Depression affects adults and children every year across the globe. We know that any person—regardless of background or genetic makeup—can become depressed when under enough stress. The prevalence of depression has increased over the years, and some have even begun to refer to it as a disease of modernity.
As more attention has been given to understanding and treating mental illness over the years, we are collectively moving toward recognizing signs and symptoms of depression. Mentalhealth.gov describes depression as “more than just sadness;” it is the “experience of losing interest in important parts of life.” Another person shares their experience with depression in these words: “it feels like sadness, and then I start to feel myself shutting down, becoming less capable of coping. Eventually, I just feel numb and empty.”
Depression is the leading cause of disability in Americans, and depression seems to be most common to Americans compared to other parts of the world. One reason may be that modern depression appears to be connected to existential introspection. When all our basic needs are met, we have the luxury and privilege to think more deeply about what we are doing with our lives, if we are satisfied, and so forth. If we are worried about where our next meal comes from or whether we are safe at home, we will have no time for such reflection.
Depression and psychological stress have increased after nearly all major events, especially ones that affect the entire nation, such as the 9/11 terrorist attack and now, the pandemic. Researchers have observed that these psychological effects can linger for years. Not surprisingly then, researchers are becoming increasingly more interested in investigating the impact of the pandemic on stress and mental health.
The pandemic brought increased stress for everyone, and with people having to shuffle their schedules and manage social distancing, the stress has been nearly impossible to avoid. It seems like every time we turn on the T.V. or log into social media, we are bombarded with headlines about vaccinations, news of hospitals being overloaded, and varying recommendations about protecting ourselves from the virus.
Stress from the pandemic has permeated into almost every aspect of our lives, from uncertainty in employment to strains on relationships. It has forced us all into adjustments like online learning and remote work in a global lockdown. There is a constant vigilance about health safety for ourselves and each other, not to mention the costly sacrifice of social connection.
In June of 2020, a study by the CDC found that roughly 41% of adults (5.470 subjects) disclosed having anxiety and depression symptoms as well as suicide ideation—three times larger than what was reported in 2019, pre-pandemic (25.5% versus 8.1%).
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) came out with an even more recent study that surveyed adults from August 2020 to February 2021 on their symptoms of anxiety and depression. They found that depression and anxiety increased by 5.1% (total adults surveyed equated to 790,633), the belief that they would benefit from mental health treatment and support increased by 2.5%, and mental health symptoms were highest for young adults 18 to 29.
While depression continues to rise, suicide rates have decreased. This spark of positive news may be because while treatments for depression do not offer a cure, it does make life more manageable.
While depression and mental illness may be on the rise, modern times may also offer better treatment solutions. For example, telehealth services have increased accessibility for millions of Americans who may have had barriers to adequate healthcare services. Not only is telehealth a great way to access expert services from providers outside your immediate location (At Aspire Neuropsychological Services, we’re licensed to see clients anywhere in California), you can also save time and reduce the barriers that keep many individuals from accessing the help they need. For those with depression, even slight changes that make someone more likely to follow through with attending session are hugely beneficial and truly make a difference.
Another way we can consider depression is through the lens of increasing joy in its sufferers. Drugs like MDMA, psilocybin, and ketamine are being studied to treat what has traditionally been considered as treatment-resistant mental illness. Such diagnoses—PTSD and depression—are known to have recurrence rates that increase suffering and lead to difficulty in seeing positive treatment outcomes. However, with the assistance of medication management, these drugs—though controversial—can allow patients to feel superficial emotions of happiness, joy, comfort, and contentment. While these emotions are fabricated, they are still experienced in the brain as real and therefore lead to new neural pathways.
A modern treatment approach we employ at Aspire Neuropsychological Services includes EMDR therapy, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. EMDR can be used to help resolve depressive symptoms in adults, adolescents, and children, especially when in combination with mindfulness-based approaches.
We may not be able to slow the influence that technology has over our modern lives, but we may be able to use technology for good, such as using it to create more opportunities for adequate care and treatment. Get in touch with us for more information.
“While depression and mental illness may be on the rise, modern times may also offer better solutions for treatment.”