The Nature of Hopelessness in Depression

Where does hopelessness figure in the scheme of clinical depression?

Clinical depression is one of the most common mood disorders in the world and it affects not just adults but children, teenagers and seniors too. The prevalence of depression is higher in the West than in the east, probably due to cultural and economic factors.

The key ingredient in the depression puzzle is the role of physiological stress in triggering the onset of this disease. In the past few posts we have explored the many factors that could eventually lead to stress generation, which can directly increase the likelihood of depression in men and women.

In today’s blog post, we’re going to take a look at how the feeling of hopelessness arises and how it affects the process of stress-generation in a depressed individual.

Why does a depressed individual constantly feel hopeless?

Hopelessness associated with depression is still associated with poor stress management. Depressed individuals often feel that they have very little control over their lives and as a result, they tend to become more stressed over small inconveniences and problems than people who are not suffering from any type of mood disorder.

Experiencing traumatic losses after the onset of the mental condition can also make things worse. The state of hopelessness is somehow validated by the traumatic loss and the depressed individual’s world begins to spiral even more.

When a depressed person begins showing signs of helplessness, it’s imperative that his/her support network also begin intervening because this mental state often compounds current problems and can even make the patient feel that he/she has more problems that he/she really has.

Remember: a person can have many problems and still have a fairly optimistic mindset. It’s different when you have depression.

A depressed individual can feel that it’s the end of the world when he/she is faced with a problem that cannot be resolved immediately in the present time.

While it’s true that the patient’s support system can attempt to convince the patient that his/her problems aren’t that significant or serious, such an intervention does little to improve the patient’s mindset, which gave rise to the hopelessness in the first place.

Are people who experience hopelessness more likely to be stressed?

Yes. Important studies that delved into the frequency of “self-reported negative life events” showed that clinically depressed people are more likely to be stressed again and again by non-problems while people with no mood disorders will likely do the opposite.

In short, depressed individuals suffered not only from bad relationships, poor decision-making and impaired problem solving skills, they also suffer from perception problems that predispose them to hopelessness.

So if a friend or someone in your family has been diagnosed with depression, you have to understand that this person may already feel hopeless not because he/she has a lot of problems but because his/her perception has become skewed by the mood disorder.

In what way does depression fundamentally alter a person’s perception of the world?

The human consciousness works on the basis of mental images or representations. Normally we create representations in our minds based on evidence and actual experience. Depression modifies the way a person creates workable representations.

For example, a depressed individual may begin to believe that he/she is fundamentally unlovable because people are slowly disappearing from his/her life while the reality is that he/she has been pushing away help for months or years and this is the main reason why people are no longer as eager to help him/her contend with the mood disorder.

However, despite these realities, the depressed individual may find it difficult to “shake off” the mental representation that he/she is simply unlovable.

These flawed mental representations tend to generate associated representations that are just as negative and harmful to his/her self-image and mental health.

It’s also unfortunate that as time passes, the depressed individual will become more and more identified with his/her flawed perception. People will begin to think that the depressed individual has nothing more to offer than his/her raw emotions and strange mental representations. When this happens, the patient becomes angry and confused partly because he/she is aware that part of the problem is how he/she reacts to other people.

A depressed person can also resort to blaming others for the hopelessness and stress created by his/her flawed perception While it’s obvious that simply blaming someone doesn’t solve anything, to the depressed person, it helps ‘lighten the burden’ because he/she will no longer have to think of how to modify the flawed perception.