COMMUNITY

Chasing happiness can lead to depression

LINA GIANNAROU

TAGS: Health, Society

“I’m depressed,” a friend said the other day. “I can’t seem to find joy in anything. I want to crawl into bed and just stay there.” Her statement was not even mildly humorous and was not followed by the usual “Don’t mind me, I’m just being dramatic.” It was sincere, raw. What are we supposed to do in such cases? We may not be doctors, but we know that such statements are a sign of depression even if the friend in questions seems perfectly OK in a social setting.

“We listen and observe,” Angeliki Giantselidou, a psychologist with the Society of Social Psychiatry and Mental Health, told Kathimerini on the occasion of World Health Day, which this year was dedicated to depression, on April 7.

“In day-to-day life, we may think that a certain kind of behavior points to depression and it may even have the characteristics of depression, but it does not necessarily constitute clinical depression,” she explained. “But when someone says that they have a problem, we should listen. If the problem lasts for just a few days or is linked to a particular incident, we can let it pass.

Mourning a natural or emotional loss, like the end of a relationship or the loss of a job, is normal. We all go through things that make us sad. But if the problem persists and the feeling does not diminish, then something else may be happening. Either way, only a mental health professional can make a diagnosis.”

There is good reason to be on our guard, as according to recent data one in four people will suffer from clinical depression at some point in their lives. There are also signs of an increase in depression worldwide and among younger ages as well.

“This is true. Younger people are coming to our office,” said Giantselidou. “People seem to be chasing happiness. Chasing the need to be well, to be having a good time, according to the norms that are promoted, and we are living in difficult times, demanding times in any case.”

The expert explains that this “chase” can make young people especially feel overwhelmed, a feeling that may grow into a mental disorder.

“An increase in depression is not the only thing we’ve noticed. There has also been a rise in anxiety disorders, which are appearing at an increasingly younger age, from the start of adulthood,” said Giantselidou. “This may be attributed in part to better awareness. People are more prepared to understand that what they are feeling may be depression. They recognize the symptoms faster. There is also less of stigma attached to depression today and this makes it easier to seek help.”

All studies link the spike in depression and anxiety disorders in Greece to the economic crisis. According to the Society of Social Psychiatry and Mental Health, unemployed people are 68 percent more likely to display symptoms of depression or other emotional disorders than people who work.

“It is important to know that the symptoms are not always withdrawal or the sense that we’re not getting any satisfaction from life,” warned Giantselidou. “The indications can be physical, such as fluctuations in weight, psychosomatic problems like headaches or stomach aches, and also anger, especially in younger people. The main thing to understand though, is that depression can be treated,” she added.

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