Depression is so much more than just feeling sad.

By Faith Brar
Updated: September 06, 2018
Photo: Shutterstock/Nine_Tomorrows

You wouldn't be alone if you associate depression with the feeling of sadness. But while feeling down and low is a definitive symptom of depression, it's actually much more complex than that.

Author M. Molly Backes, recently took to Twitter to share a sneaky symptom of depression that no one ever talks about-something she calls The 'impossible task.' (Did You Know There Are 4 Different Types of Depression?)

"The Impossible Task could be anything: going to the bank, refilling a prescription, making your bed, checking your email, paying a bill," she writes in a series of tweets that call out a depression commercial focusing only on sadness. "From the outside, its sudden impossibility makes ZERO sense." (P.S. Take a look at your brain on depression.)

To make matters worse these impossible tasks are rarely actually difficult. "It's something you've done a thousand times," Backes writes. "For this reason, it's hard for outsiders to have sympathy. "Why don't you just do it & get it over with?" "It would take you like 20 minutes & then it would be done." OH, WE KNOW."

The message clearly resonated. Her thread of tweets has been liked over 31,000 times and 13,000 people have retweeted.

"People with depression struggle with negative thoughts about themselves, the world, and the future," says Nicole A. Hollingshead, Ph.D. a clinical psychologist and clinical assistant professor at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. "This is called the "cognitive triad," meaning, a person often views themselves as worthless, the world as cruel and uncaring, and the future as hopeless. These negative thoughts result in little motivation to do daily activities."

It's this cycle of uncontrollable negativity that makes doing day to day tasks seem so daunting to people struggling with depression. "It becomes extremely challenging to do something like make your bed when you think, 'What's the point? I'm worthless anyway,'" Hollingshead says. "They may also struggle with anxious thoughts, such as 'If I make the bed, then I really need to clean my room, and the dishes have piled up, and the trash needs put out.'" This can leave you feeling overwhelmed, and even more depressed and hopeless." (Did you know that some doctors suggest that you get screened for depression annually?)

To those who've experienced these thoughts and emotions, Hollingshead says: "Set realistic and attainable goals for yourself. Few of us can clean an entire house in a day. Make a list of one to two realistic and specific goals for the day (such as do the laundry and put the clean dishes away). Also be aware of unhelpful thoughts like, 'You're worthless.' or 'What's the point?' and challenge them by focusing on things that you can do rather than getting caught up in all the things you feel you can't." (Related: Science Says These Apps Can Really Fight Anxiety and Depression)

The key, however, is to build a better support system for people struggling with depression and doing our part to better understand the signs and symptoms. "Don't assume someone is just lazy," Hollingshead says. "Be there to support them and talk to them like a friend, because they probably aren't being very kind to themselves in their own head." (Related: The Combination of Exercise and Meditation Can Decrease Depression)

Backes mirrors Hollingshead's thoughts in her tweets saying: "Be gentle with yourself. You're not a screw up; depression is just an asshole. Impossible Tasks are usually so dumb that it's embarrassing to ask for help, but the people who love you should be glad to lend a hand."

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