A psychologist shares why you shouldn’t say “I’m depressed” if you’re not

There is a world of difference between being unhappy and depressed. Here’s how casually claiming that you’re depressed can be bad for your mental health.
Social withdrawal could indicate anhedonia. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Sahana S Published: 9 Jun 2020, 19:38 pm IST
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We underestimate the power that our words have on us. We often hear people labelling themselves as “losers”, “useless” and sometimes they also diagnose themselves with various disorders when they say “I have OCD” or “I’m depressed”.

In fact, I once had a client who got mad at me because I said she did not qualify for a diagnosis of a personality disorder, but she might just have traits of it!
Why is that people give themselves such negative labels? Do they do it on purpose? Well, whether it’s a negative or a positive label that people give themselves, they do it only so that they can “fit” themselves somewhere. And sometimes “fitting in” means, being a part of a group.

Also read: 3 science-backed reasons why ‘self-talk’ can boost your mental health

Labelling yourself in this fashion has repercussions on your mental health
Labelling oneself also means that you are not lost about your problems anymore. For some, it feels like they have obtained a sense of direction and now they at least know what they need to work on.

But what we do not realise is happening that when we choose to give ourselves certain labels, we end up believing ourselves to be something we’re not. In psychology, there is a concept called “self-fulfilling prophecy”, which means that an expectation that we have, whether true or false, will invariably lead to its confirmation.

Labelling yourself as something you’re not will invariably send you down a path of self destruction. Image courtesy: Shutterstock.

For example, let us look at the difference between these two statements: “I feel unhappy” and “I am depressed”. The former feels like we are expressing our current state of mind. This makes it seem more like a temporary feeling.

However, the latter, “I am depressed”, due to its association with a mental health disorder might feel like a definition we are giving to ourselves. This restricts our potential to feel better about ourselves.

When we do not feel better about ourselves, we jump to the conclusion that we are indeed depressed. Hence, unknowingly we find ourselves in a vicious cycle.

And once the downward spiral begins, there is no looking back.

So how do we stop this from happening to us?
The first step to prevent such a downward spiral is being aware of what you are telling yourself. If we are basing our labels on only what we know, then there is a lot of potential for misunderstanding.

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Hence, let me give you some important symptoms of depression
The three core symptoms are: Feeling sad most of the time; lack of interest in activities that were previously pleasurable; and a sense of fatigability. If any of these symptoms are present along with at least two other symptoms like a decreased concentration in activities, increase in pessimistic thinking, disturbed sleep and appetite, a sense of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness, and/or suicidal ideas, which lasts for at least 2 weeks—then we can say that one has clinical depression.

Also read: These 8 small steps will help you ward off depression during these trying times

dietary restriction
It’s important to know the symptoms of depression, like loss of appetite and lack of interest in activities you once found pleasurable, before jumping to conclusions. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

The next important step we can take is being kind to ourselves
People casually say negative statements about themselves either because they want others to understand what they are going through, to hide their insecurities and fears behind a façade, and for so many more reasons. Hence, instead of mocking ourselves or being harsh on ourselves by making such negative statements, we can instead pause and understand what we can learn from it.

Show more kindness and patience towards yourself and you will see how the language you use towards yourself automatically takes a positive turn.

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About the Author

Sahana  is a psychologist and outreach associate at Mpower – The Centre, Bengaluru ...Read More

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