META-EMOTION: BECOMING DEPRESSED ABOUT DEPRESSION

Depression

Becoming depressed about depression is a phenomenon where an individual’s awareness and reaction to their own depressive symptoms exacerbate the original condition, creating a downward spiral of negative emotions and thoughts. This cycle can occur for several reasons:

Self-Stigmatization: People with depression may internalize societal stigma around mental health, feeling shame or guilt for their condition. This self-stigmatization can lead to further feelings of worthlessness or inadequacy, deepening the depression.

Frustration with Symptoms: The symptoms of depression, such as persistent sadness, lack of energy, and difficulty concentrating, can be incredibly frustrating. An individual might feel trapped by their symptoms, leading to feelings of hopelessness about their situation and future.

Impaired Functioning: Depression can significantly impact one’s ability to function in daily life, work, and relationships. The awareness of this impaired functioning can lead to further distress, as individuals lament the gap between their current state and where they believe they should be in terms of productivity and engagement with life.

Comparison with Others: Individuals may compare themselves unfavorably with others who seem to be leading happier and more successful lives. This comparison can intensify feelings of inadequacy and despair.

Feeling Burdened by Treatment: The process of seeking and undergoing treatment for depression (such as medication side effects, the financial cost of therapy, or the time commitment required) can itself be a source of stress and anxiety, potentially leading to further depression.

Rumination: People with depression often engage in rumination, a process of continuously thinking about the same sad or negative thoughts. This rumination can include obsessing over the state of being depressed, which can amplify the intensity and duration of depressive episodes.

Loss of Hope: Initially, an individual might hold hope for recovery, but over time, repeated failures, setbacks, or lack of progress in treatment can erode this hope, leading to deeper despair about their condition and future.

Breaking this cycle often requires professional help, including therapy and possibly medication, to address both the symptoms of depression and the meta-emotional reactions to the condition. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), for instance, is effective in teaching individuals how to identify and challenge negative thought patterns, including those about their own depression, and develop healthier coping mechanisms. Mindfulness and acceptance-based therapies can also help individuals acknowledge their feelings without judgment and develop a more compassionate relationship with themselves.