Depression vs Sadness
Let’s start by pointing out some basic differences between Depression and Sadness. In essence, sadness is part and parcel of human life and part of being “human”. It is a normal human emotion that more or less all human beings experience in different phases in their lives. Even holy personalities like Moses, Jesus and Muhammad went through deep sadness. This is just like if a bee comes and stings someone, there will be an immediate reaction. The Quran, the holy book of Islam, provides ample examples from the lives of different messengers-who were the greatest of all human beings-that they all went through pain, suffering and the resulting sadness in their lives. From that perspective, we can conclude that sadness is “normal”. According to Islamic teachings, God Himself claims that it is HE who bestows happiness and sadness:
“IT IS HE WHO MAKES YOU LAUGH AND CRY” (QURAN)
But still that immense sadness of Prophets and Messengers (PBUT) didn’t stop them from pursuing their missions even more vigorously. Their sadness didn’t result in hopelessness nor in a state of inaction-in other words, they went through periods of sadness but not depression.
Depression on the other hand, is characterized by hopelessness, loss of meaning in life, self-worthlessness and feeling of sadness without being able to identify the cause of the gloominess in life. The two states of crying and laughing are unique to the Human being, that no other animals shares, and its purpose is to make us reflect on the realities of life. Everyone experiences symptoms of depression, but when the symptoms remain for two weeks or more it is called clinical depression. However, the Quran teaches us, we have to be careful of many of the symptoms of depression even it is for a short time. Depression is the result of not being able to do what we want. It is a sense of loss of freedom & control.
Below we will discuss different types of depressions, and will have solutions to the hopelessness, meaninglessness, self-worthlessness and daily dysfunctional life from an Islamic perspective. All change begins by sees things in a new light. By embracing these truths you will be able to bring light into the gloom of your life.
Some Basic Truths
- No human being is burdened with trouble and difficulties they cannot bear. The Quran teaches “(God) will never place a burden on a soul that it can not bear”. This shows that the human being can bear many unthinkable burdens, that one initially feels that they cannot bear. How many times in your life, you felt you cannot take it anymore, but you lived through it? How many humans go through great difficulties in life but live through it?
- After every hardship is ease. Life is one difficulty after another. One task after another, one issue after another. However, it is important to know that while life tests us, there is ease after hardship. There is the ease of death after the hardship of life, there is ease of sleep after the hardships of the day, there is ease of retirement after the hardship of a career, and everything has a high and a low. What goes up, must come down, likewise, Tough times only mean, the times of ease are near. The Quran teaches, “The morning light after the stillness of darkness”….when its dark everything seems still as if it will never go away. The fact is nothing remains forever and nothing remains the same. So, after every time of difficulty there is ease. The Quran teaches, “There is ease after hardship, Indeed there is ease after hardship.”
- Suffering purifies our humanness
When we go through difficult times, when we have a financial loss, when we lose a loved one, when we struck by bad times, it brings out the real humanness in us, and we begin to ask the very questions that are most fundamental to us, “Why are we here?”, “What is the purpose of life”, “why me”, “What happened to all my plans and dreams, etc. We learn the frailty of our humanness. The Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Look at the ones who are less fortunate then you, not at the ones are more fortunate then you.”
Hunger attracts food. Hunger is a spiritual experience, it is good for the soul, and food is an experience of the body. In the same way, ease and happiness is good liked by the body and is welcomed, and hardships and difficulty are disliked by the body but are very good for the soul. It forces the soul to deal with the difficult questions of life. It helps us to grow as humans, to find and deal with our human frailness. And our human frailness helps us to find our inner most nature.
It’s not the events, which take place that cause happiness or depression-but it’s our inner reflection of our situation that determines our spirituality and our emotional maturity.
- You are not in control, but can choose what you want to do. Depression happens because of a feeling of helplessness. A feeling that we are not in control; you should embrace that you are not in control at the moment. You should embrace your lack of control over your situation. Most depression occurs because of external situations and how we allow external situations to affect our insides. Perhaps, it’s a good time to turn to the One Who does control everything. All we ask is you is to, try this… pray to God, even if you don’t believe in God, pray to Him, talk to Him, and you will feel so comforted in your heart. Tell God that you know He is in control. Cry to him. We are taught that by turning to God, we restore ourselves like a dying plant becomes green with water. As an experiment, do this on blind faith and see if it works, say, “All admiration belongs to you, if good comes to me its from you, and if some trouble comes to me its from you, I submit to you, and this situation to you.” Say this even if you do not believe in God, and see how you feel in the inside. Second, you can take action regarding your situation. Life is all about choices; a choice is like putting a seed in the ground that may bare fruit. You put the seed, and the unseen forces bring the rain. Work on what you can do, you can sow the seed, you can make the right choices, and you can start to work in a direction that you want to move in.
