Stop for a moment and take a look at how you are feeling. Do you feel miserable and bad about yourself much of the time? Are you increasingly preoccupied with negative ideas about your life and the world? Do you find it difficult to get motivated to do the things you used to enjoy or were good at? Do you find everything an effort and sleep poorly? You probably have a form of depression.
Depression is an emotional response that many people will experience in their lifetime. At the core, depression is associated with feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and loss of control. Any life difficulty, which we find to be insurmountable, can cause depression.
Despite the urge to curl up into a ball and turn your back on your problems, modern life demands the opposite. Working lives must be continued, the care of children not shirked, relationships maintained, bills paid. You must carry on regardless. Yet this requires that you engage when you feel like recoiling.
One of the most striking characteristics of depression-prone individuals is their belief that there is something fundamentally bad or incompetent about themselves as human beings.
What causes depression?
Most research puts forward the following reasons:
- Parenting that was highly critical, intrusive and controlling
- An excessive need for approval from others
- Poor social circumstances, which in turn negatively impacts self esteem
- Genetic factors
At its heart, depression arises because of some kind of loss: loss of loved ones through death or the ending of a relationship; loss of job; loss of status; loss of friends and familiar activities; loss of looks; loss of health; loss of physical prowess or childbearing ability; loss of memory; loss of enjoyment; loss of purpose, and so on.
However, it is part of being human to handle losses as we move through life. Why is it that this seems easier for some than others?
All or nothing
People in the grip of depression tend to think in either/or, black-or-white, all-or-nothing terms. For example, if a colleague passes in the corridor without smiling, the depressed person might think, “He didn’t smile at me…he doesn’t like me anymore.” instead of considering that the person might have been preoccupied in thought, fully engaged in conversation with someone else or not feeling in a good mood himself.
The above type of thinking is emotional thinking and not rational thinking. People often don’t realise that depression is an emotion, a strong emotion.
Depression and psychotherapy
Because the experience of depression is so individual, different things help different people. These may include medication, physical exercise, nutrition, relaxation and/or counseling. However most people find its a combination of these things that helps most.
If you decide to follow the route of counselling, you can expect to work with a therapist on uncovering root causes and vulnerabilities in your make up which may be contributing to your difficulties. Negative thinking patterns may also be challenged.
Sometimes a person may have to work on their boundaries and the ability to say ‘no’. As a client, there may also be work around ‘acceptance’, moving away from a focus on past painful events that have happened and cannot be changed, no matter how unjust.
No matter how severe the depression, there is always a professional counsellor or doctor who can help you manage it.
Marcus Andrews is the founder and director of Life Supports, which was established in 2002. He has extensive professional experience working as a counsellor and family therapist across a broad range of issues. The core component of his role at Life Supports involves the supervision of other counsellors, including secondary consultations. Marcus has worked in many sectors, including private, government, non-profit, health, forensic and community practice.