Depression and momentum

Sometimes a depressed person can seem to be trapped for ever in their own desolate world.  A turnaround can take years, decades even. Photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash

Recovery from depression can be very slow. For a time, the whole body seems to put itself into a different way of life.  Depression shares several symptoms with bereavement, and just with a bereavement, the mind can need a lot of time to rebalance itself.


Momentum is the tendency of an object or person to continue along the same path, and to be resistant to an alteration in path.  The momentum associated with depression is noticeable in several ways:

  • friends may notice that the sufferer is almost completely unresponsive to encouragement
  • it can take a long time for a lost appetite for food, sex, or other activity, to return
  • the path of thoughts can be almost unremittingly negative, even when apparently happy events happen

Have you ever had to sit in front of a computer while it reorganises itself.  It stops noticing your keystrokes, and becomes unresponsive and slow.  The reason is that it has a major change to process, or else has exceeded its capacity to cope.

Humans can be similar in depression – and for similar reasons.  If a person has lost a best friend, or a carer, or even an important piece of their environment like a house or a job, then their whole thinking equipment has to reconstruct itself around a new reality.  Every time they would have thought of the person they have lost, they have to find a different way of behaving.  This reorganisation uses up a huge amount of resource.


If your depression is because you are processing a change, then there are no rules as to when you might come out of it.  It will seem to have its own momentum, and until you are finished with the mental process of change, you will find yourself continually stumbling.

However, it seems to be true that small steps can make a difference.  For example, starting with short walks can help to redevelop an exercise habit.  Starting with brief meetings with others can help restart socialisation.  It may still take a long time, but at least the direction of travel is slowly changing.



Am I depressed, or do I know someone who is depressed?

It can be frustrating waiting for a change to come.  Day after day can go by in the same haze of despair and unresponsiveness.

Can I find one or two ways to regenerate, even if they are tiny steps?  If it is me, can I use my diary to schedule in little changes?  If it is someone else, can I be patient, and still make suggestions for new things to do, even if they are often knocked back?

Those who do not know depression would be very surprised at how important the support, and presence, of others is.

Can I keep offering positive responses and signals, even if the person I am helping has no capacity to respond positively.  I may never know how important my help is.