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Barataria: Has depression become an epidemic?

Have you noticed that more and more people seem to be depressed lately? Are we just feeding off of each other?

Is the Depression becoming internalized?  It may just be a feeling or it may be the people I know, but I’ve been seeing a lot more symptoms of depression in the world around me.  Friends and acquaintances have detached themselves gradually from the hyper-connected world and pushed back on anything not right in front of them.  Some are clearly having trouble coping with even simple things that they used to enjoy.  Calls and e-mails are rarely answered with any kind of consistency or speed.

I wanted to discuss this because if this is true the only way out is old fashioned talking about it.  If it’s not true, I may need a new circle of friends.

There shouldn’t be surprise if people are, in fact, starting to fall apart from the stress of a broken world.  We’re a social species of standing-up chimp that receives a lot of our pleasure and intelligence from simply being with people in a social setting of some kind.  Stress on one person is naturally sent along networks of connections to all of the people around them, creating an epidemic of sorts.

What may be especially difficult is a cultural belief in individualism.  It might seem reasonable that the effects of a Depression would be localized by our beliefs, but instead they are probably amplified.  Individualism means that everything is your fault – and a lack of control over your own world is a personal tragedy.

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That’s not to say that many people aren’t trying very hard to stay positive.  During the big wave of Twitter growth about a year ago I read a lot about the “Law of Attraction”.  This neo-pagan belief states that if you send out positive thoughts and energy into the world you naturally attract positive energy your way and achieve good things.  Another popular topic was the idea that you can “opt out of the recession”.  Both of these have faded dramatically as topics lately, a process I would like to try to quantify.  What I can tell you is that one of the cheering optimists still left in my twitstream recently announced he was about to lose his house.

The leading cause of stress induced depression that I see in friends is a growing sense that the world has, in fact, fallen apart around them.  In popular terms this is what is fueling the Tea Party movement, at least among some people.  A major contributor is the feeling that we’ve been consistently lied to by the media, politicians, and businesses about how bad things are – a topic I’ve been waiting to sink in for about 3 years now.  The real problem is the same as the Law of Attraction – many people have been lied to primarily by themselves.

It is probably inevitable that in a culture like ours the Depression would become a kind of epidemic because of our cult-like belief in individualism.   We wind up expressing physically what we cannot say out loud for fear of being called a pessimist or loser.  The wave of depression I’m seeing may simply be the natural end-game of individualism as we came to know it.

Naturally, the rest of you may not see this happening around you.  I’d like to hear what people have seen among their own friends and colleagues.  Is the Depression becoming a personal, physical epidemic?  Tell me about your world.  I’d like to be wrong about this, but if this is in fact happening, well, we need to talk.  All of us.

This post was written by Erik Hare and originally published on Barataria. Follow him on Twitter: @wabbitoid