Lies depression told me.

Everybody telling you that life is worthwhile, is living in a parallel universe. They all live in one big lie.

For a long time I that believed that everybody and their mother were crazy themselves by being happy or optimistic. I mean, how can you be, just looking at the world as it is and ever was. This made me look up something called ‘depressive realism’. Let’s elaborate on that one a bit. When you take 100 people and ask who of them are an above average driver, more than 50 hands will go up. People have the tendency to rate themselves more positive than they are. By consequence it was thought that people with depressive symptoms see the world and themselves in a more objective way, closer to the truth and this was called depressive realism.

Further research however showed that people with depression tend to remember things in a more negative way. For me it felt like I saw the reality in a more real way. It p*ssed me off when people were super-duper happy or thought about the world as a rainbow and unicorn place. It still does.

For me one of the core symptoms of depression is the lack of connection. It’s difficult to see the world as a happy or safe place when you observe it like an alien. I felt like an outsider and I still sometimes do. As if depressed people actually can see reality more accurate, research has debunked that idea. Depression makes you leave out some relevant information and you see reality through depressed glasses. On occasion that way of looking at things is more accurate but other times it’s not.

You’ve must have done something so horrible that you deserve to be punished like this. It is all your fault.

Overwhelming guilt is a sign of depression[1]. Freud[2] pointed out that depression was different from simple sadness because it was associated with guilt. Today psychologists consider self-blame a key symptom of depression[3]. When something bad happens depressed people tend to blame themselves and see it as a reflection of their self-worth as a whole. For example, when you fail an exam, you are a total failure. Depressed people only apply this principle to themselves and not to other people in the same situation.

The unusual amount of guilt directed towards oneself may come from two separate regions of the brain that don’t work together as they should. As a result people prone to depression don’t get an accurate picture of what they did wrong but their interpretation is more based on purely feelings of guilt. Regions of the brain that deal with morality and what is socially acceptable were more active in people without depression and they could describe their faults with more nuance.


Notes and references.

[1] Green S, Lambon Ralph MA, Moll J, Deakin JFW, Zahn R. Guilt-Selective Functional Disconnection of Anterior Temporal and Subgenual Cortices in Major Depressive Disorder. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2012;69(10):1014–1021.

[2] Freud S. Trauer und Melancholie.  Zeitschrift fuer Aerztliche Psychoanalyse. 1917;4(6):288-301

[3] Remember that these descriptions vary from person to person, you may experience what other people with depression don’t. There are a lot of different forms and symptoms with mental illness.

Picture 1 credits click here.

Picture 2 credits click here.

26 thoughts on “Lies depression told me.

  1. Great post! I don’t know the solution. It seems there must be a balance or a “looking past” of some of the horrors of this world, or we run the risk of always being “depressed.” How do I feel about all the troubles in the world? Absolutely effing bothered. Truly. But, at some point, I need to be aware that my feelings about this terrible place have to be rectified to the point of my not fixating on them! Have I successfully done that? No…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s such a difficult exercise! Not to retreat too much in your own problems and not to isolate yourself and at the same time being interested in the world but not let it affect you too much.
      What helps me, but that is personal, is too think sometimes ‘people are people’. People will mess up as make beautiful things happen.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am a little more bothered by people who don’t share my ideals. People whose lifestyles are rooted in hate (though they don’t openly say so). Life is complicated without the extra burden of political and social disgust.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Definitely! It ‘shouldn’t be the case’ but alas the world doesn’t see it like that.
        On the other hand there are really nice people too. The negative ones have the tendency to yell so loud that it can seem that only their voice is relevant.
        We all matter and through connection we can achieve things. (See, I can be a little optimist too 🙂 )

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I can’t imagine you being bitchy at all, but I get what you mean. My mum always said “They cannae send ye to jail for your thoughts’ – ha, fortunately not 😉 Good to see you writing while settling your new orphan 🙂 x

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not sure if anyone is able to look at the world objectively. Everything is filtered through the lens we look at things with, and who knows, maybe the happy people lens is just as distorted (although in a different way) as the depressed people lens.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m willing to believe that, about the distortion.
      But with myself I know that there is a difference in thinking. I can be very irritated for example by the neighbors making noise (or even a door that shuts) and I just know that when I’m more balanced out it doesn’t bother me that much.
      So I mean to say, more objective to me.
      Thank you for making this point!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think people do look at the world in different ways. I’m not sure that a statement like “The world is happy” even makes sense in any objective way. I’ve told myself in the past that my depressive pessimism is objectively more real than optimism, but I’m not sure that it is.

