Helplessness, or as they say in the industry 'learned' helplessness, is "a perceived absence of control over a situation."
In a series of experiments, the American psychologist Martin Seligman established a link between perceived helplessness and clinical depression. I won't go in details here, but it's pretty interesting how he came to these conclusions. I would really suggest the book that he wrote, which not only explains his theories in detail, but offers the reader ways to counter act learned helplessness, and get back to health. The book is called "Learned Optimism", if you are interested.
There are two things that stuck me in this book.
1] helplessness, is in fact learned. Meaning, you are born inherently an optimist, and solution orientated. It is just a simple rule of survival that your biological system does for you.
2] Helplessness is learned from parents mostly, or authority figures around you. How it can be exposed is in the personal 'explanatory style'. Meaning how different people interpret the same negative events in their lives.
The Explanatory Style
What is important to understand is that some people [us who suffer from depression] have a pessimistic explanatory style which makes them see negative events as:
a] permanent ("it will never change")
b] personal ("it's my fault")
c] pervasive ("I can't do anything correctly")
and Seligman's hypothesis is that people who have this pessimistic explanatory style are most likely to suffer from learned helplessness and depression.
So the point of this is to keep in mind that there are very specific way and exercise you can do to challenge your personal explanatory style, if you are often stuck into the a-b-c above. The idea is to notice what you say to yourself when a negative event happens and challenge this belief.
Malign has mentioned before a part of this forum that is specifically made for that purpose CTB I think it's named.