Opportunities in Depression

If you’ve read a few of our blogs, you’ll see that we often use the term ‘mental health challenges.’ It may seem that this is simply a politically correct way to say a ‘disorder’ or ‘problem’ but this is actually a very deliberate term we use. The simple fact is that a person can live a full, meaningful and vibrant life while still dealing with the challenges of symptoms associated with ADHD, depression or bipolar. Further, the challenges presented by these diagnoses and symptoms can provide opportunity for emotional growth. One such unexpected benefit is perhaps developing a greater emotional empathy towards others.

A recent study has revealed that there are certain areas where individuals struggling with depression may have advantages over those who not depressed. Before we explain further, it is important to note that this study does not suggest necessarily that depression is a good thing. Most individuals with depression would choose to live without it, for certain. But this study simply highlights that there may some aspects of depression that may be viewed in a more positively.

The advantage discussed in the current study is the ability of individuals with depression to let go of unrealistic goals. The study involved solving anagrams, which are mixed up words. The goal was to solve as many of these anagrams within a period of time, however, not all of the anagrams were actual words. Some didn’t spell any real word. The study found that individuals with depression were quicker to move on from these impossible puzzles than typical individuals.

Your initial response might be to question whether this is actually a good thing. But the authors point out that letting go of unattainable goals is a better option than constantly pursuing them, only to fail. Unrealistic and unobtainable goals are essentially setting ourselves up for failure. By abandoning these for more realistic goals, individuals depression may be more adaptive than their typical peers.

This research is encouraging because it begins to highlight that depression is a complex, multi-layered issue and not a simple burden or problem that needs to be cured. Again, this is why we use the term ‘mental health challenge.’ These challenges come with a mix of emotions, challenges and opportunities. This is also why there is no quick fix and most mental health challenges are best addressed through a combination of different therapies and approaches. Hopefully the field of mental health and the general public will continue to expand their understanding of the complexities and nuances of our mental well-being.