    I do have a lot of guilt and I’ve never worked out how realistic it is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What I’ve understood from research is that depressive realism can be more closer to ‘the real world’ than optimism. But it is also wrong at other times. So there is no way of saying what would be better. It was thought for a long time that more depressed people looked more objectively at the world but this was debunked by later studies.
      Guilt is a difficult one, I have a lot of that too. When I think ‘It’s my fault that this or that …’ I ask myself the question if I really have that much power over others, myself or the world.
      I feel guilty about being a bad daughter. Now I ask myself if I even have the possibility to make her happy, is my influence that big?
      That is how I try to debunk my own mind sometimes.
      Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I wonder the same thing Kacha. There are a group of kids across the street who spend hours jumping on a trampoline, running around in circles and laughing without a care in the world. I can’t imagine ever feeling like that again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope to some extent it will be possible to live worry-free. Kids are wonderful for being able to live their lives as they do.
      I never understood that ’till I understood the difference.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Regarding the state of the world, I think it is recognising the scale of the problems. We take a step forward and might be tempted to celebrate this, except we know there are still miles and miles still to go. I would suggest that anybody who leans toward “progressive”, who wants change, is doomed to have these two competing views.
    I certainly feel this, but I don’t feel depressed about it. There’s lots of work to do, that’s all. We do what we can but we can only do so much.
    Upshot – we recognise our limits. So possibly that is where depression makes someone see things differently?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The depressive glasses are definitely distorted. I think the two competing views you write about can hold a person in place, like two forces.
      We can be hopeful but we can’t be silly about it. Knowing that there is much work but not let that defeat you. It’s all more realistic than what my depressive feelings would like me to believe.
      I really think that ‘we can only do so much’ can bring peace to mind.
      Thank you for this great answer 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You never offended me! But I think the written word can be interpreted in different ways, sometimes it’s difficult to add every nuance possible. And I’ve experienced that when you write something down without the whole context, you can be easily misunderstood. But then I should put disclaimer on disclaimer onto my blog. Sometimes it is what it is.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I was told that guilt is for something we have done, and shame is for something that we think we are. Getting things wrong is something that we do, learning from them is why we are here, all of us, it seems to me. I found there was a lot more to depression than feeling low, like hopelessness, unquenchable fatigue, pessimism, making it hard to climb out. Yes, offers different perspectives. Is depression telling us to make changes? Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting differentiation between guilt and shame. I guess depending on the situation of course, I would lean more towards shame.

      My depression doesn’t tell me to make changes, it usually tells me that there is nothing I can do or that I can’t do it, because it’s just too difficult, it takes up too much energy and so on. It can leave me crippled at times.
      On the other hand I know I need to change some things, I know I can learn from this and from my ‘mistakes’.

      I like your approach to ‘getting things wrong’. Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m glad to hear the idea that depression equals the most accurate view of the world is not supported by research. Depression may make people see certain details that excessively happy people must ignore to stay happy, but that doesn’t mean that other details aren’t distorted. It’s just one filter. In L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series, Anne talks about “the sweet truth” that she focuses on as an optimist. I don’t consider myself an optimist, but I try to remember that any greater truth must include both the hard truth and the sweet truth.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Since I’ve had depression, it feels as if most people are simply actors, living in a sort-of autopilot mode and behaving in ways that’ll benefit themselves the most. Depression has taken me out of that way of living and now social interactions feel very fake. I don’t have the energy to pretend anymore if that makes sense.

    By the way, thank you for reading and liking my first blog post. I’ve only just checked my notifications – I think it’s been two years since I wrote that post. Nice to have found your blog. I might start using WordPress again.

    Liked by 1 person

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