affluent country--the happiest country on earth; what about the poor
countries? Women are twice as likely as men to be depressed; men
get upset over jobs, women over relationships; married people in "not
very happy relationships" are more likely to be sad than unmarried
and divorced people. We will discuss these statistics later.
Depression is not only fairly common, it can be very serious. Like
Abe Lincoln as a young man, the misery can be so constant, so great,
and seem so seemingly endless that one wants to die--to escape the
pain. In the U.S. one person every minute attempts suicide; one
person every 24 minutes succeeds. There are more suicides than
murders. Even among teenagers, it is third only to accidents and
homicides. Almost 500,000 teenagers attempt suicide each year, not
counting suicides disguised as "accidents" (McCoy, 1982). Suicide is so
sad because it is a permanent, desperate solution to a temporary
problem. What a loss to the world if Lincoln had killed himself. What a
blow to each family in which an unnecessary death occurs.
My interest here is not so much with serious, disabling or suicidal
depression, usually called Clinical or Major Depression. Indeed, if
sadness is disrupting your work and schooling--and you are thinking of
ending it all--seek professional help immediately; you need more than
self-help; run no risk with your life. This "common cold of mental
disorders" hospitalizes 250,000 a year, the most extreme cases. The
"common cold" slows down many more of us and makes us gloomy.
This chapter focuses on these less serious forms of depression:
sadness, disappointment, loneliness, self-criticism, low self-concepts,
guilt, shame, boredom, tiredness, lack of interests, lack of meaning in
life, etc. Most of us are or will be somewhat depressed or disappointed
and could use self-help. Overall, depression costs the country more in
treatment and lost work than heart disease.
Are some people just naturally happy?
It sometimes seems like it. Were they just born with the hard
wiring that makes them happy, cheerful, active, social, and optimistic?
Maybe. It might have been an inherited family trait but happiness
happens in other ways apparently. For instance, in many cases happy
people are different from anyone else in the family; indeed, some had
an unpleasant, neglectful, abusive family which they had trouble
understanding but learned to tolerate. We dont know all the ways to
become happy yet. Some chronically happy people are referred to by
some doctors as having hyperthymia, similar to but the opposite of
Maybe some people just have more serotonin in their brains. Well,
that sounds simple but it appears more complex than that because
antidepressants increase serotonin within days but it takes weeks to
reduce the depression. Research has also shown that giving an