain chemicals, especially the chemicals associated with mood regulation. This is how antidepressants work to treat depression in the brain. 

Explaining Your Personal Needs

When you are considering how to discuss depression with someone that does not understand it, try to also consider your personal needs. Especially if a loved one is trying to aid in support and guidance, consider the ways that they can help empower you to find the strength and healing for recovery. 

Everyone’s needs are different, especially when depression is a factor. It can be difficult to understand and reflect on your own needs, other than needing to feel better in general. Some things that you can ask your loved one to help you with might include:

  • having them send daily positive affirmations to you through a phone call or text
  • having them challenge your negative thought patterns
  • having them encourage you to get out of the house and engage with others
  • having them celebrate your small victories, especially on your treatment journey
  • having them check-in on you often

Explaining depression to someone that does not understand it can seem exhausting. To help someone else understand what you are going through, consider using multiple approaches to explaining your diagnosis. You can try to educate them about your diagnosis, explain your subjective experience and symptoms, or reference how your diagnosis specifically affects your brain. SoCal Mental Health offers a variety of different treatment programs for those that are seeking stability and security from their mental health distress. Our team of licensed psychiatrists will help to create an individualized treatment plan for you and work with you to overcome your depression. Through thorough assessments and evaluations of progress, our treatment program will lead you to the therapy options best fit for you. We will help you to develop new skills for managing your diagnosis, while maintaining positive and realistic expectations for your recovery. For more information, call us today at (714) 328-4760.