Psychological and Chemical Depression: how to tell the difference

Disclaimer: I am not a therapist, psychologist, or doctor. The following blog post is based on my experience, thoughts and opinions.

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Myself and a friend recently met a young person we’ll call Jordan (to protect their identity). Jordan admitted to having serious anxiety and even suicidal thoughts. Jordan didn’t understand why this was happening as they had nothing to be anxious or depressed about.

I saw myself in Jordan. I wasn’t diagnosed as having an anxiety disorder or being bipolar until my early teens but I’d been suffering for years prior. By the time I was Jordan’s age I was already anorexic/bulimic and cutting myself. The difference between Jordan and my younger self is that I was suffering from both psychological damage as well as a chemical imbalance, whereas Jordan appears to have a chemical imbalance triggered by puberty.

This got me thinking about the differences between the two and how confusing they both can be when you don’t understand what’s happening to you. As a result, I was inspired to write this blog post to help others that may be struggling too.

I’ve had both psychological and chemically-induced depression. Here’s how I tell the difference:

 

Psychological

  • Is often caused by some form of mental/emotional trauma
  • Can be triggered by stress and overwhelm
  • Can develop through negative thoughts/actions/beliefs
  • Able to intentionally shift feelings of anxiety, depression, and/or numbness through positive thoughts/actions/beliefs

 

Chemical

  • It can be genetic
  • It can be triggered by a hormonal imbalance (ex. puberty, thyroid)
  • It can hit at any time without a trigger. You could be having the best day ever and suddenly burst into tears.
  • Not able to control/shift feelings of anxiety, depression, and/or numbness no matter how many positive thoughts/actions/beliefs you have. Faking it till you make rarely works under these circumstances.
  • You understand that you have no logical reason to feel what you’re feeling. Life can be bliss and yet you can still experience depressive symptoms.

 

As for Jordan, we explained the differences in a way they could understand at such a young age. We also gave them some simple tools to help, such as:

  • Creating an “I’m awesome” jar/box. Write down compliments or phrases/quotes on separate bits of paper that you know will help lift your mood. Place the bits of paper in the jar/box and only take one out when you really need it.
  • Creating a Motivation/Inspiration board. This works similarly to the “I’m awesome” jar/box. The difference is that you pin the compliments/phrases/quotes to the board and place it somewhere you can look at it often as a reminder.
  • Being aware. When you are aware that what you are experiencing is chemically induced and/or temporary, that can make things easier to get through it until it passes.
  • Intentionally surround yourself with supportive people.

 

Jordan seemed somewhat relieved knowing they weren’t alone and that what they were experiencing made some kind of sense. My hope in writing this blog post is that you too find some comfort in this.

You are not alone, you are not weak or broken, and this (depression/illness) does not have to define you.

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Did you find this post helpful? If so, share it with others

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Leave a comment below

As always, sending love your way

~ Liz

P.S: I recently read a phenomenal book about mental illness called “Crazy is my superpower” written by AJ Mendez Brooks. I highly recommend it and you can find it here.

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