Nostalgia and depression(+Understanding the relation)

This article will explain what is nostalgia and what is depression, as well as it will explain what is the relationship between the two. How people with depression might become more nostalgic, as well as how people that are often nostalgic tend to get depressed.

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What is depression? 

Depression is a mental illness that affects people of all ages. It gives the person an intense sense of sadness, along with a loss of interest in things they used to enjoy and a decreased sense of self-worth and self-esteem. 

Multiple factors can cause a person to become depressed. Women usually have a higher risk of becoming depressed, aside from that, people that are going through traumas, such as the loss of a loved one can cause a person become depressed.

People that have gone through previous episodes of depression, or have a family history of depression may also have a higher chance of becoming depressed. As well as people that have an imbalance in their brain chemistry.

A person may be considered depressed when they experience its symptoms intensely for more than two weeks. The main symptoms of depression are:

  • Change in eating pattern
  • Change in sleeping pattern
  • Guilt
  • Lack of purpose
  • Lack of hope in the future
  • Loss of energy
  • Isolation
  • Excessive crying or difficulty crying when they want to
  • Self-harm
  • Thought of death and suicidal thoughts

What is nostalgia?

Nostalgia is the name given to that sentimental feeling that might surface when a person recalls a relationship, a person, or an event. It normally brings back positive emotions, like a sense of purpose or connection with people and places. 

This can make a person have a more positive sense of self-identity showing how their life was built. As well as show that they belonged somewhere in their life, which can cause them to feel loved. 

Along with that, having those positive recollections of their past can cause them to feel more motivated to do things that will create new memories in the days to come.

But people may experience a downside of nostalgia. It can bring them a feeling of longing for the past, which can make them feel unsatisfied with the life they are living now. 

How are nostalgia and depression related?

It is possible that if a person feels the intense negative effect of nostalgia, they can develop something called Nostalgic Depression. It is a feeling of longing for what is gone, colored by an intense sense of hopelessness and despair.

Although Nostalgic Depression is not categorized as a type of depression, it is important to understand how this longing for the past might affect, not only the hope a person has for the future, but also their lack of purpose, being that a person who understands that only what happened in the past was worth it, might stop opening up themselves up to new life events.

But what people might forget is that the view they have of the past is usually one that might even resemble an Instagram filter memory. You usually don’t have the whole situation in your memory, people might forget the hard times that were spent, and idealize what happened in the past.

But keeping that thought of a great past, and a hopeless future can cause a person to present constant worry and rumination. A study has shown that people that live this way tend to be more susceptible to experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Nostalgia can also present itself in a cycle of negative thinking. It could be that a person thinks of their past after they experience a bad situation in the present, this can cause you to fixate on the past and on negative thoughts, which can lead you to feel sad, sometimes even depressed, which can turn your focus to even more memories of the past. 

Which can cause them to feel lonely because the memories they are nostalgic about are usually of people and places that are not there anymore. So it can bring an intense sense of loneliness, loss, and sometimes even isolation.

How to cope with Nostalgic Depression?

When dealing with Nostalgic Depression it is important to try and keep things in perspective. Try to break that idealization around the last events, remember what wasn’t so good about that period of your life, and try to keep in mind that then and now, there were good and bad things in life.

Bringing mindfulness practices to your life can also help you to feel more connected to who you are now. As well as being connected to the people you have in your love. The more your relationships are fulfilling at the moment, the less you will idealize that your past relationships were better.

But if it might seem hard to keep your thoughts in the present, it might be time to look for help. Maybe therapy can help you to discover what is behind this view you have of the past, and what are ways you can deal with this, creating strategies to improve the life you have now.

Not only that, being in treatment with a therapist can help identify the signs indicating you are experiencing a more severe condition like depression or anxiety.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): What is the relation between nostalgia and depression?

Is Nostalgia a mental illness?

No, nowadays nostalgia is not considered a mental illness anymore, although an intense feeling of nostalgia can impact a person’s mental health. But through time the vision people have of it has changed. 

A long time ago, in the 1600s a physician discussed its concept for the first time and described it as a feeling of anxiety, the homesickness that could cause an eating disorder, insomnia, and other symptoms.

A little further ahead, in the 1800s nostalgia became more connected to a feeling of melancholic depression, a constant longing, that was usually caused by being homesick, loneliness, and experiencing great loss.

But it was in the late 1900s that a sociologist called Fred Davis started to mention the difference between being homesick and nostalgia. And from that, researchers have settled that there are positive and negative aspects of feeling nostalgic.

Why does remembering good memories hurt me?

Remembering good things might hurt you because you people live in constant comparison of how their life is, and how it is at the moment. So reminiscing can bring a lot of pain if the person understands that what they live right now is not worth it, or not good enough when compared to the past.

The best way to deal with this is by having the notion that you are doing the best you can with your life at the moment, having the notion that you are connected with the people and places you have in your life at the moment, may cause remembering to hurt less. 

It can also help to put in perspective how people often forget the hard situations they experienced in the past, keeping a very idealized version of it in their memory.

Is it normal to cry if I think about my childhood?

Yes, it is common for a person to cry if they think or remember about things in their childhood. That period of life is usually so full of emotions and important moments that people can experience an ample range of emotions when thinking of it.

During childhood a person usually experiences an intense sense of love, having that unconditional love, support, and protection set your way can be so fulfilling, that a person can become emotional. 

But we know that not everyone has that experience of childhood, some people might have gone through an unsafe period during their childhood, some might experience abuse or neglect.

In both cases, crying, when thinking about their childhood is normal, but in each case, it might be connected to different things. If a person has lived through a positive childhood experience, they might grief about what their childhood was. 

It might also happen that they start comparing how it feels to be loved and supported as an adult, and that can bring many emotions that can cause them to sometimes feel sad.

But if the person has had a difficult childhood, it might be that even thinking about their time as a child can make them feel extremely sad, sometimes angry, and even enraged. Having gone through a tough childhood can mean you experienced so many losses so soon in your life. 

You might have experienced the loss of love, security, a sense of stability, and this all can have an intense impact on a person. So it is important to embrace how you feel, and maybe through therapy find ways to cope and heal from that.

Can people get addicted to nostalgia?

Sometimes people can get addicted to nostalgia. What happens is that the person feels such a sense of belonging or fulfillment when they think about the past events of their lives that they can become addicted to feeling this way.

That happens because a person experiencing nostalgia, it can be from thoughts or from listening to a song, activate certain areas of their brain, such as the hippocampus, which is the reward part of the brain, causing them to feel extremely good about it. Which can cause a person to get addicted to it.

Do children also experience nostalgia?

Yes, children also experience nostalgia. Although it might seem hard to imagine, since nostalgia is usually related to older people, they would want to live their past experiences again.

But children can feel nostalgic about events in their lives as well. They might not feel it the same way adults do, for example, they might not have that same sense of time as grown-ups do. It might be that at some point a child listens to a song that triggers some emotions, or when they get a little older, they might see a toy or a picture of them and experience some nostalgic feelings about it.

It might be interesting to stimulate those feelings in children, give them a sense of how they went through positive experiences in their lives.

Conclusion

This article explained what depression is, as well as explained what nostalgia is. Aside from that, the article explained what is the relationship between the two of them, enlightening how a nostalgic person can get depressed easier.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to write it in the section below.

References

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression

Noriuchi M, et al. Memory and reward systems coproduce ‘nostalgic’ experiences in the brain. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2016 Jul;11(7):1069-1077.

Verplanken B. When bittersweet turns sour: Adverse effects of nostalgia on habitual worriers. Eur. J Soc. Psychol. 2012; 42: 285-289z

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