What is small town depression?

In this blog we will discuss what small town depression is. 

We will also briefly discuss why small town depression occurs, and how one can cope with small town depression. 

What is small town depression?

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Small town depression refers to a feeling of hopelessness that one feels as a result of perceiving themselves stuck and dissatisfied with their life within a small town. 

Small town depression is not a diagnosable mental health condition, it is more of a layman’s term to describe the feeling of being stuck with the same routine that provides no excitement or novelty and a general dissatisfaction with their living condition. 

People who have lived in the same small town for a long time and feel no sense of satisfaction within this space often describe their feelings of hopelessness as “Small town depression.”

It is generally used to describe the feeling that one is stuck and sees no way out of their circumstances due to whatever reason- for example, lack of resources or fear of judgement from their community members- which in turn causes them to feel hopeless and depressed about their situation. 

Some of the symptoms of small town depression can include:

  • persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness. 
  • Depressed mood most of the day
  • Diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  • No motivation to get out of bed
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia. 
  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

If you have noticed that these symptoms have been present for more than two weeks persistently, and have caused significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning; it is very likely that you do require professional help. 

Why does small town depression happen?

Small town depression could be tied to a toxic environment which is often observed in a small knit community. 

Lack of opportunities

According to Edward Shorter, a contributor for Psychology today, there are two possible explanations why small town depression occurs. 

One reason is because people do not have equal opportunity to improve their life circumstances. While the bright and highly motivated kids in small towns move to the big city, to school and jobs after graduation, the more average and unsupported students tend to remain within the small town.

It is often the case that people who stay behind do small jobs that do not excite them or challenge them to grow as individuals. 

This lack of exploration and lack of resources to keep people motivated to engage with the world around them can cause them to fall prey to drugs as well as the feeling of hopelessness. 

This feeling of hopelessness and dissatisfaction can in turn cause them to become more unmotivated and more dissatisfied with their lives thus leading to depression. 

Socially toxic environment

The second explanation by Edward Shorters is that there is some toxic factor in rural and small-town life that causes people to either choose drugs or have their mental health condition deteriorated. 

This toxicity can come in the form of judgemental small mindsets, expectations from others within the community to be a certain way, or lack of healthy respectful boundaries etc. 

It is all the more challenging for a small town because every individual knows the other person. Within communities that are homogenous, the pressure to conform can be heavy which can ultimately lead to a person feeling dissatisfied with their lives. 

Monotony

It is also believed that another reason could be because of the monotony of the same routine of a small town community that can lead to a sense of destitute and hopelessness that can cause one to feel depressed. 

When we compare ourselves to people from the big city doing exciting things, it is easy to feel down about our own lives in the small town. The monotony can lead to a person being frustrated about their circumstances that can further lead to more anguish. 

Lack of social opportunities

According to one study that explored the evidence and theory for lower rates of depression in larger US urban areas as compared to smaller rural areas, the greater number of social connections in larger cities seemed to play a role as a buffer against negative emotions and depression.

Researchers found that within larger cities there are more opportunities to develop  higher-quality social connections independently- so there are more experiences and more choices than an individual has in terms of their own social growth. However, within small towns that is not the case. 

How can one cope with small town depression?

Here are a few things that you can do to help yourself through small town depression:

Seek out  professional help

If you have been depressed for more than two weeks and it is impacting your other relationships and your professional life, we advise you to seek out professional help immediately.

Depression is not just low moods, it won’t simply “go away”. There needs to be an active effort to work through your condition as well as pharmacological support that you might need in the case there are neurological causes to your condition. 

Now, within small towns it is difficult to seek help because of stigma and because of the lack of resources. Therapy and mental health services do maintain their confidentiality, so you do not have to worry about being found out. 

If you are still worried, You do have the option of seeing a therapist from a different town or doing online sessions with a therapist. 

Your therapist will help you understand what is happening to you, might prescribe you medication if needed, and can help you tap into your own strengths that can help you adapt to challenges, changes, and overcome them.

