The Science of Sadness: Overlooked Signs of Clinical Depression

The Science of Sadness: Overlooked Signs of Clinical Depression. Written by Justin Joyas for SubSelfie.com

Scene One: Driven to Sadness

This was the first time in a long while that it was just the two of us. We would see each other but with our other friends. So there was really no time to talk, no time to catch up. We were driving along the expressway. He confessed to me something he was not able to say for months. He has clinical depression.

I turned to looked at him, shocked but confused. How else should I react?

Clinical depression is a mental disorder. Its primary indicators include persistent low mood and loss of interest in everyday activities. Scientifically speaking, this condition is a neurochemical imbalance that involves serotonin — a substance in the brain responsible for our moods. When serotonin is insufficiently produced, a person’s mood changes and may result in clinical depression.

Triggers like a death in the family or a recent heartbreak can lead to depression. But those are not the only causes. Factors like hormonal changes in the body or intake of anti-hypertensive and contraceptive medications and mind-altering substances can cause depression. Others stigmatize the condition as another form of sadness in which a person grows out of. Yet it is a different case altogether. Dr. Randy Dellosa, a frequent resource person of GMA News about psychology, explains that people usually confuse the normal emotion of sadness with clinical depression, a major mental condition.

“Normal sadness is temporary, can be intentionally set aside or shrugged off, and is not intense enough to bog down one’s life. On the other hand, clinical depression is a biologically-based and long-term mood problem characterized by distressing or even debilitating symptoms.”

Scene Two: Breaking Barriers

A toll gate barrier lowered in front of us. As we were waiting for our turn, he told me he received the official diagnosis this year but there were signs as early as 2008. “Dati inisip ko lang na “on/off days” ‘yon. Tulad ng nararanasanan ng iba.” (Before, I just considered it as “on/off days” like what other people felt.)

But it wasn’t. Routine activities like weekend hangouts with friends became less normal until it just stopped happening. At the same time, symptoms started appearing. My friend enumerated some of his experiences.

He also shut people out. Friends. Family. Everybody.

  • I am really sad most of the time.
  • I don’t enjoy doing the things I’ve always enjoyed doing.
  • I don’t sleep well at night and am very restless.
  • I am always tired. I find it hard to get out of bed.
  • I don’t feel like eating much.
  • I feel like eating all the time.
    (I have experienced both)
  • I have lots of aches and pains that don’t go away.
  • I find it hard to focus and am very forgetful.
  • I am mad at everybody and everything.
  • I feel upset and fearful, but can’t figure out why.
  • I don’t feel like talking to people.
  • I feel like there isn’t much point to living, nothing good is going to happen to me.
  • I don’t like myself very much. I feel bad most of the time.

Even happy people can become depressed. According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), there were 4.5 million depressed Filipinos in 2004, the highest in Southeast Asia. This may be a soft estimate. There are people who hide their depression to escape from the stigma. There are also people who are not even aware they have depression in the first place.

The WHO reports that for every three Filipinos who are suffering from clinical depression, only one seek professional help from medical experts. This can be potentially dangerous, according to Dr. Dellosa: “At its worst, the depressed person may become suicidal or lose touch with reality.”

Scene Three: Taking Its Toll

The toll gate barrier raised and our trip resumed. We were out of the city; all we can hear from the radio was static. A question was lingering in my mind but it took me a while to speak out. I reached for the off button and asked him if he has thought of ending his plight — of ending his life.

“Oo. Ang pumipigil lang sa akin ay paano kung hindi ako maging successful. Edi mas magiging malala ang buhay ko pagkatapos. Naghahanap ako ng paraan na 100% sure akong magiging successful ako. Kung anu-ano na ang iniresearch ko online pero, so far, wala pa akong nakikitang puwede para sa akin.” (Yes. The only thing that’s stopping me is my fear that if my attempt fails, it will be even worse for me. So I want a method that is 100% sure. I have done extensive research on it already, but so far, none of it is feasible for me at the moment.)

The cars dissolve into the vast emptiness of the road. The engine hums in the background. It’s the only sound we hear when I assured him: “Kung dumating ka ulit sa ganyang punto, tandaan mo na nandito lang kami.” (If it reaches that point again, remember, we are always here for you)

But somehow I felt that more needs to be done. Clinical depression, like other illnesses, is a treatable condition. A depressed person can consult a psychiatrist or psychotherapist about finding the right treatment.

Dr. Dellosa advised talk therapy as a way of helping the patient find the root of the problem. “Its purpose is to help the depressed person let go of emotional baggage that may be ‘feeding’ the depression.”

