Depression affects people both young and old, and can stem from a variety of reasons. Feelings of hopelessness can erupt from a suppression of angry feelings, self-criticism or loathing, grief from loss, recurring stress or a chemical imbalance. Though a person may feel hopeless for a variety of reasons, all individuals experiencing this painful emotion is characterized by the belief that nothing will ever improve and that a solution to the problem does not exist. When feelings of hopelessness are coupled with depression or another mental illness, the results can be deadly and result in suicide. People who are experiencing feelings of hopelessness should reach out to a medical professional or therapist for assistance on Feeling Hopeless.
Thoughts of the Hopeless
People feeling trapped by hopelessness may have a steady stream of negative internal thoughts, such as “What do I have to look forward to? There’s no future for me,” or “Things will never go back to the way they were,” or “I’m powerless to make things better.” These people may have a hard time caring for themselves or even finding the strength to get out of bed. They lose interest in activities they once loved and develop digestive problems. They may also have difficulty making decisions or concentrating on tasks for more than a few minutes at a time. In children, this can be seen as a drastic plummet in the quality of their grades or schoolwork. Hopelessness may also manifest as physical pain with no known cause. When hopelessness is at its worst, the person may consider ending his life as an alternative to pain. He may believe that he is worthless and feel no hope for the future.
Types of Hopelessness
Hopelessness is motivated by the lack of attachment, mastery or survival, and is thus caused by alienation, powerlessness and doom. According to psychology professors Anthony Scioli and Henry Biller, nine sub-types of hopelessness can evolve from these three main types.
- Alienation leads people to believe that they are different than others, and they shut themselves off to avoid further pain and rejection. They feel that they are no longer worthy of love or care. People who are alienated believe that no one will ever accept them.
- Forsakenness is the feeling of complete and utter abandonment, leaving the person alone in his or her hour of greatest need.
- Lack of inspiration can be a concern for populations of people who lack resources or positive role models, or these resources are simply undervalued.
- Powerlessness is the lack of mastery over one’s own story and life journey. Individuals feeling this type of hopelessness fail to recognize their innate gifts and talents or past achievements.
- Oppression is the subjugation of a person or a group of people. Self-blame is common in the oppressed individual.
- Limitedness is defined by a failed sense of mastery coupled with the individual’s struggle for survival. They see themselves as inadequate and incapable.This is common in individuals with severe learning disabilities or physical disabilities.
- Doom is the impression that an individual’s life is over and death is rapidly approaching. Many people suffering from debilitating illnesses experience this form of hopelessness. They may jump to unreasonable conclusions as the result of a troubling diagnosis.
- Captivity is the physical or emotional imprisonment enforced by a person or group on an individual. Prisoners and victims of abusive relationships often experience this form of hopelessness.
- Helplessness is the feeling of being exposed and vulnerable caused by trauma or continual exposure to uncontrolled stressors. Individuals no longer feel that the world is a safe place for them to live.
Individuals suffering from alienation-type hopelessness benefit from an extensive sampling of the perceptions of other people, indicating that they are not as loathed or reviled as they might assume. People feeling hopelessness as they receive a difficult diagnosis may find a thorough examination of their situation helpful, instead of jumping to a conclusion that may not be entirely true. People suffering from the belief that they are powerless can write a list of their achievements to date.
Depression and Hopelessness
Depressionis characterized by a general sadness which can include insomnia or over-sleeping, overeating or not eating enough, irritability and anger, lethargy and suicidal thoughts. To be considered clinical depression, these feelings must last more than several days. Depression can be caused by chemical imbalance resulting from substance abuse, genetics, head trauma or a medical illness. It is also caused by overwhelming loss or living in an abusive environment. Therapy and medication may help these individuals feel better and find their purpose again. Treatments work, and the doctor or therapist should review all options with their patient. Talk therapy, known as psychotherapy, medication and support are the three types of treatment available.
- When receiving psychotherapy, it is important for patients to be honest with their mental health professional, no matter how embarrassed they may be. This form of treatment is helpful on its own for sufferers of mild to moderate clinical depression. The patient can set goals for himself and can talk through the behavior patterns that lead to the depression.
- Medication is sometimes prescribed for depressed patients in the hopes that it will balance the brain’s chemicals. The patient’s family history, medical history and symptoms play a role in selecting the right kind of medicine. Medication for depression is non-habit forming and serves to relieve depression symptoms so that the patient can modify his behavior. It may take as long as six weeks for patients to begin feeling better, and they should not stop taking the medication unless their doctor approves. Certain herbal remedies may be effective in treating depression, but patients are advised to consult their doctor if considering one.
- Support groups for people with depression give patients a chance to learn from others who share their story, and gives them the understanding that they are not alone in their battle with depression.
Learning to Feel Better
A licensed therapist can help people turn aside their feelings of hopelessness and get on a positive track toward wellness. Some of the things the therapist might suggest are:
- Finding a thought pattern. Negative thoughts that are troubling the person and fueling their hopelessness can be edited and changed.
- Learn to stop negative thoughts. If a negative thought invades, the person can shout “Stop!” silently, then immediately follow up with a positive thought.
- Replace negative thoughts. While it’s okay to acknowledge the sadness, it is also important for the person to recognize how they will move on.
- Practice makes perfect. Negative thoughts and feelings of hopelessness will not cease without determination and consistent practice replacing negative words with positive words and actions.
- Focus on what can be changed. If a person feels hopeless because of things they can’t change, focusing on what can be changed may distract them.
- Try a new strategy. If therapy alone doesn’t work, a different type of therapy or medication might be the key. Support groups may also offer help and hope to those suffering from hopelessness.
- No one thing is responsible for happiness. Learning to live without the cause of the feelings of hopelessness will help the sufferer take important steps in living their lives.
- Learn to appreciate the present. Learning to live in the moment and appreciate the feelings, sights, sounds and tastes of the surrounding environment can help individuals forget their hopelessness.
- Exercise daily. A mere 30 minutes of daily exercise will boost a person’s endorphins, chemicals that naturally help a person feel better.
- Reach out to family, and spend time with them. Loved ones who will listen to a person’s struggles and lend an empathetic ear can ease loneliness.
- Get some sun. The vitamin D produced in the skin that is prompted by short periods of exposure can help boost a person’s spirits.
- Eat healthy foods. Foods that are full of vitamins will help a person feel better both inside and out, and the nutrients in fruits and vegetables will nourish their body.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol, which may lead to a temporary high, but will later make the person feel worse than before.
- Take on responsibilities, or get involved. Having a daily task to accomplish can help people set small goals.
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule and try to sleep 7 to 8 hours per night. Erratic sleep patterns only worsen depression symptoms and feelings of hopelessness.
With time and practice, feelings of hopelessness can be persuaded to stay away for good.