What causes depression?
There are all sorts of reasons why people suffer with depression, for some its because they have gone through a lot of very difficult experiences in a short period of time and reach a point where they do not feel they can cope, people often say that they can’t take much more, for others it may because they have lost someone who was really important in their life, and they feel really lonely and lost. For others, there is a ‘neurochemical’ explanation, which means that our brains are lacking particular chemicals that are involved in our mood. Some people are more likely to suffer depression if others in their family also suffer, but this isn’t always the case.
How can I tell whether I’m just having a bad day or whether what I’m experiencing is depression?
There are different ways to work out this difference and if you’re at all worried, then you may want to speak to a health professional, for instance your GP. They will ask you questions about whether you’ve been off your food or eating too much (‘comfort eating’), having trouble with your sleep (go to sleep easily enough but then wake up after a few hours and have trouble getting back to sleep, or you have real trouble getting off to sleep), lost interest in things you used to enjoy, not wanting to be around other people, feeling like you can’t be bothered, loss of energy, and low mood.
How common is depression?
Women suffer from depression more than men, but in the main, one in 5 people suffer from depression in the UK. This is a lot of people. Although men and women can experience a lot of the same symptoms, there can be differences between them. Women for example often experience feelings of guilt and worthlessness, men on the other hand can be irritable, lose interest in things they used to enjoy and be excessively tired. Men will more commonly turn to alcohol to ‘numb the pain’ and withdraw from the world in this way. This is not to say that women don’t do this, they do, but statistics show that men generally drink more than women.
Is it treatable?
As there are lots of different reasons why people suffer with depression, then there are a number of ways you might manage it. The two main ways are antidepressant medication and therapy. Your GP would generally prescribe medication if they felt it might help you, but you would need to see a psychologist, therapist or counsellor for therapy.
There are different kinds of therapy but one that has been shown through lots of different research projects to be really helpful for people with depression is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, or CBT. Briefly, CBT helps you understand the link between the thoughts that we have (the ‘cognitive’ bit, ‘I’m a failure’, ‘my future is hopeless’), how we feel emotionally (sad, down) and physically (like a dead weight, lethargic, heavy), and what we then do or don’t do when we feel like this (stay at home, avoid talking to people, drink more, eat less). Once you understand the vicious cycles you can get stuck in (through no fault of your own), you and your therapist will then try to work out other ways in which you might understand the thoughts you’re having, or you might try and do things a bit differently (the ‘behaviour’ bit).
Research shows that therapy alone or in combination with medication can really help lift your mood and make you feel more hopeful about your life and your future. Reaching out to others and making connections also adds to our sense of purpose, whether it’s with people you know, or making new connections through groups or work. Exercise is also really helpful for our mood, even just going for a walk can help us feel a bit brighter, so if you can try and do this once a day you’re making a good start.
There is no quick way out of depression, but trying to take small achievable steps is a helpful way to approach it. Help is out there for people, either through your friends and family, your GP, counsellors and therapists, or other organisations. If you think you might be suffering from depression and would like to talk about it then give me a call or email me via the website www.forresttherapylondon.co.uk
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