It’s become a common trend for mental illnesses such as depression to be perceived as a state of “feeling sorry for one’s self” and although it may be a component of being depressed, being in such a condition is much deeper than feeling pity and these two aspects need to be differentiated.
To begin, let’s look at the true meanings of both terms, self-pity and depression:
- Self-pity – a feeling, stems from one’s issues, tendency to blame others for their problems, a form of unhappiness, can be adjusted quite simply.
- Depression – a mood, can arise without reason, blames themselves, consists of self-loathing and potentially self-harm, can take months or possibly years to overcome.
The definitions pretty much speak for themselves; self-pity says “poor me” with a sense of whining whilst depression tells someone that they’re inadequate and not worth living. They’re on two different ends of the spectrum. Self-pity doesn’t take responsibility yet depression holds so much responsibility that they consequently feel self-hatred. They need not to be confused.
By stating to someone who is in crisis to “stop feeling sorry for themselves”, the idea that they have a weak personality is reinforced. They feel belittled about the fact that their circumstances are regarded as a flaw in their character. Implications that what they’re going through is only minor and temporary also arises. What has to be recognized is that depression isn’t simply a little blip and not a state that one can “snap out of.” Your energy and motivation gets sapped and even a small task like leaving your bed is far from one’s capabilities.
Furthermore, there is sometimes the insinuation that depression is purely self-inflicted. This is a COMPLETELY dangerous way of thinking. I don’t understand why anyone would want to feel suicidal for the fun of it. If anything, sufferers would do anything to easily switch it off yet the simplicity of changing such a mood quickly is far from possible. Believing that people diagnosed with depression put it on themselves to feel this way subliminally contends that their depression is their own-doing, basically confirming what their mind has been telling them all along. Being critical to those in crisis will do nothing but worsen the situation and may lead to extreme circumstances. How one feels is out of their control and we must be aware of that.
There isn’t exactly a problem with self-pity however, but it’s mainly a tool to gain sympathy and attention. Depression passes that point where sufferers don’t want anyone to feel any sympathy towards them, including themselves. Those who wallow in self-pity tend to recover fast whereas depression carries baggage that takes a long period of time to lose.
As a society, we should be less judgmental towards those labeled with mental health complications and not look at what is happening to them as a form of self-pity. All it takes is some compassion and understanding to build them up and let themselves know that over time, they will get better.