With one in six people experiencing depression at some stage in their life, it will most likely touch our lives either directly or through a friend or family member at some stage. More women will suffer from depression and are particularly vulnerable during pregnancy or the antenatal period. They are also more susceptible in the year following childbirth or postnatal period- it’s not uncommon to hear the term ‘baby blues’.
When asked to describe their depression in a word, people use terms like; sad, exhausting, confused, alone, pain, hopeless, all consuming, challenging, trapped and many other intense terms.
Depression affects people from the age of 15 through to old age, men, women, and people from all backgrounds including the famous. J.K. Rowling the author of Harry Potter books described her depression as an, “absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again.” While someone else described it, “like a bruise in your mind.”
Working with clients to overcome depression you notice no two cases of depression are the same. The journey into and out of depression is unique to the individual.
The Difference Between Feeling Down and Depression
It’s important to acknowledge it’s normal to feel down from time to time from ill health, when something has affected you personally, or when there is a problem with a relationship or work. When this happens most of us can bounce back from these low moods quickly. If the low mood or depression last for over two weeks and it affects your ability to function normally at work or home, that’s when you should think about seeking help especially if you or someone you know is experiencing a combination of the following symptoms:
- Reduced motivation, things seem meaningless.
- Lowered feeling of self-worth and energy levels.
- Sleep patterns change or changes in appetite or weight.
- Difficult to control negative emotions which can be worse at different times of the day especially mornings.
- Nothing gives you pleasure.
- Concentration and memory can suffer.
For people who are having suicidal thoughts, immediate professional help is very important.
So, What Causes Depression?
The development of depression can be caused by a combination of personal factors, short and long term events. For some, long term life affecting events such as prolonged work stress, living in a relationship that is uncaring or abusive, or long-term unemployment or loneliness can trigger depression. Research has also found that previous personal issues and bad experiences can contribute to depression when mixed with a sudden traumatic event like grief, losing your job or a personal violence. Maybe you have never resolved those previous issues and taking another ‘hit’ in your life is the final trigger.
Depression can also occur in families and there could be a genetic risk but there are usually other strong influences, things that have occurred through your life. If you are a person who is self-critical, a worrier, sensitive to criticism, has low self-esteem or is a perfectionist you are more predisposed to suffering from depression. Also, if you are coping with a pain, serious long term illness, or looking after someone who is suffering from pain and illness, this can lead to depression. This is why if you are a carer you need to look after your mental wellbeing because the worry and stress can lead to other problems.
Substance abuse of alcohol and drugs can be a result of depression or lead to depression. ‘Self-medication’ may help an individual get through the day but the individual is not addressing the undercurrent issue of why they need the drugs or alcohol. It is quite common for people to experience substance-use disorder and depression at the same time. You probably hear much talk about chemical-imbalances in the brain. Much research is being undertaken to give us a better insight into the brain, ‘chemical-imbalances’ and how different factors affect moods including depression. The good news for depression sufferers this research will unlock more and more of the mysteries surrounding depression and lead to better treatment.
Depression Is Very Treatable
Like any illness the earlier you seek treatment the better. There are two major forms of treatment for depression that may be used individually or in combination, depending on the type of depression. For less severe depression counselling with a psychologist has proven very successful.
Evidence based therapies have been developed to treat people with depression. These therapies include Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Psychotherapy and Schema Therapy. Your psychologist works with you to look at the issues that have caused your depression, helping you to develop the personal life changing behaviour that will help you avoid recurrences of depression.
For more severe depression, a doctor may prescribe an antidepressant to regulate your moods or suggest you combine medication with therapy.
Remember everyone is different and every case of depression is different. If you know someone who may be suffering from depression, or maybe it’s yourself, it’s important to recognise the signs and symptoms and seek professional help. There is life past depression.
Janice has a wealth of experience and training. She holds a Diploma of Education, Bachelor of Arts (Psychology), Master of Arts (Counselling), Diploma of Clinical Hypnotherapy (ASH) and is a Registered Psychologist at Psychologists Southern Sydney. She’s also a member of the Australian Psychological Society.