Taking the right anti-depressant at the right dosage eradicates the disorder and does not cause any side effects. Having a healthy lifestyle and diet is also encouraged. There are also alternative therapies that can improve the mood of a depressed person:

  • acupuncture
  • massage
  • cranio-sacral therapy
  • yoga
  • meditation

Scene Four: Rough Road Ahead

We passed by a steel bridge that leads to a rough road. He remembered an unstable time last year when he was not interacting with everybody. He stayed in his room at the top of their house, as far away from people as possible. Worried friends visited but he did not meet them. He ignored calls and brushed off people who tried reaching out.

We visited his father’s wake, earlier this year. It had been a year since we last saw each other. It had been so long since he saw any of his friends. Everything changed. His cheerful personality disappeared. His voice seemed deeper. His eyes seemed more distant.

We said our condolences. But even through that trying time, his mother managed to smile and asked why we never visit anymore. My friend interrupted with a smile and replied: “Malapit na ulit!” (Soon!)

Soon. Soon, everything will be back to the way it used to be. We will go to his house and talk nonsense for hours, like how it was in college. But things don’t really go back to the way it used to be. After his mother confronted him about his changed behavior, he started seeking professional help.

Usually, people would dismiss depressed people as emo or too sensitive. Many do not regard this as an illness similar to cancer or tuberculosis. However, Dr. Dellosa thinks social media has helped in educating the Filipinos about clinical depression. “In fact nowadays, many depressed people do online research about their symptoms, join online discussion and support groups, and make online searches for psychiatrists they can consult.”

There are now initiatives to address the growing concern of depression and suicide. One of which is Hopeline, the first ever suicide hotline in the Philippines:

0917.845.HOPE (4673)
0917.845.HOPE
0917.842.HOPE
(+632) 211.4550

However, the Philippine government still needs to step up against clinical depression. According to statistics from Dr. Dellosa, there are only 500 psychiatrists in a country of 100 million Filipinos. There are also no incentives for new doctors specializing in psychiatry. More importantly, the impoverished sector cannot afford psychiatric treatments because of expensive medications.

Clinical depression is one of the most common psychiatric disorders. It can affect anyone, regardless of social structure. Treatment and medication are needed for people diagnosed with clinical depression. It is also important to spread awareness about this condition. The more aware we are about it, the better we can help those who are battling clinical disorder — especially if they are people we care about.

Scene Five: Pit Stop

We parked near an elementary school. He would meet his friend here. As we waited for a while, he told me more about this friend and the fun stuff they did abroad. I could not help but smile. But it was at this moment when he sighed, looked into the road ahead and said:

“Pero kahit anong gawin ko, hindi ko kayang maging masaya. Minsan, hindi ko na nga matandaan kung ano ang pakiramdam na iyon.” (No matter what I do, I just can’t truly be happy. Sometimes, I think I don’t even remember what it’s like.)

If you suspect you have clinical depression or know somebody who may have that condition, treatment is the best option. Please alert this author via the comment box below. I will provide proper contact details. You may also reach Dr. Randy Dellosa through these contact details:

Website: http://randydellosa.com
Address: 105 Sct. Rallos, Timog Avenue, Quezon City
Numbers: (+632) 415.65.29, (+632) 415.79.64
Email: life_transformation@randydellosa.com

News break: Early November of 2014, Brittany Maynard, a brain tumor patient, decided to end her life. She took aid-in-dying medications prescribed to her months ago. In Oregon, this was allowed under the Death with Dignity Act. Some call this assisted suicide and the issue has divided several people all over the world.

A concerned netizen highlighted two important details about the situation of Ms. Maynard:

  • She was teminally ill and her quality of life was deteriorating at an accelerated rate.
  • She has NOT lost the will to live. Maynard even said: “For people to argue against this choice for sick people really seems evil to me. They try to mix it up with suicide and that’s really unfair, because there’s not a single part of me that wants to die. But I am dying.”

Maynard chose death with dignity; it is different with suicide. But here in the Philippines, this choice is not provided by law. Suicide is still a significant social issue here. And one of the primary reasons why Filipinos choose to end their life is depression. This is a medical condition that needs treatment.

[Entry 37, The SubSelfie Blog]

Editor’s Note: True events inspired portions of this article. This is dedicated to two friends who are currently battling clinical depression. There will always be a silver lining.

