Why do so many people seem depressed?

Is it just me, or does it seem like most people are depressed nowadays?

I’ve always been a cheerful, upbeat, happy guy. I smile, I laugh, I’m happy. I’ve never been on medication… I’ve just always been this way. I love life, and I’m not shy about showing it.

So many people I meet, though, are the opposite. They’re just… gloomy and joyless. They never smile, and they act as if life as dealt them a bum hand. It seems to be most prevalent in women, but a lot of men seem to be inflicted, too.

As an example, when I walk around the college campus where I work, most of the female students have “the stare.” They don’t smile… smiling is a crime. Instead they give you a look that seems to say, “I’m angry, life is unfair, and I want to kill myself.”

I also see this in the media. Ever watched a movie made before 1970? Most female characters are happy and upbeat. Today it seems most female movie characters are broody, serious, and depressed.

Maybe it’s just my imagination. But it seems like a lot of people are really depressed nowadays. I feel like I’m in a minority. Is the outward display of happiness simply not in vogue, or is clinical depression really on the rise?

Both. I think they may be related, actually; isn’t this the notion behind laughter therapy and suchlike, that laughing actually helps make you happy?

Yesterday I picked a hitchiker; we barely talked, just enough to find out that he was going just around the corner from my house. But the radio station I had on is one that plays music from the last 40 years: you can have one song that’s just been released and then the next one is from before I was born and the next one from when I was in high school. I could tell which ones he liked because both of us pound the rythm or clap or hum along. Most people are too self-watching to relax enough to even hum; I’ve been laughed at when I did (not by this guy, by others). We’re just stupid sometimes…

My husband and I were discussing this the other day. I think many people confuse depression with My-Life-Stinks-Because-I-Made-Bad-Choices-and-The World-Owes-Me-Unobstructed-Happiness. There’s a huge difference. Life ain’t fair. Life ain’t all sugarplums.

Doctors prescribe medication for both clinical depression and the “Poor Me” scenario. I think most cases of depression would be cured by lifestyle changes, but it’s easier to take a pill.

Modern life is complicated. Uncomplicating it where you can will do wonders for your general outlook. I think a college campus is a glaring example of people who are fast-tracking beyond what the average human body and psyche can handle. The competition and expectation can be overwhelming.

I’ve always been bitter and dark and had a sense of foreboding. I come from a long line of Russians who do nothing but sit on the stove all day and moan.

It’s easier, but it doesn’t solve anything or make life better per se. I’ve been depressed, both clinically and in the ‘poor me’ way - actually there’s little difference, sometimes you’re in situations you can’t get out of easily, or quickly, and you need to get some help along the way.

Sometimes women have “The Stare” because they don’t want strange men to talk to them. I unfortunately had to adopt “The Stare” this very morning on the subway because a drunk fellow sat beside me and wanted to strike up a conversation.

Goodbye cheer, hello closed-face.

I’d moan if my ass were on fire, too. Probably scream, even.

I’m a cynic. It’s who I am. Doesn’t mean I am depressed, or that I don’t have fun and laugh. Just means I’m a cynic. Plus, if you smile on the subway, people will call the cops on you

There was an article just the other day that suggested a lack of sleep may actually cause some depression (rather than merely being a symptom).

I think a big chunk of it is the American lifestyle - sedentary jobs, crummy food, frantic pace, late hours, crappy television (hysterical news headlines can’t be helping anyone), and no family nearby.

It might also be seasonal. I know a fantastic psychologist who says that his patient roll goes up every spring and fall, year after year. He thinks human beings are meant to migrate, and not doing so contributes to depression.

Now see…if they prescribe the correct pill, you’ll pass out, fall of the stove, and Poof! no more depression!

Anybody remember An Evening with Wild Man Larry Fischer? (sp?), when Larry wanders off from the song he’s trying to sing and goes into an extended rant about having a mother who threw him into a mental hospital when he was a little boy, among raving schizophrenic men shitting and pissing themselves?

And Frank Zappa, in the control booth, cuts in with “Well, you could try smiling more often.”

Be it clinical or merely self-pity, there’s no persuading someone that there isn’t ample reason to be depressed. We just need to develop a sense of humor.

A sick, twisted, borderline-criminal sense on humor.

My theory is that people today aren’t much different than in the past in terms of happiness, but that today people can be self-absorbed and wallow in their own self-pity. In the past, people had to work or starve. Sad? Too bad, the cows need milking and the wheat needs cut. Depressed? Too bad, go the factory or your kids starve. Today, however, you can feel sad and a whole industry is built up around validating your feelings.

Maybe they’re depressed because it’s so hard to be in a relationship these days. Nobody wants to compromise.

Maybe women are depressed because there are still people alive who think like this?

My default expression is not a smile. It’s neutral-to-sad looking. That doesn’t mean that I am sad, it just means that I have my face in its natural resting state, that I am not plastering some smile on myself so that OTHER people can feel good. It’s when people say things like “smile more often, little girl” that I get angry and brooding. How dare someone say I should be MORE self-conscious about the way I look, that I should police my face so it is pleasant and happy for men like you, that no matter how I may be feeling it doesn’t matter because I have a serious look about me. That is a great way to give someone a complex.

Maybe you should try asking the people on campus how they feel instead of trying to suss it out from their facial expression.

