The Opposite of Depression Is Vitality, not Happiness

23 March, 2021
The opposite of depression isn't happiness or joy, but it's the desire to live. That's because, when you're depressed, you don't only feel sad. In fact, you feel like you're trapped in a big black hole.

The opposite of depression isn’t happiness, but vitality. This is because depression isn’t exclusively synonymous with sadness. In fact, at times, even though you feel sad, you still might feel some sense of vitality along with a need to be creative and express yourself. However, depression tends to dull all your senses. In addition, it extinguishes emotions like desire, encouragement, and, above all, hope.

Andrew Solomon is a writer and professor at Columbia University. He wrote a book titled The Noonday Demon. In this book, he highlighted the idea of a lack of vitality in depression. In fact, he wrote about his own personal experience with depression. He also shared testimonies of many people who suffered from depression for years.

Solomon’s book states that people who suffer from depression lack the strength to live. Indeed, it’s the silent lament of those who feel they lack absolutely everything. Furthermore, they find no sense in anything. In fact, they’re trapped in a mind and body that lacks both momentum and energy.

You shouldn’t think of depression as a monolithic concept. It’s not the flu or an infection you can treat with antibiotics. If you suffer from depression, you don’t need to laugh or be cheered up. Because what you’re experiencing isn’t sadness. Therefore, there’s a real need for successful diagnoses, multidisciplinary therapeutic approaches, and greater social awareness.

Love, though it’s no prophylactic against depression, is what cushions the mind and protects it from itself.”

 -Andrew Solomon- 

A man suffering depression.

The opposite of depression isn’t joy, happiness, or love

As a human being, you have an almost innate tendency to categorize everything around you. Furthermore, you tend to do so in absolute terms. For example, if you aren’t cheerful, you’re miserable. If you aren’t calm, you’re worried or anxious. In the same way, you tend to think that the opposite of depression is happiness.

These types of approaches are incorrect. In addition, they don’t help. In fact, they help even less when talking about psychological disorders. That’s because they involve complex personal worlds. William Styron was a well-known American writer. He wrote an exceptional book about depression titled Darkness Visible (1990). He suffered the disorder himself when he was 60.

Styron defined the disease as a grey rain that covered everything he looked at. The presence of death was always by his side. He felt that some part of his body was damaged. However, he didn’t know which part. In addition, he thought that his brain had performed an evil trick and turned his mind against him. He experienced extreme cold and heat at the same time. Finally, he felt desperately lonely all the time, even when he had company. When we see this chaotic yet very stark description of depression from Styron, we realize how multifaceted depression is. In fact, it has so many nooks and crannies and hidden depths that it makes absolutely no sense to define it as mere sadness.

A figure seen through a rainy window.

Prozac and the fruitless search for happiness

In 1998, there was a real revolution in both the clinical field and society in general. This was the advent of SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). One of these was fluoxetine. It was originally marketed under the trade name Prozac. It changed everything. In fact, it finally allowed people to talk about their depression without being afraid.

Prozac began to be talked about everywhere. Suddenly, everyone was able to easily access information about mental illness. Fluoxetine was in fashion. Even more so when Elizabeth Wurtzel’s book, Prozac Nation, was published in the 1990s.

At this moment, society saw Prozac as an answer to all its sorrows, worries, and despair. Prozac was seen as the “happy pill”. In fact, once again, the opposite of depression was considered a complete “happiness high”. Medical centers were overrun with people demanding this drug so they could feel better.

In reality, anti-depressants actually work by affecting your serotonin levels. They generate greater well-being. However, they don’t generate happiness. Furthermore, in many cases, they don’t treat the root cause.

A woman in a field.

The desire to live

Depression is more than just a chemical imbalance. In fact, it’s a disorder of the mind, brain, and body. Dr. Alexander Glassman of Columbia University points out that depression even affects your cardiovascular health. Indeed, if you suffer from depression, you’re more likely to suffer some kind of heart disease.

Depression has a huge impact. The good news is that it can still be treated if you’re fully committed to changing your habits, mental approaches, goals, and internal dialogue. The goal isn’t to recover the happiness you’ve lost. Nor is it to leave sadness behind you. The real goal is to regain your desire to live.

  • Solomon, Andrew (2015) El demonio de la depresión. Madrid: Debate
  • Klein, DN, Kotov, R., y Bufferd, SJ (2011). Personalidad y depresión: modelos explicativos y revisión de la evidencia. SSRN . https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-032210-104540