About this Author:

Justin-Joyas-author-profile-SubSelfie-com

Justin Joyas is a contributor for SubSelfie.com and was part of the original roster that founded the site. Presently, he is a User-Generated Content Producer for YouScoop and GMA News. He also studied Mobile Journalism at  Konrad Adenauer ACFJ. He’s a newsroom ninja and protector of the realm who also wanders a lot. Literature 2008, DLSU. Read more of his articles here.

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23 Comments Add yours

  1. nurpharma says:

    Reblogged this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mallows24 says:

    Thank you for your article. It was beautifully written. 🙂 Maybe you can do a follow-up from the POV of someone caring for a clinically depressed individual? I know how hard it is for us to go on our daily lives specially on our “bouts of sadness”, more so for people who truly cares for us.

    I haven’t been officially diagnosed with clinical depression, but from research and comparing my experiences with others, I think I may be clinically depressed. The challenges for me is self-acceptance as well as the lack of “sustainable” options.

    Like

    1. Justin Joyas says:

      Thanks for reading our article. This is a nice suggestion for a follow-up. We’ll keep that in mind. 🙂

      I also have my down days. Sometimes I think I may be depressed as well, or I have traces of the condition. Though whenever I hear my friend’s testimony, I just know that what I am experiencing is unlike that at all.

      You should get a diagnosis from a professional to know. Why do you think you have depression?

      Like

  3. Maki says:

    I saw this article and felt a bit of relief knowing that someone was able to explain how I’ve been feeling. Everyday is a struggle for me to get through. Every minute of every hour feels like a whole year of work. I get so anxious at one point each day and find it hard to control it as well. Soon I’ll start crying, panicking and palpitating. My mind feels so occupied and empty at the same time. It’s like I’m not thinking about anything yet I feel like it’s so busy to even think at all. At night, I make sure my pillows are all over me to feel like I’m being cuddled and I cover myself with a blanket to isolate myself from the world. Im trying to battle all these but I just lose hope each and every day. What do I do? Technically that’s a gist of my life for the past weeks. I’m tired, hopeless and still looking for help.

    Like

    1. Justin Joyas says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Have you had these feelings before (not just in the past weeks)? Depression can appear and disappear like a hat trick. However, the symptoms remain distinct. Symptoms include changes in the following:

      sleep pattern
      appetite
      energy level
      attention span
      self-confidence

      The feeling of sadness and a loss of zest for living is also apparent. In some cases, the symptoms are so constant that even work or school duties are affected.

      Try to share these to your family and try to talk to a psychologist or a psychiatrist. Talking about it could help you. 🙂

      Like

    2. Justin Joyas says:

      A friend recommends eating bananas, watching FRIENDS and writing. These could boost the happy chemicals in your brain.

      You could also try doing a project. If you have a social media account, upload a photo of or post something you are thankful for. Try doing it once a day for 100 days. It may uplift your mood. 🙂

      Like

  4. Maki says:

    Yes, I’ve had those before already. My family is actually the trot cause for this so I am not able to share with them. I already asked help from psychiatrist but up until now I haven’t gotten any updates w regards to my assessment results, etc.

    I try to force myself to be motivated or more optimistic but it’s quite hard to do. Things have gone worse the past wks for me. Yesterday I tried to push myself as hard as I can to get through the day positively and get over whatever holds me back. Today, I feel so exhausted. I feel like crashing. I feel like I can’t and shouldn’t do that again. I feel like I’m still a failure to myself. Always, I try to think about a list of things I can do to keep me going and I end up doing nothing. The simplest things feel like so much work. All I know is I have to get through one more day. Exhausting, nonsensical and no direction at all.

    Anyway, thanks for replying to me and for the tips. It means a lot! I’ll try it out and see what happens. The slight ray of hope of being able to save myself is still there anyway. Fingers crossed!

    Like

    1. Lian Buan says:

      Hi Maki!

      I’m one of the writers in this blog and I just can’t help but reply. It’s good to know you’ve already sought help. No one can help you better than a professional. But while you wait, I say that you talk to people you trust and are objective. I went through a 6-month depression period in 2010, I wasn’t diagnosed or anything, but it was the most difficult months of my life. But a lot of people helped me. Relatives I have not talked to for a while helped me, friends who I wasn’t the closest to helped me, strangers on a bus helped me. They just have to be objective. What helped me is that these people acknowledged what I was going through but at the same time had the wisdom to make me realize it’s not the end of the world. Choose these people, I’m sure you have many in your life.

