Depressed? Or Just Plain Bored?
The pandemic has put our lives on hold and resulted in many people confining themselves to their homes as they follow health and safety precautions. With limited activities within a restricted environment, people in locked-down communities, as well as those who choose to stay at home, are complaining about their need for more meaningful experiences.
As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread, some countries have placed their citizens in various forms of lockdown. While it is not a technical term used by public health officials, a lockdown can refer to anything from mandatory geographic quarantines to non-compulsory recommendations to stay at home, closures of certain types of businesses, and the prohibiting of events, parties and other mass gatherings.
Beginning with the first lockdown in China’s Hubei province in 2020 followed by similar restrictions in Italy in March, other countries were quick to follow suit. Stringent restrictions were implemented in many countries throughout 2020 and 2021. Over the summer of 2020, many countries lifted their lockdown measures and began to open up, only to have to go back and re-impose restrictions later to curb the further spread of the virus owing to new strains.
For the general population, it has meant one thing: staying at home for a longer period of time.
After months of pandemic restrictions, a number of people have confessed, though many have stopped short of complaining, their unhappiness with inadequate social and cultural interactions.
A senior citizen grumbles about how his favorite past time – watching the news on TV – has become monotonous. “They keep repeating the same stories, the same series of facts about the virus, the same fears, and concerns,” he says.
A homemaker complains about not being able to go out and meet friends on weekends anymore, while others have opted for self-isolation. Meanwhile, those who follow the work-from-home set-up are missing their usual interactions with colleagues, not to mention the Saturday night-outs.
And what about those who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic, and those who have no other choice but to simply stay at home?
The Royal College of Psychiatrists, which represents close to 20,000 psychiatrists in the UK, has reported that more people are seeking crisis mental health services as a result of the pandemic lockdowns.
“Having to live the new realities of life during COVID-19 is baffling a great number of people,” says Joanne Stamatelakis, who handles a Helpline in one of the crisis management centres in the US. She adds that “there has been a noticeable increase in the number of callers during the pandemic and depression has become a huge topic of concern.”
A federal emergency hotline for people in emotional distress registered a more than 1,000-percent increase in April 2020, compared with the same period the previous year.
But before jumping to the conclusion that one is depressed, it is important to understand that many people confuse depression with boredom because the two are quite similar. They are, however, distinctly different.
A person suffering from depression experiences a constant state of emptiness and sadness. A deep feeling of worthlessness, like having no purpose in life, and irregular sleep patterns are some of the symptoms, along with easily falling for false beliefs and experiencing paranoia.
Boredom, on the other hand, is simply a temporary state of mind, in which the individual is not mentally stimulated and, therefore, unmotivated to do any work.
“Boredom sometimes serves a unique purpose of challenging individuals to pursue new goals, think outside the box, and be more creative. In some cases, people prone to boredom actually perform better than normal individuals,” says Randolf Baeille, a clinical psychologist based in the US.
“This cannot be said for depression. A depressed person performs poorly because he feels no motivation to do so. It is also accompanied by low self-esteem and frequent feelings of fatigue. People with depression also experience pain without physical cause,” he adds.
Boredom can be caused by inadequate rest, low levels of mental stimulation, or lack of choice over day-to-day activities. The causes of depression, however, are more widespread and range from biological and psychological to social factors.
Depression is characterized by an unsettling feeling that you never fit in any place no matter how you try, which makes it a more serious condition. Psychotherapy helps, and sometimes, medications are also prescribed.
On the other hand, boredom can be curbed by simply trying new things out and changing your perspective. Whenever you feel bored, making a change in your lifestyle, workplace, or trying out new hobbies will help.
According to mental health professionals, prolonged boredom can lead to depression, so once boredom sets in, distract yourself by changing your mindset and trying new things in order to add spice to life and get ready to start anew.