Depression, a Bigger Problem than Drugs – What It Is & What Causes It

Ask a Pinoy struck with problems left and right how they feel, and they’re quick to say they’re depressed. But don’t be surprised when we also feel depressed over just about the smallest, pettiest things like a soap opera plot gone wrong, although soap operas we usually watch are in fact sad stories where antagonists go through unimaginable hell. But although we know we’re easily depressed over something, we don’t really take depression that seriously.

Yes, we like to watch sad movies, no wonder why we’re a bunch of depressed, but undiagnosed people.

Depression a Bigger Problem than Drugs

Truth be told, depression may be a bigger problem in the Philippines than drug addiction. The Dangerous Drug Board reported an estimated 1.3 million Filipinos are drug abusers. However, WHO said that 4.5 million Filipinos are depressed, the highest in Southeast Asia. Out of the 4.5 million, only one third seek help and another third aren’t even aware they have the condition. Just recently, it was found that suicide rate in the country increased over the course of two decades, and that in 2012, some seven Pinoys commit suicide every day.

Filipinos are hush-hush when it comes to admitting they’re clinically depressed, meaning depressed in the sense that it’s becoming a real problem, a disorder that’s hampering us from living life to the fullest. For one, we don’t seek professional help afraid of the stigma, of being labeled as crazy. Two, we’re fond to say “this, too shall pass” and decide not to do something about our depression.

What is depression?

Depression is more than just a negative feeling or negative thought or negative response to an awful experience. It’s actually a serious mood disorder that affects a person’s daily existence and may cost them their life. A person may have the so-called clinical depression or major depressive disorder when the symptoms last for more than two weeks.

Signs and Symptoms

If a person experiences one or more of the following symptoms for more than two weeks, they’re likely suffering from clinical depression.

  • Chronically sad and worried
  • Feelings of hopelessness or negativity
  • Feelings of helplessness or worthlessness
  • Feelings of guilt and regret
  • Feelings of restlessness and anxiousness
  • Irritable and over sensitive
  • Decreased energy and productivity
  • Decreased appetite and weight loss
  • Absent-mindedness, inability to focus or decide
  • Sleeplessness or oversleeping
  • Thoughts of suicide and death, or suicide attempts
  • Physical pains like chronic headaches and cramps

What causes depression?


  1. Chronic Stress

Stress is a normal part of life, and small doses of it can actually be helpful to shape a person’s character. But when there’s plenty of stress coming a person’s way, it’s easy to break down especially in the absence of support from loved ones.


  1. Health Condition

Illness and disease can cause a ton of other issues to an individual including unemployment or unpaid leaves, infertility, physical deformities, financial problems and even failed relationships. Also, some medicines have adverse effects on the way people think and feel.


  1. Debt and Money Problems

While it’s true that money can’t buy happiness, some people actually become depressed over not having enough of it to support their family, to realize their ambitions, and to break free from chronic debt.


Woman in bedroom

  1. Low Esteem & Insecurity

A person who has poor body image and low self esteem are prone to suffer depression because they’re always trying to but failing at attaining the “ideal” standards they’ve set for themselves. They’re always comparing themselves with others, and nothing they ever do brings contentment.


  1. Broken Relationships

Divorce, separation and estrangement from loved ones bring isolation and loneliness, which makes a person depressed so easily. As said, no man is an island. As a social being, a person needs constant interaction with other people, particularly those who offer love and support. It’s not surprising for people to commit suicide over a bad split or break up.


  1. Loss of a Loved One

Death of a loved one can be very devastating to an individual, especially when the one who died was their main source of inspiration, support and joy. Some people never go past their moments of grief and mourning, and eventually develop clinical depression.


  1. Failures and Mistakes

Success is hard to measure, but isn’t really hard to come by if one doesn’t dwell on past failures and tries to do better next time. But if a person feels they aren’t good enough and decides they’re a failure, depression may be under way.


  1. Harassment & Violence

Harassment, bullying, violence and crimes cause mental and emotional damage to victims and their loved ones. If they’re left without the necessary support, therapy and treatment, victims may develop clinical depression.


  1. Genes & Brain Chemistry

In some instances, depression has something to do with a person’s heredity. Some people have higher likelihood of getting the disorder if they have a family member with the same condition. According to studies, depression may run in families.


  1. Daylight & Season Changes

Yes, it’s true. The absence of sunlight and the presence of darkness and bitter cold (autumn and winter) affect a person’s mood, energy and wake cycle. The brain produces more serotonin (happy hormone) during longer days and more melatonin (sleep-wake hormone) during shorter days. Depression caused by seasonal changes is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Overcoming Depression

As with most if not all health conditions, prevention is better than cure. When a person is undergoing stress and other possible causes of depression or is showing signs of the disorder, it’s best to consult a medical professional right away. At the onset, maintaining a positive outlook in life shields the person from falling too deep into the depressive state, enabling that person to find a new perspective at things, probably a way out, hope, or deliverance from their situation. Also, it helps for a person undergoing stressful and disheartening experiences to seek support from friends and family members, and then become a source of support for others, too, when they need it. This way, a person builds a strong network of support, which they can depend on when the going gets tough.

So there you have it – a short description of what depression is and what causes it. We hope that when you (or anyone you know) go through hard times, that you find the support you need and have the positivity and resiliency to help you overcome problems, so you never have to fall into depression. But when you already are in the depressive state, that you may find hope somehow and be able to prevail over your condition.

Suicide Prevention Hotlines in the Philippines

  • Manila Lifeline Centre: 02-896-9191 or 0917-854-9191.
  • The Natasha Goulbourn Foundation: 02-804-HOPE (4673) or 0917-558-HOPE (4673). Toll-free number for all Globe and TM subscribers: at 2919. Website:

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