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Difference between Hopelessness and Depression

Depression and Hopelessness are two interchangeably used terms in psychology. They are two different terms with slightly different meanings. Let us try and understand the difference.

Hopelessness is a feeling of despair. It is an emotional state in which a person sees no hope in his or her life and feels that life is not worth living anymore. The person feels as if things will never improve and he will never achieve what he wants in life. He considers himself a failure. The feeling of hopelessness is present in every patient suffering from depression or any other mental disorder. The person is so overwhelmed with the obstacles and difficulties in his life that he finds himself inadequate to overcome them. Many a times such patients think of attempting suicide. The degree of hopelessness in an individual can be measured by using Beck’s Hopelessness scale. Recent studies have indicated that hopelessness and depression are the main cause of increasing suicides in the recent times.

Researchers have established nine different forms of hopelessness of which three are pure forms and remaining six are blended. These forms arise from disruption of the basic needs like survival, attachment and mastery which give hope to a person.

Alienation is a type of hopelessness in which the individual feels he is different from the society. He feels cut off and unworthy of his surroundings. Uninspired is another type of hopelessness felt among those who are underprivileged. They feel they do not have the right resources to make it big in the world and that society and God have treated them unfairly. Forsakenness is a feeling when the person feels all alone and lonely when he is in the greatest need of someone. He feels abandoned. A feeling of powerlessness can set in when the person is no longer able to chart the path of his life. He has lost the mastery of his own life. Oppression is another type of hopelessness experienced by the weaker section of the society that may be under some financial obligation. Prisoners suffer from a feeling of captivity which is a type of hopelessness. The feeling of being doomed comes when the individual has lost everything in the game of life and can never get it back. He feels that life is over. The feeling of limitedness comes when the person feels that he cannot fight the world because he or she lacks abilities or is deficient mentally or physically. Helplessness is another feeling of hopelessness that comes after having faced mental and physical torture like rape. The fact that perpetrators have not been nailed and can repeat heinous act again, makes the victim so helpless that she is unable to pick up the threads of her life again.

Most of the times the feeling of despair and hopelessness is transient and the phase passes away. But in some cases counselling is required to treat such cases.

Depression is a clinical entity in which the patient is perpetually in a state of low mood. He has aversion to performing any activity or task that he may have liked previously. The condition affects the patient’s thoughts and social behaviour. Depressed people feel sad anxious, helpless, hopeless, worthless and restless. These people either eat a lot or very little. They have difficulty in making decisions. They suffer from very low concentration and have difficulty remembering things. These people also have suicidal tendencies.

Depression can be a part of a larger clinical syndrome or as a result of medications. Environmental factors such as childhood abuse, neglect, substance abuse, financial difficulties, major illness or loss of body part can result in depression.

Depressive state prevails for a longer time and requires proper psychiatric treatment. Symptoms of major depression affect your day to day ability to work, sleep or enjoy life. Such a person has frequent bouts of depression that affect his care givers too. On the other hand persistent depressive disorder stays for a period of more than two years. Postpartum depression occurs after delivery. Some people suffer from winter blues in which state of depression lasts during the winter months. Bipolar disorder is characterised by extreme highs and lows in the mood of the patient.

At times depressive states can be caused due to medications such as interferon or after major illness like stroke, cancer, multiple sclerosis diabetes etc. Beck depression inventory is used to evaluate the degree of depression which is essential while charting out a systematic treatment plan for such patients.

Hopelessness is feeling of despair that can occur singly or as part of bigger clinical syndrome called depression.

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