Depression is not just feeling sad or a bit down, it’s not reacting to a sad situation or dealing with grief.
Depression is a constant low mood, a feeling of flatness or the whole world turns grey.
Churchill called depression the ‘black dog’ and that is how some people describe it, a black dog that follows you ever where, turning up on happy occasions and sucking the joy out of it.
At its worst depression can be a killer as it makes you feel worthless and fell like ending it all – suicidal.
Depression can be caused by anything but the most common causes are –
- Depression can follow difficult life events things like losing a job, splitting up with a partner etc. It is obviously normal to feel low after things like this but that feeling will diminish over time, depression begins when the feelings intensify or ‘get stuck’. The low flat feeling becomes a problem that is now seriously affecting you. But then gain sometimes depression comes from nowhere for no apparent reason or trigger.
- Sometimes there is biological or medical reason for depression; it has been shown that if depression runs in your family you may have a greater chance of becoming depressed yourself. Sometimes the mood stabilising hormones like serotonin can become depleted for instance after a period of great stress and pressure, this will make you feel tired and flat.
- The way you think or perceive things can affect your mood. What you think affects what you feel, which in turn affects your behaviour, which will then affect what you think. So as you can see you can create a vicious circle for yourself. The more critically you think about yourself (“I am a failure”,” no one likes me”,” they are ignoring because…”), the more upset you feel, making you feel down and unhappy, and eventually this may become your permanent state of mind. This will then change your behaviour you may choose to isolate yourself so you don’t feel quite so bad but that leads to loneliness and that will bring your mood down even further. The less you have to look forward to the less good times you have to lift your mood and the worse the depression can become.
Usually it’s a combination of some or all of these that makes you depressed. Depression comes in different types too, not just mild, moderate of severe.
- Seasonal affective disorder (SADs) a depression that happens mostly in winter, where depression occurs in one particular season and lead to a moderate to severe depression during that time. You may find that the more marked the season change the more severe your SADs becomes.
- Pre-natal depression starts during pregnancy and is thought to be caused by the hormone changes taking place. Its often described as taking the love and joy out of pregnancy and can lead to –
- Postnatal depression that starts in the hours, days or weeks after the birth of your child. The depression is made more difficult as you find people expect you to be happy and excited about your baby, you have to be organised and ready to deal with the new baby and scared that you may lose the baby if you admit you don’t feel well.
To make depression even more complex there are many symptoms and some people get all of them and some just a combination.
But the most common symptoms are feeling sad, helpless, guilty, ashamed, irritable, tearful and anxious.
A common issue for people with depression is low self –esteem, intolerance of other people and inability to make a decision.
Physically when you are depressed you may feel in pain, lose interest in sex, no energy, stomach issues like constipation or IBS, changes in sleep (too much or too little) and changes in appetite again increase or decrease. These physical and emotional symptoms are guaranteed to affect your life in some way, losing contact with others, inability to cope at work , relationship issues and letting go of things that were once important to you.
There are things you can do yourself to help with your depression and these do make a significant difference.
Start by identifying your ‘Negative Automatic thought ‘ or NAT, thoughts that are just automatically in your head like ‘I’m boring’, ‘it will all go wrong, it always does’, ‘no one likes me’, ‘they are all out to get me’, ‘life is hard you have to suffer’ and ‘it will always be like this, why bother’.
You cannot simply say I won’t think about them, if I say to you can think of anything at all but a pink elephant, what have you thought about? Yep a pink elephant
So think about starting a thought diary; something like this will help.
When you look for your alternative thoughts be realistic, check out for evidence that contradicts your NAT, patterns like going to the worst possible outcome for everything, what is the benefit of my NAT and what is the cost and what would I say to someone you loved who thought this.
Replace your NAT with some or or all of your alternative thoughts, it won’t happen overnight but when you write these down and make a conscious effort to replace your NATs power over you will reduce.
While you do this make sure you take good care of yourself, eat well, get enough sleep, and stay off stimulants like caffeine and depressants like alcohol.
Plan your time whenever you can to give yourself a purpose, list your achievements and look at how far you have already got, spend time with others when you can, do things that make you laugh and relax too.
However sometimes depression can become too debilitating to deal with on your own. If you cannot identify your NATS because everything feels bad, if you are too low to work, if you isolating yourself and your relationships are suffering or if you feel suicidal, you need professional help. Start with your GP they often take bloods or urine tests to rule out physical issues, they may prescribe anti –depressants or refer you for talking therapies.
There is lots of support and resources available on line or by phone some of my favourites are –
Association for Post Natal Illness: 020 7386 0868, www.apni.org
Talking therapies like CBT will help you to get to place where you can cope with the depression and then work therapeutically on the causes of your depression.
Tel: 07769 152 951