Depression and loneliness in our society

Due to the material advancement of the world, the young generation tend to be more and more independent. Not having time for family and depending on social media rather than face-to-face interactions can isolate one from developing real relationships.

Depression and loneliness go hand in hand. One doesn’t need to be physically alone to feel lonely. Even in a crowd, if one doesn’t have the same interests or doesn’t feel connection with the others, the person feels out of place. The lesser the interactions with others, the greater the loneliness. This can also lead to depression.

Depression is considered a mental health issue. There are different levels of depression which involves symptoms of sadness, withdrawal and worthlessness. The rate of depression has been increasing which can also lead to other health problems or even suicide. This happens to all age groups from children to adults to the elderly.

In the digital era where priority is given to the number of “friends” on Facebook or number of “followers” on Twitter, people tend to forget that it’s not the same as physically interacting with others. One may have hundreds of “friends” on Facebook but how many of them are your real friends? Maybe only 1% or even less.

Often, loneliness leads to depression after more than a year. “Loneliness is subjective,” says Louise Hawkley, a research associate in the psychology department at the University of Chicago. “You can’t argue with someone who says they’re lonely.”

According to WHO, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression worldwide. It also states that depression is the leading cause of disability and contributes to many diseases. This is because the brain is the organ with which we think and it directs the body to perform normally. However if we have negative thoughts, feel lonely and depressed the brain automatically ceases any normal functioning of the body. We won’t want to do anything, we won’t want to eat or take care of our body. When our body doesn’t function normally, it becomes more vulnerable to diseases which can even lead to death. Sometimes it is even difficult to know when someone is suffering from depression until it’s too late.     

Although there are antidepressant medicines such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), they can’t cure depression and can also have side effects. They are generally not the first line of treatment except in severe cases.

However there are other ways of fighting depression;

  • Having real friends: Instead of depending on social media, try going out and meeting people. Try to meet those who have similar interests, with whom you can talk to. This will help you relax and feel happier.
  • Start a hobby: To keep your mind on other things, start doing something. It could be anything that you will enjoy such as artwork or playing music. It occupies the brain so you can start learning to overcome the depression. Clinically this is known as behavioural activation.
  • Pick up your phone and call your friends: Although nowadays a lot of people spend time messaging on Facebook and WhatsApp, it’s impersonal. Calling a friend and hearing their voice has a different effect. You can have a casual conversation or make a joke and laugh. There’s a certain relief knowing there’s someone who will listen and respond positively to you.
  • Meet a counsellor: This option may not be available to everyone because it depends on what medical facilities are provided in your area but it’s another step to take if possible. These are medical professionals who will listen to your problems and help guide you in how to overcome them. You may have to regularly visit the counsellor so that the person can take note of your progress and advice you accordingly.
  • Bond with an animal: Usually people prefer to keep dogs because “dog is man’s best friend” but it has been seen that horses can give better support to people battling with depression. This is known as equine-assisted therapy. Alexa Smith-Osborne, an associate professor of social work at the University of Texas has noted that because horses are prey animals, they are highly attuned to environmental activity and more sensitive to people’s emotional states than dogs and other animals typically used in assisted therapies. Horses can detect a patient’s feelings and can either accept or withdraw from the person. They are also social animals and therefore, unbiased and non-judgmental responding only to a person’s intent and behaviour.
  • Practicing meditation: Meditation is an act of giving attention to one thing. It can be used either for spiritual activity or as a method to calm oneself. There are different types which mainly use different forms of exercises. One can contact a teacher or watch videos on meditation and see what suits you best.

There are many ways of overcoming depression and they all involve setting the mind on things other than the issue causing loneliness and depression. If you start doing even one of them and are determined, there’s a high probability of curing yourself of suffering from depression.

Garima Nabh is the founder of New Age Magazine.

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