- Three Days The past is gone forever. The Present is all you have, and the future; leave it for when it comes. The life in this world is short, our time for this life is constantly running out. One of the great scholars of Islam said, “There is only one day separating me and the Kings. As for the yesterday, their taste of it has vanished, and both they and I equally fear what tomorrow will bring. Thus, there is only today. What will today bring?”
- Everything is in a Flux, and Most Change is Spontaneous. Nothing stays the same. The atoms, the celestial bodies in the heavens, air, water, etc, nothing stay the same from one moment to the next. Everything is in a flux, this means people in health will soon face illness, people in illness will soon have relief. Those that are happy today will soon undergo some sadness, and those that are sad will have happiness. Most changes in life are spontaneous; losing a job, death of a loved one, an accident, a terminal illness, etc. This means that your situation will not be the same forever, if you are not in control today, there will come a time where it is.
- Belief is the Greatest Cure No pill, counseling session, techniques to cope can compare to a strong belief in God. As long as one believes in a loving God, one has a reason to be optimistic. Belief can give you the ability to handle all sorts of difficult situations. It can give a person the ability to see the positive in the overwhelmingly negative situation. If you do not believe in God, I would suggest to believe in Him, give it a try and see if your outlook on the situation changes for the positive. We all need a something to keep us focused and keep us going, we all need something that bring clarity to our world, all need to hold on to something for support. If there is a God, and there is, there is nothing stronger then the knowledge you can hold on to him to help you cope with your situation. Also, if there is a God, there must be good in what you are going through, you may not understand that today, but if we look at our past situations in life, we will see how the hard times, made us grow. There is a saying, “God does not create trash.”—Humans being the greatest creation of God, and YOU were an idea God had that came into existence, so your worth is that God thought of you to begin with. Also, God does not forsake His care over his creation and you are His creation.
- Expectations Most of our depression happens due to high and sometimes unrealistic expectations. If we can lower our expectations, we minimize the risk of going into depression. If we can minimize our expectation from others-then we really put ourselves in a position of strength and fortify ourselves from being exposed to feelings of being let down, betrayal and rejection-which are strong precipitating factors for losing self esteem, feeling low and going into depression.
Classification of Depression as a Psychiatric Disorder
According to DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical manual Version IV), below are some of the major types of Depression:
- Major depressive disorder (also known as clinical depression or major depression)
This is a specific diagnosis from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by the American Psychiatric Association. |
Here are some sub-categories of major depression:
- Atypical depression, a cyclical sub-type of major depression where sleep, feeding and perception of pleasure are normal but there is a feeling of lethargy
- Melancholic depression a sub-type of major depression characterized by an inability to feel pleasure combined with physical agitation, insomnia, or decreased appetite
- Psychotic depression, a sub-type of major depression combined with psychotic or delusional perceptions
- Depressive Disorder Not Otherwise Specified
- Postpartum depression, a depressive episode occurring within a year of childbirth
- Dysthymia, a long-term low-grade depressive condition
- Adjustment disorder with depressed mood, previously known as “reactive depression”
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a depressed mood related to the seasons
Other major categories include Bi-polar Depression (manic Depression) and Dual Diagnosis (Depression along with Substance Abuse). Dual Diagnosis is most difficult to diagnose and treat because most often people suffering from major depression self medicate using illegal addictive substances and end up seeking therapy for substance use. Once treatment for addiction progresses to an extent, depression comes up to the surface. On other times, depression acts as a catalyst to relapse in substance abuse and maintains the vicious cycle for the victim of dual disorder.
The Quranic Treatment of Depression
Let’s now talk about some of the evidence based reasons why people develop depression
Social Causes of Depression
Family problems: marital problems, parent-child relationship, marital problem and depression of parents affecting their children. Lack of affection, attachment, acceptance and bond within the family. When marriage is not working, it often turns to a stressor, which leads to depression and substance abuse. Depression of one spouse usually affects the other and the marriage. Even if the depressed spouse recovers-he/she is likely to relapse due to unsatisfying marriage. Marital discord often leads to depression and vice-versa, it may also lead to verbal, physical and emotional abuse.
If you find yourself in this situation then
- The first thing to think about is if you need to be in a healthier environment. Never stay in an abusive place.
- As a family; try to do activities together like eating, going out to the park, taking a walk, do something spiritual, etc. Do not do things in which the family is not engaged with themselves like watching tv, movie, etc.
- Help the family member admit there is a problem
- The husband and wife should make a list of their grievances and share it with each other every night or at least every week. Know your triggers. Focus on YOUR own responsibilities, rather then YOUR rights.