      During that period I also bought a notebook. On the cover it says “One for each day I’m thankful to be alive.” Some days I was hopeful, some days were really dim like being thankful for not having a job to get out bed for; you just always have to find something, anything to be thankful for. There was this entry where I was just thankful I didn’t cry that day, and another where I was thankful I felt nothing, rather than feel pain. Eventually, you’ll find better things to be thankful about. If we’re gonna be simplistic about it, that’s the key to getting better: effort. I dragged myself out of the house; I spent endless hours at bookstores to find books that would help me (Zahir is an immense help), I rode the bus either to Makati or to Baguio and forced myself to find something happy out of the images I saw from the window. Some days were harder, and sometimes you allow yourself those days, to sulk and wallow in sadness, but the next day you get up, and try. Try and try and try. Eat lots of happy food! Listen to happy music! I had a “Be happy” playlist on my iPod then (personal recommendation: Wakey! Wakey!’s “Light Outside.”) When I slept, I sang these songs quietly in my head, so instead of thinking dim thoughts, my mental energy were devoted to thinking of the next lyrics, until I fell asleep.

      I watched happy things. Friends is a personal favorite. I watched the most shallow flicks, just for the kicks. Then I blogged, nonsensical things, terrible things, the saddest things, poorly constructed sentences, I wrote and I wrote and I wrote until I couldn’t write sadness anymore. Until I’ve consumed all of it, until one day I realized I was happy again. It took me 6 months. I look back to that period like it’s a badge of honor. One day you will, too. It gets better. It really, really does.

      I once talked to experts about depression. Aside from therapy and medicine, there are somethings that could balance the chemicals in your brain. Number one: Run. (Or walk, or jog, just breathe fresh air, the oxygen is good for the brain.) As for the food, here are the mood-enhancing ones: chocolates, strawberries, ice cream, pasta, French bread, bananas, grapes, oranges, nuts and sesame seeds.

      But really, it’s the professional help that will matter most. So follow up on that 🙂

      Good luck 🙂

      Like

      1. erminograce says:

        Hi Lian!

        Your reply is really nice. This hit me “I wrote and I wrote and I wrote until I couldn’t write sadness anymore. Until I’ve consumed all of it, until one day I realized I was happy again.” I hope one day I can say this too. Well I’m planning to make a blog regarding my battle with depression and mania. I’m a bipolar. I wasn’t diagnosed but I’ll finally seek professional help next week.

        I’m depressed since January 2014 and I’m having the most difficult months of my life since then. I’m not functioning well at work. I don’t see a bright future anymore. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I don’t like crowd. I cant sleep. I sleep a lot. I don’t want to eat. I eat a lot. Irritable. Suicidal.

        Seeking help and telling to other people what I’m going through is really hard. There are times when I talked to God i said “Lord ang hirap na. Kunin mo na lang ako. Ayoko na.” then the next day I’m still alive. Maybe I still have a purpose. There are times also when I’m inside the fx, tricycle or taxi I said “Kung mababangga or maaksidente ako ngayon. Tapos na”

        Few people only knew about my condition. Why? Because I’m ashamed that I have this. My family don’t know about it. What brought me to finally seek help is for the reason that I want to be well. I want to live a normal life. I don’t want this condition to paralyze me.

        Right now, my way of battling it is through working out and eating healthy foods. I go to the gym 4 times a week. I have a personal trainer with me. She knew about my condition. She’s checking on me every now and then regarding my sleep, food i eat and how i feel. I really takes a lot of effort. There are times when I don’t feel like going to the gym. There are times when all I want is to eat and eat pizza, pasta, cakes, ice cream. There are times too that I don’t sleep. And in times like that having a personal trainer is helpful. I’m lucky that mine really cares.

        My goal is to seek professional help next week then tell my mom. A strong support system is needed in dealing this condition. To every one who read this, let me tell you. I know how hard it is to seek help and tell to the people even the ones close to you what you are going through but the cycle will keep to continue if you resist and if you keep on thinking that they might judge you or they might think that you’re a toxic person. Someone told me I’m not. So I’m telling you YOU’RE NOT! Having a conversation with the person going through the same situation is helpful too. It makes you less lonely.

        DIG DEEP! Search for the WARRIOR WITHIN.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Bam Alegre says:

        Hi Gracie, I’ve been reading your comments since I approve them too. I’m happy to see your development for the past couple of days. Actually, I imagine the one who wrote this comment was typing with a smile. You know we’re just here to listen to you. Keep updating us. We don’t mind at all 🙂

        Like

  5. roa0326 says:

    Hi,

    I have the same ordeal for over a year now. Sleep is very hard to me to achieve, I can’t sleep straight and usually just sleep for 2-4 hours straight then wake up. There are times like I don’t feel like talking to anybody, even at work. I would just sulk at my desk. Yesterday, I suddenly felt it again. The sharp piercing pain in my chest, which resulted in my crying. I felt like my life has nowhere better to go. I always kept thinking if not for my kids, I could have just disappeared. Mostly, from what I have read from this article and from Maki’s comments, those things sound familiar to me. These past few days, I easily get irritated with my youngest child (he’s 6 years old).