Understanding your condition, diagnosis and Engaging with a therapist, being diligent with your medication, and making the changes you need to make to get better will help you during this difficult time. 

Actively seek positive experiences

Take active action to seek out these positive experiences in your day to day life- break the mundane cycle of your life. 

Even if you do not want to, even if your body is refusing to- take that chance for yourself and choose to do something that makes you feel less miserable. 

This could be as simple as watching a movie, petting your cat, taking your dog for a walk, eating ice cream. Do what makes you happy without judging yourself for these choices.

Seek out new relationships

With the advent of social media you have the opportunity to make new friends and engage with people from all over the world. 

You can consider going to forums about certain things that you like- hobbies, interests- and forge relationships with these people based on shared interest. 

Online learning

If you feel stuck in terms of employment opportunities and academics, you do have the option of elearning. Considering that you have the resources to fund your learning, you can apply for online courses that can help you broaden your horizons. 

Garnering new achievements and developing skill sets is an important aspect of growth to help one move past challenges and limitations. 

Join a support group

You need not join a group within your small town, there are plenty of services where you can join online support groups that hold support sessions weekly and online or join support chat groups and forums. 

By joining a group that is open, empathetic, and growing towards healing, you and your experiences can be an excellent sense of support to someone else who is also in their early part of their journey.

Consider seeking new opportunities

If there is no reason for you to stay within your small town, one thing that you can consider is a change in scenario. This could mean you going elsewhere to study or to work. 

Seek for opportunities in a different place or a new city and consider the possibility of trying your luck there- there is no harm in trying new things and giving yourself a chance to explore the world around you. 

Try mindfulness

Mindfulness, or paying attention to the here-and-now can keep your mind present and away from various preoccupations you might have or negative thoughts you might be ruminating over. 

To be mindful is to notice what you do have in your present circumstances and instead of being critical and judgemental of the small town world, it is the act of taking the effort to notice the positives and experience gratitude for what you do have as opposed to what you do not have. 

To start being more mindful, you can choose activities that you do during your daily life. By paying attention to what you say to yourself or by paying attention when you are doing certain tasks that make you happy. 

Conclusion

In this blog we have discussed what small town depression is. 

We also briefly discussed why small town depression occurs, and how one can cope with small town depression. 

FAQ related to small town depression

Can living in a small town cause depression?

Yes, it is possible that living in a small town causes depression due to many factors such as lack of opportunities, toxic environments, pressure to conform, monotony, and lack of social opportunities. 

How does living in a small town cause depression?

Small town depression is the feeling of being stuck with the same routine that provides no excitement or novelty and a general dissatisfaction with their living condition due to various reasons such as lack of resources, lack of opportunities, monotony, pressure to comfrom etc. 

What is a small town mindset?

Small town mindset refers to the mindset one builds as a result of having lived for so long in a small town that they form a sense of entitlement to themselves and a narrow mindset that is closed off to outsiders and change. 

Do Suburbs cause depression?

There is no direct relationship between depression and the location of where one lives. There is no evidence that suburban living increased the risk of mental health disorders like depression. 

References

Rural Life Poses A Unique Challenge For Mental Health. HuffPost. Retrieved on 28th March 2022. https://www.huffpost.com/archive/ca/entry/mental-health-rural-towns_a_23494105

It Turns Out Big City Life Isn’t Making You Depressed. Bloomberg. Retrieved on 28th March 2022. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-08-02/how-big-cities-help-fight-depression

Stier AJ, Schertz KE, Rim NW, Cardenas-Iniguez C, Lahey BB, Bettencourt LMA, Berman MG. Evidence and theory for lower rates of depression in larger US urban areas. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Aug 3;118(31):e2022472118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2022472118. PMID: 34315817; PMCID: PMC8346882.

Edward Shorter. Is the Countryside Now More Toxic Than the City?. Psychology Today. Retrieved on 28th March 2022. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/how-everyone-became-depressed/201604/is-the-countryside-now-more-toxic-the-city

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