- Journal and/or find a hobby
- Help someone; especially someone in your situation
- Take a holiday trip together
Lack of Positive Social Network: Stressful social environments, lack of support network, high expectations and social competition due to cultural norms, ethnicity and social class play a role in overwhelming people and as a result, they become vulnerable to depression. A depressed person turns out to be over-sensitive to social criticism and feed-back, displays low self esteem, becomes dependent on people and constantly seeks re-assurance in a way that drives people away from him/her and thus re-enforces his/her idea that he/she is unworthy as a person.
Solution: If you find yourself in this situation then
- Spend a day doing good deeds
- Journal one good thing about yourself everyday. Did you do a good deed? Did some good fortune come your way?
- Join any sports club, gym or volunteer at a place
- Attend a seminar on a topic you like
- Get a pet
- Rebuild relationships you have lost over time from your family, relatives, high school days, etc
Gender Issues: Societal norms regarding gender expectations can be source of stress, especially when women have to play multiple roles like a working mom who has to take care of her family, go to work and may be attending school simultaneously. Research also suggests that women are more likely to get overwhelmed by stressful events than men. Research suggests that single mothers are thrice more prone to depression than married mothers. Relative lack of power and discrimination in workplace, financial stress of low paid jobs, lack of social support network-especially for single mothers, biological factors like menstrual cycle, pregnancy, child-birth and menopause-they all contribute to increased risk of depression in women.
Solution: If you find yourself in this situation then:
- See what are the responsibilities you really want to take on & those things that others can do, you do not need to over burden yourself with— prioritize, and don’t let other things bother you
- Do not let yourself become over stressed, and if you do take a break
- Know yourself and your body’s limits. Eat properly, sleep properly, give yourself personal time, exercise, etc.
- Create a schedule
- Read a book
- It’s ok to ask for help (friend, spouse, a support group, a self help for working mothers or single mothers)
- Hang out with friends
Medical Reasons: Research suggests that stroke, heart attack, cancer, Parkinson’s disease and hormonal disorders can cause depression in a person by causing chemical imbalance in the person’s brain..
Solution: If you find yourself in this situation then
- Take extra care of your nutrition.
- Do not over eat. Fill your stomach with 1/3 food, 1/3 water, and leave one 1/3 for air
- Spend time looking at & contemplating nature
- Sleep well
- Incorporate Prayer in your daily schedule
- If you hear bad news, or something that make you upset, just sit down have a drink of water and see the bright side to the situation
Now, let’s shed some light on how depression is affecting the modern society:
Social Impact of Depression:
Major depression is 4th most disabling condition in the world, and 2nd most in the developed world. As well as the human cost, the burden on society is incredible. At the rate of increase, it will be the 2nd most disabling condition in the world by 2020, behind heart disease. It is estimated 35 to 40 million Americans living today will suffer from major depression at some time during their lives, with about half of this amount suffering from recurring depression symptoms. A major risk outcome of depression is suicide. Here are some facts correlating depression and suicide:
- About a quarter of suicides in the US are felt to be due to undiagnosed, or misdiagnosed major depression.
- Up to 80% of suicide deaths are in sufferers of major depression.
Given that suicide is the 8th largest cause of death in the US, it’s no wonder that major depression is classed as “the nation’s leading mental health problem”
Islamic Solution to Depression:
- Defining Goal of life: Islam teaches us that we should focus our goal on succeeding in our life to come after this life. If we emphasize on the transitory nature of this worldly life-then most of our problems of this life lose it’s importance in our lives and subsequently lose their power of a having negative impact on us.
- With difficulty, comes ease.
- Everyone needs a support system, and everyone needs a best friend, and everyone need role models.
- God never burdens a soul more than it can bear.
- Develop gratitude for the blessings that God has given you.
- A depressed person needs a source to turn to, turn to God for help, support, mercy and forgiveness.
- If there is a God, and there is, only good will become of the negative situation one finds themselves in.
- Find out purpose and value in your life and in everything that you’re going through.
- Incorporate prayer in your schedule at least twice a day. Talk to God.
- Live one day at a time.
- Surrender your unmanageable problems and things over which you’ve lost control of to God.
- Always Hope in Allah’s mercy.
- Get involved with your religious organizations, charities, or some other volunteer work
- One should say “al-hamdu lillah” a few hundred times a day. A phrase in the Arabic language that means “All praise and gratitude for God”. Muslims say this phrase when they are in difficult situations.
- If we think it is a bad situation, it could have been worse. If we think it is a good situation, it is still a test for us. Everything is from God and we should praise Him often. Thanking Him is one way to praise Him—al-hamdu lillah.
- Each one of us came to this world for a purpose
- Sleep well
- Write a Journal
- Reconnect with your lost relationships
- Spend time in nature