Mental Health Care
Common sense tends to mix up the meaning of sadness with depression, as well as pleasure and happiness. These pairs of words are related to very different concepts. One reason to know what they mean is to be able to identify them in ourselves. After all, how can we deal with something that we do not know precisely what it means?
Sadness vs. Depression
If you are sad, there was something specific in your day that affected your mood. On the other hand, if you are (clinically) depressed this means you have been diagnosed by a psychiatrist and most likely have to take medication because depression can be caused by different causes. Some are listed below:
(1) genetic predisposition (the condition could be triggered by lifestyle or particular environment);
(2) social factors (lack of meaningful connections, death and loss, life changing events)
(3) organic factors (lack of nutrients, such as vitamin D);
(4) chemical imbalance (neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine at abnormal levels; as well as hormones as cortisol in excess);
(5) serious illness (among the stages of grief associated to cancer, the fourth is depression).
Dealing with sadness is easier: meeting your friends for a drink could help improve the morale. When addressing depression, the drink could lead to the worsening of the condition. Not only that, but also someone in a real depressive condition is not very likely to want to go out in the first place. If you care about your mental health and want to make sure that everything is okay, pay attention to the way you are sensing the world.
Pleasure vs. Happiness
Pleasure is related to neurotransmitters, and naturally occurs associated to immediate reward and relief and can cause addiction. It happens because of the feeling of satisfaction that can be achieved through the release of these associated neurotransmitter (serotonin, dopamine, endorphin, etc.) is very quick, yet this moment is very brief. And it is exactly this characteristic of being so brief and pleasant that makes us want to always do it again.
On the other hand, happiness is subjective and it is very hard to answer what it means to each of us. However, psychology, philosophy and neuroscience point at some directions. C.G. Jung says that life has no meaning unless you assign a meaning to it; finding a purpose of life, something greater than yourself. Such attitude converges with Aristotle writings about “science of happiness”, which must be pursued as a goal. His philosophy specifies that many conditions are necessary in order to have a happy life, such as, (1) physical and (2) mental well-being. In this day and age, neuroscience adds (3) financial security and (4) social bonds as essential aspects of this feeling that is unique to each person. To put it in a nutshell, happiness is not related to consuming quantities but with the quality of life.
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