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How Do Events in Life Affect Mental Illness?
It’s all consuming, it drags you into a deep abyss, and rips you in half, until your last bits of hope are burned into nothingness. Your days turn from a nice walk in the park to a constant battle between yourself and reality. You often stay up at night pondering over what the meaning to life is, waking up the next day with the same thoughts. Smiles turn to only a forced muscle flex only necessary in appropriate situations, and laughs are lifeless. Thoughts of tomorrow are diminished and barricaded by the struggle of surviving today. Days become blurred and mesh in with one another until you can only walk a straight path with no direction, guided towards complete and utter loneliness.
You slip into what is known as the grey world where colors are replaced with various shades of grey, similar to your hopes and dreams. The white light that shined upon you in the past is now dimming out, but black seems too vast and definite, consequently leaving you with a gray monochrome. Grey isn't a commonly liked color by many, but for you it represents your emotional detachment from the world. Days, weeks, and months pass and maybe even years pass until you finally come to terms with the fact that you have depression.
Depression is a mental disorder that affects one’s thoughts, daily routines, behaviors, and sometimes even physical appearance. Depression can be categorized as a normal sadness that is persistent without yield longer than two weeks. It often interferes with a person’s satisfaction to certain events, pleasure to surrounding factors, and empathy towards life environments. Symptoms of depression include loss of energy and interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, issues with appetite, feeling of guilt and worthlessness, and difficulty in concentrating or thinking. Rather than just emotional and psychological control, depression also interferes with neurotransmitters within the brain which acts as messengers to communicate with other parts of the brain and nervous system. Some evidence has shown that depression contributes to complications and imbalance of neurotransmitters called serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Serotonin is responsible for regulating body-oriented functions such as sleep, eating, and mood, while dopamine plays a role in one’s motivation for rewards and satisfaction These affected transmitters explain why people with depression have issues with sleep and mood as well their impulse to do activities. Needless to say, depression has an immense impact on the diagnosed.
While depression is not something that is contagious, certain environmental and social factors can increase one’s chance to being affected by depression and other mental illnesses. Psychological factors that may contribute to mental illness include:
Trauma suffered as a child emotionally or physically, such as abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect
Divorce or dysfunctional family life
Feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety, anger, or loneliness
Changing of comfortable environments
Substance abuse by the person or someone close to the person
Interesting enough, a study was done by Child Development where the results showed the emotional support given to a child in its first few years reflect their abilities in education, social life, and relationships decades later. Children raised in supportive and traumatic-free environments are prone to do better on standardized tests and have a better mental stability than those who did not. A second study from Child Development showed how a child’s early experiences can predict whether or not the child will have anxiety disorder, a similar mental illness to depression, in their teenage life. In this research experiment, University of Maryland studied 165 babies. The objective was to investigate how the babies interact with their parents and to do so the babies were separated from their parents for a given amount of time. Most babies were upset and unsettled while being separated, but calmed down after being reunited with their parents. Other babies however were not able to calm down at all even after being reunited, babies that were unable to feel comfortable again for a while after the separation according to University of Maryland show early signs of anxiety. The University of Maryland concluded that that the babies that showed signs of anxiety, drastic uncomfortable situations could potentially trigger diagnosis later in life.
Going even deeper, statistics have shown that traumatic events such as 9/11 have spiked the depression rate. During the Great Depression, the suicide rate increased 50% from 1,200,000 deaths from 1920-28 to 1,800,000 deaths the following year. The rate remained abnormally high during the Great Depression, then dropped drastically at the end. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused the destruction of many homes, schools, and communities in the New Orleans region. Following the natural disaster, many victims experience psychological scars even after ten years. In this region, appearance of PTSD rose from 15% a few months after the hurricane to 21% one year after. Studies also found that people experiencing suicidal thoughts more than doubled from 2.4% to 6.4%. Another project was taken place that studied a number of low income families coping with the disaster and discovered that of these families, signs of PTSD were apparent and the rate of serious mental illnesses such as depression were doubled to 14%. 9/11, another traumatic event taken place, shook the nation and left emotional scars that can never be healed. Thousands of the first responders, victims, and bystanders experience signs of PTSD and depression. Testimonies of those who were present during the attack almost twenty years later have said they still suffer from the sorrow and horror associated with that day.
Nonetheless, environmental and social interactions often induce depression and mental instability. Some of these interactions included how a child was raised and the emotional support given to that child such as the experiences with in first few years of that child’s life. Another aspect leading to depression and mental stability is being introduced to traumatic events. Lastly, depression and other mental illnesses are not just illnesses that happen overnight, there are multiple events leading up to it.