Is Depression an Illness?

I would by no means consider myself clinically depressed. That said, there are certainly times in my life when I feel depressed. I suspect that everyone, even the happiest go luckies out there, occasionally get sad.

But what is depression, and what causes it? As a person who feels like they have just about everything they want in life, it’s those times when I’m feeling particularly down for a significant length of time that I wonder what might be the cause behind it.

Chemical Imbalances in the Brain

So nobody’s perfect. Some people think there noses are too big, or wish they weren’t so big boned. Humans are born every day with major medical problems, be it a physical handicap, serious mental issues or whatever. When it comes to problems of the mind though, sometimes things aren’t as quantifiable as others. A person suffering from schizophrenia or extreme bipolar disease have chemical processes going on there brains that can’t just be fixed by “bucking up.” But can depression be classified as something that is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain? Specifically, is there such a thing as a “chemical imbalance” or are we all just privy to our own particular balance of chemicals, and some of us are better at coping with the way our minds interpret the resulting emotions?

I’d like to think that the physical differences that make humanity so diverse — blue eyes, black hair, dark skin, thick noses, big eyes, whatever — that these traits applied to our range of emotional variation as well.

Drugs and Alcohol

These are obvious outside sources, and I wouldn’t think that anyone who says “Well, I’m just said because I smoke too much crack,” would be justified in receiving any pity for such circumstances. If you choose to alter your bodies chemical state, you’re basically choosing to live with the circumstances, right?

But do drugs and alcohol change who we are, or do they simply emphasize our natural tendencies? One could argue that a person who enjoys action-packed, racing thoughts might use cocaine to enhance that aspect of their nature, whether consciously or otherwise, or that the chronic marijuana user simply prefers to be lackadasical and apathetic, and uses reefer to accentuate there natural state.

Life Circumstances

Would a person who is defined as clinically depressed be “happier” were they to be leading a different life? I think a simple analysis of rock stars, famous actors, etc. would show that even people with a seemingly wonderful, easy life can still be incredibly unhappy, so how does this evidence show support for the other two influences listed above?

In summation, I would like to think that our innate nature leads us to feel happy or sad, perhaps very much evenly across all of humanity from the moment of birth, but the nurture we receive as we age — how many bullies stole your lunch money, if you were abused, if you won the lottery, if your parents emphasized being happy — is the major factor that determines if we’ll be able to handle this range of emotions. I just hope that I’m right and that a labodomy isn’t the real solution. The 2 for 1 on labodomies just expired at my local Wal-Mart and with my current healthcare package, I don’t think I could afford one at full price.

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