It was brought to my attention some while ago that some people have the attitude that only certain people have the right to legitimate emotions of depression. It is believed by some people that depression is an emotion that should only be experienced by less fortunate people, and that people who are lucky or fortunate do not have anything to be depressed about.

It seems that someone of a high social standing or high income bracket is suffering depression, their depression is devalued just because they are fortunate enough to have opportunities such as education, wealth, friends or celebrity status. People say “what do you have to be depressed about? You have all these things? What about people who are less fortunate than you? You are lucky!”

My theory is that depression as an emotion is universal. The intensity of the emotion knows no boundaries of culture or social class, that is, it makes no difference who you are, where you come from, what your social standing is. People are people, they are all human, and they all have feelings.

Yes it is true that people with wealth are more lucky and have more opportunities than others, but the only difference between a rich person suffering from depression and a poorer person is that the rich person can afford things like Cocaine, Prozac, or Electric Shock Treatment. The rich person doesn’t have to live or deal with the depression while the poorer person does. This does not mean that the intensity of the emotions both people feel are any less than the other. If the rich person does not buy anything to lift themselves out of the depression, they would feel as much depression as anyone else.

Saying to a rich person “what do you have to be depressed about? Think of others less fortunate than you” is like saying to a person suffering from Anorexia “think of the starving children in third world countries”. It does not work that way. The Anorexic is not going to think “oh, I’m so lucky to have all this food, I should eat”. Such people have mental and emotional problems and their suffering is no more worse than others who are anorexic due to lack of availability of food. Both will feel hunger, both will feel malnourished, both will be close to death, one just has the opportunity to have food but can’t, does that mean that they both do not feel equal amount of physical pain? Or that one persons’ pain is more legitimate than the other?

When we hear of celebrities having a nervous breakdown or committing suicide, people wonder how this is possible when they have everything. In some instances people laugh at the thought of a celebrity suffering from depression because they don’t understand that emotions are something that every human has, what humans feel is universal, emotions don’t make any distinctions between more fortunate people and less fortunate people.

I know that it is hard for some people to believe that more fortunate people could feel as much pain as a less fortunate person, I myself was one of them. When I visited a hypnotherapist for an interview to join their academy, as a conclusion to my degree in psychology and sociology, a Lucher test was performed on me which indicated a mild to moderate depressive state, I was questioned about it. I said “what do I have to be depressed about? I have a great boyfriend, I’m in my final year at university, things are going well!”. The hypnotherapist said “it doesn’t matter how lucky you think you are, depression is depression”.

When psychiatrists are to diagnose people with a disorder they have a book referred to as the DSM(Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, currently in its forth edition). It entails what symptoms a person must display to be labelled as having such and such disorder. Under the symptoms for depression, no where does it say ‘Must be of unfortunate social standing, can not be rich, lucky, or have opportunities open to them’ . For more information about depression and other mood disorders refer to ‘Abnormal Psychology’ by Barlow & Durand, Page 182, 2001.

I am not trying to devalue the pain that less fortunate people go through, I am simply putting out the idea that perhaps when fortunate people are feeling depressed or suffering from some other kind of emotional or mental problems, that such pain should not be taken as a joke.

This write up is using depression as an emotional state, and not a mental illness, however I have used the definition of depression sometimes derived from the medical perspective. I do not mean to disregard the medical and biological causes of depression, or the illness itself, I am simply putting forward the point that everyone gets sad, everyone has feelings of depression, whether they are of fortunate background or not. It could be because of medical or mental illness or other sociological factors. I am just saying that it can happen to anyone. That people shouldn’t assume that if your rich, or have a car, or an education, that your somehow immune to either feelings of depression, or depression as an illness. I hope this clears things up for some people.

Depression is indeed universal. Every human being has the ability to place themselves in a depressed state.

You can do this too, even if you're not at this very moment depressed. It's not a whole lot of fun, but people continually do it. They all do it in exactly the same way. Here's the formula for depression:

  • Focus on an event or events that have taken place in your life to which you associate extremely strong negative emotions like hopelessness, despondency, etc.
  • Inhale shallow breaths, exhale deep and long. A series of long sighs works well.
  • Drop your shoulders, hang your head low, look at the floor.
  • Amplify the negative emotions in step 1. above by making the mental images you are seeing of the event(s) large, brightly colored and close to you. They should be moving pictures (not stills) and you should be taking part in the action, not watching it like it was a TV show. Step into the event, and relive it in vibrant color and sound
  • Continue to amplify the negative emotions, and tell yourself that you have no power to change how you feel about them.
  • Give in to this state, let it overwhelm you.

This is why depression is indeed universal, because in order to be depressed you must do very specific things with your body and your mind. You cannot be depressed if you don't do perform most of the steps above. For example, if you're in a depressed state now from following the steps above, try this:

  • Look up to the roof, or the sky.
  • Put a big smile on your face.
  • Put your shoulders back and breathe evenly.

Just try to be depressed doing that with your body, and that's without even adjusting what your brain is focusing on.

Emotional states are controlled by what you do with your body, in other words, emotion is created by motion. All human states are universal, happiness, anxiety, depression, fear, embarrasment, love. They have different formulae, but they are all universal. The only differences are what the individual chooses to focus on to create that emotion.

Depression is NOT something you "catch", and it is not an illness. It is an emotional state, no more and no less.

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