I’m just going to take a guess that you’ve never suffered from depression if you think people should just snap out of it. ‘validating feelings!’ :rolleyes: If recognising that mental illness is more common than we once thought, validate away!

You’re absolutely right that it’s no longer a case of work or starve. Personally, I think a more supportive humanistic society is a good thing.

No, I think depression is real, althought I doubt that it’s as common as is generally thought. My wife, in fact, could probably diagnosed with clinical depression and “melancholy” (as they used to call it) seems to run in her family.

However, my opinion is that regardless of what you are feeling, there is just stuff you have to do. You have to get up out of bed and go to work, for instance.

If you are able to work, then you should. If you want to induldge your depression and stay home and let others support you, then I don’t have much sympathy for you.

Oh absolutely, I couldn’t agree more. When I am feeling low (but not terrible) then getting out of the house and going to work is the only way to lift myself.

Unfortunately, one of the main effects of depression (in the clinical sense) is fatigue and ‘world weariness’, where even the slightest effort is too much. It is at this point that managing yourself, let alone going to work is nigh on impossible.

I think it’s the other way around. There’s much less support these days for the depressed indivudual, because so many of us are isolated socially. We used to have tighter family groups, used to be more spiritual and had more opportunity for interaction.

Now, honestly, if I wanted to, I could go through days without speaking to anyone except when the phone rings at work. Lots of people live in a bubble: shop online or at a big grocery store where the cashier is too busy to be chatty. Work 40-hour weeks with a 2-hour commute each day, come home and have to keep the house clean and raise the kids. Spend the free time watching TV or on the internet. I know this doesn’t describe everyone, obviously, but I think there’s a very large number of people who have more or less isolated themselves from society.

How many people today can actually say they have a strong social support group? I’m going to guess not many, because that takes too much time, too much effort, and we just can’t find time to fit that sort of thing into our lives. Heck, I know I don’t really have many people to rely on, and I know it’s my own fault for putting that priority way down the list. Gotta work, pay the bills, go to the gym, make dinner… But the truth is, having people around you (the right kinds of people) can help keep you from sliding into deep self-perpetuating depression. And I think people forget that.

As someone who is now on the fifth generation of a depressed family on one side (and at least four on the other) - not buying it. When my great grandmother had depression, she didn’t get out of bed either. Yes, there was stuff to do. She didn’t care - her children pitched in. When my grandmother went through it, her husband and sisters picked up the slack. With the depression they were UNABLE TO WORK - didn’t make any difference that the twins needed feeding, that 40 men were arriving on the farm to bring in the harvest and would need to be fed, that the green beans needed to be canned before winter - they were as ill as they would have been had they had a physically terminal illness.

(My greatgrandmother recovered, was “batshit crazy” but lived to be 90. For my grandmother, depression was terminal).

Nothing has changed, except perhaps now we label it and can medicate it (shock treatments, lithium, and stays in the asylm weren’t real effective for my grandmother.)

You know, I was just discussing this with a friend the other day. Of course, I wasn’t speaking in the context of the 70s (seeing as I was . . . oh, negative 16 then), but just in the general observations I’ve made with those my age that I interact with.

A lil’ anecdote- a while back I was sitting in a study/break room with a bunch of my class mates (@ university). They were all in a circle and discussing what medicatications they are all on. One was on this for depression, the next was on that same thing, but then taking two other things for this and that. It was amazing to me. This was a group of 10-15 of the university’s smartest kids (I was in the Honors Lounge) and yet there wasn’t a single one that wasn’t on at least ONE mind altering medication.

The they all turned to me and said, “Angel, you’re so upbeat, perky, and happy all the time- what are you taking? I want to try it.” I was taken aback. Just because my normal state is something other than foot-draggingly depressed, I must be on something? And when I told them that I don’t take anything besides a multivitman, they honest to God didn’t believe me.

Now, don’t get me wrong- I know for a fact that there are people out there who benefit greatly from medications for depression and various other psychological impairments. That said, my WAG is that there is a huuuuuuge valley between those that actually need it and those that are taking it to get through the life they’ve created for themselves. It’s like Jim who works 85 hours a week, 7 days a week, and doesn’t ever sleep popping a Xanax to get through his shitty life. He doesn’t need a pill, he needs a day off. The same goes for the soccer mom in the suburbs who’s freaking out because she’s attempting to keep up with the Jones’. The problem is then that the people who don’t really need it aren’t solving their problems and are staying depressed. I think that accounts for what the OP is talking about.

Interestingly, I’ve never actually been Depressed (with a big D) like it seems many people are. I’ve been sad, sure, but never I can’t get out of bed because I’m so upset depressed. Whenever I am upset or things aren’t going my way, I just remind myself that stuff has to be bad for me to appreciate the good. It’s cheesy, but it works for me. Now, when I try telling my drugged up friends this, they reply with something like, “Well, sure, that works for you but MY life just doesn’t work like that. I’ve got a million things to do and I just can’t do them right. I’ve got to work for 7 hours today then go to class for 5 then do 15 things of homework.” Jesus H, man. Put down the Xanax and take a damn nap.

When I was in college, I wasn’t unhappy but I also didn’t walk around smiling. 'The stare" may just be neutral. Now I grin like an idiot because for years I got the “Smile! it’s no so bad” shit from people when I was walking around minding my own business. I never get that anymore because people see me faintly smiling and assume I am friendly. It’s a burden to do it but easier this way.