    I cannot share this with my family as well because they are the stressors in my life. Since my father’s passing, they have been counting on me for almost all of the responsibilities my dad left. So aside from my being a single mother, I am left with adults capable of caring for themselves to take care of. It’s draining me.

    I believe there’s no HMO that covers these treatments even for just consultation. If you have any contact detail and information (i.e. doctor’s PF, et cetera) that will be very helpful.

    Thanks so much for this post. (read your post in PEx which led me to this link)

    Like

    1. Lian Buan says:

      Hi there,

      There is an NGO for depression. It’s the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation (NGF) which also owns Hopeline. This is their website: http://www.ngf-hope.org/ and their contact number: +632-897-2217 / For urgent concerns, these are their hotlines: (02) 804-4673 / 0917 558 4673. I’m sure they will be able to help you in a certain capacity. They would lead you to psychiatrists, also.

      Dr. Dellosa, this blog’s resource person, is also very helpful. Here are his contact details:

      Website: http://randydellosa.com
      Address: 105 Sct. Rallos, Timog Avenue, Quezon City
      Numbers: (+632) 415.65.29, (+632) 415.79.64
      Email: life_transformation@randydellosa.com

      Like

  6. purpleportal says:

    Thank you for writing this. I’ve been struggling with depression for a while now but I haven’t tried getting professional help for it and it’s getting worse. For a while I thought I could combat it with a healthy diet and exercise but none of those seem to be working and I’m now at a point where I feel like I can no longer function. My family has been going through some financial trouble and now that I’m left with no choice but to seek professional help, I can’t do it because my family’s issues have to come first. A sucky cycle. I feel like I’m just falling deeper into this hole and no amount of flailing helps.

    Like

  7. Happy says:

    Thank you for sharing this..It gave me hope and something to look forward to. I know I am not alone, many people have clinical depression. I’ve been battling my way out of depression since 2012. It all started when my father died and then a month after that my ex left me for someone else. It was difficult to tell my family and friends about my condition so I seek out help from online resources like self-development blogs and online support group. Also, by reminding myself to be happy helped me a lot. Some may find it weird but I always use the word “happy” even with the usernames I create for my social media accounts..to keep reminding myself that I can survive depression. I’m glad that my efforts are gradually working. I no longer have the suicidal thoughts and I have started going out with my friends again. At last I passed through the years of self-isolation. To everyone who are suffering from depression, you are never alone. There are many people out there who cares, seek help.

    Like

    1. Bam Alegre says:

      Hi Happy, Bam here. Thank you for your courage to speak your mind about your experience with clinical depression. Nowhere else to go but up from hereon out. I and the co-authors of SubSelfie.com are happy to be your friends. Hope we can entertain you with our stories 🙂

      Like

  8. Happy says:

    Thank you Bam and to all the authors of SubSelfie. I have come to love this website. All your entries are inspiring and heartfelt. May you continue to inspire others. More power! 🙂

    Like

    1. Bam Alegre says:

      Keep returning regularly 🙂 We’re just here.

      Like

  9. Joan says:

    I know I have depression, i feel sad all the time. irritated, mad, not in the mood to talk. Often times I feel so alone…I just came to the point that I tried taking my life and cut my wrist. I was not afraid, i didn’t felt any pain at all…as if i am numb. I was rushed to the hospital and got stitched…I dunno what to do, where to find help…i cannot express what i feel, i just feel empty. I cannot put anything into words…worse, people might not understand what i am going through, co’z even myself don’t know why…If i will be asked if I will do it again (taking my life), I will say…YES.

    Like

    1. Bam Alegre says:

      Hi Joan, Bam Alegre here. Thanks for sharing your insights. I may not have the solution to what’s bothering you. But at least you are addressing you have depression and that goes a long way in helping you battle it out. We’re here if you wish to have someone to discuss with.

      Like

      1. Justin Joyas says:

        Thanks for reaching out, Joan.

        We don’t have the answers all the time. We may never know the answers as to why we feel certain things. However, there are ways to make us think and feel a little better. Whenever a situation arises that leads you to feeling numb or empty, just know that we are here for you. And that there are people out there who will understand what you are going through and that they are willing to be there for you.

        Liked by 1 person

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