Depression is a debilitating condition that has so many branches, it’s rooted mentally, and casts a dark shadow over us physically. It’s a mental health illness that has become so prevalent in society, so much so that more than 300 million people suffer from the condition worldwide and by 2020 clinical depression will impose the second highest burden of any disease in advanced countries, according to the World Health Organisation.
Is Depression Brought About by Lack of Choice?
Through my own struggle with depression and many stories that I’ve heard and read about, I’ve found a trend and that is lack of choice!
What I mean is that amassed traumatic past experiences, circumstances and situations, causing depression, have a common trend – the individual not having the choice in the moment, to control what happens or what has happened to them.
Following this thought process further I discovered an intriguing article on Huffington Post by Johann Hari which relates to this notion. Johan writes, ‘The more I investigated depression and anxiety, the more I found that, far from being caused by a spontaneously malfunctioning brain, depression and anxiety are mostly being caused by events in our lives. If you find your work meaningless and you feel you have no control over it, you are far more likely to become depressed. If you are lonely and feel that you can’t rely on the people around you to support you, you are far more likely to become depressed. If you think life is all about buying things and climbing up the ladder, you are far more likely to become depressed. If you think your future will be insecure, you are far more likely to become depressed. I started to find a whole blast of scientific evidence that depression and anxiety are not caused in our skulls, but by the way many of us are being made to live.’
If you look at the examples that Johann has given, they all ultimately stem from lack of choice to control the events in one’s own life, inciting the emergence of negative thinking patterns and as a result, the likelihood of depression.
Further to this, an article from the NCBI called Born to Choose: The Origins and Value of the Need for Control states, ‘Belief in one’s ability to exert control over the environment and to produce desired results is essential for an individual’s well being. It has been repeatedly argued that the perception of control is not only desirable, but it is likely a psychological and biological necessity.’
‘The desire for control is not something we acquire through learning, but rather, is innate, and thus likely biologically motivated. We are born to choose. The existence of the desire for control is present in animals and even very young infants before any societal or cultural values of autonomy can be learned. It is possible that organisms have adapted to find control rewarding – and its absence aversive – since the perception of control seems to play an important role in buffering an individual’s response to environmental stress.’
In conclusion, the traumas that cause depression seem to have a commonality of a breach or the lack of a fundamental human need – choice and control over the events of one’s own life, past, present and future.