We all experience emotional highs and lows throughout the day, but for some of us, things can fall out of balance for various reasons. In many cases, the causes for depression actually stem from an over-abundance of positive emotions. When we experience positive emotions, our brains release serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and other endorphins that we can become addicted to. The withdrawal we experience when we inevitably come down from this high can result in depression, releasing epinephrine, cortisol and other stress hormones.
Often times, people will get addicted to their manic states and the fantasies that accompany them, falling into a cycle of mania and depression when reality inevitably provides a check on their idealized expectations. This discrepancy between an ideal reality and the perceived one, known as cognitive dissonance, can be a powerful force behind anxiety and depression without the person even being aware of it.
To complicate the issue, many people will apply a “just think positive” mindset to their surprising amounts of unhappiness they are feeling, exacerbating the matter by creating more cognitive dissonance, eventually leading to depressive symptoms. Over time, the depressive thoughts generated between this discrepancy between fantasy and reality lead to potent feelings of inadequacy, failure and in some cases, suicidal thoughts.
Another cause of depression is a specific action that we are having difficulty coming to terms with (bankruptcy, feeling responsible for someone’s death, physical/sexual abuse) and feel that there are no options in finding a resolution to. This also creates dissonance, leading to negative rumination and suicidal ideation if left unchecked.
Bridging the gap between fantasy and reality
Although there is no single solution to easing cognitive dissonance, a good start is by learning to accept oneself. By becoming more open with one’s failures and inadequacies, we leave ourselves less prone to developing lingering sentiments of guilt and shame. This does not only spare us from feeling depressed, but affords us a more balanced, clear perspective over our situations, which in many cases can be enough in itself to bring us back from the verge of taking our lives.
If we are better able to accept ourselves and view reality for what it really is, we will also be less susceptible to the anxiety caused by our perceptions of the way others view our situations, as well as dissonance caused by our unrealistic perceptions of others’ levels of happiness.
A major cause of suicidal thoughts is the false notion that everyone else has an easier life than the person that is depressed, giving them the impression that they are living life with a constant disadvantage. Becoming aware of one’s own opportunities as well as the fact that everyone has their own issues can make their situation seem less dire, helping them get out of the habit of feeling like a victim.
When someone takes a mindset of being a victim, they tend to see life as a compilation of hurdles stacked against them, making life seem overwhelming and for some, no longer worth the trouble. Focusing on one’s opportunities or the reward behind the hurdles, while taking small steps to work through them, is the solution to altering one’s perception and pulling themselves out of a depressive rut.
The key to avoiding depression is to find and maintain emotional balance. While negative rumination can undoubtedly lead to suicidal ideation, becoming too addicted to positivity, pleasure and fantastical views of reality is also a reliable path to self-induced depression and overwhelming ourselves emotionally. Only when we accept and embrace both aspects of our realities will we see things clearly and find balance.
At Sovereign Health, we offer a litany of psychotherapies, incorporating the most appropriate models for each individualized treatment program in order to find the underlying issues associated with feelings of anxiety and depression. Staying mindful of the link between depression and substance abuse, we offer interventions in relaxing, non-confrontational settings in addition to our dual diagnosis treatment of co-occurring mental and behavioral health disorders.
If you would like to learn more about depression and/or suicidal ideation, feel free to browse the treatment programs section of our site or contact us today at (866) 819-0427.
Written by Chase Beckwith, Sovereign Health Group writer